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Insider Only Scouts Buzz on Melancon: The best cutter since Rivera

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PIRATES – FRIDAY

Francisco Rodriguez knows what it’s like for a closer to have a great year.

Rodriguez had 62 saves for the Los Angeles Angels in 2008, which remains the major league single-season record. Now closing for the Milwaukee Brewers, the right-hander has 383 saves in his 14-year career.

Pirates closer Mark Melancon is having a season unlike any other in franchise history. He extended his club record for saves to 50 on Thursday when he closed out a win over the Colorado Rockies at Denver in his 52nd opportunity.

Melancon lowered his ERA to 1.86 ERA through 74 games and 72 2/3 innings. To boot, he has also thrown nine consecutive hit-less innings — a relief pitcher’s equivalent of a no-hitter.

Since the Brewers and Pirates both play in the National League Central, Rodriguez has the chance to admire Melancon’s work.

“You watch him pitch and he just makes it look so easy, that’s the impressive part about him,”
Rodriguez said. “He doesn’t throw real hard, he doesn’t do anything flashy. He just gets people out. It’s like 1-2-3 and the game is over and you really don’t know what happened.

“Nobody ever talks about him but he’s one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. He is a very underrated closer. More people should know about him.”

Melancon leads the major leagues in saves and was also selected to the All-Star game for the second time in three seasons this year. Yet he does seem to go unnoticed, never part of the discussion when it comes to the top closers in baseball.

The lack of recognition does not sit so well with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

“I think if Mark played in a bigger market or threw harder then everybody would know who he is,” Hurdle said. “It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves but we know exactly what we have in him and we’re very happy to have him closing games for us.”

Melancon does not light up the radar gun as his four-seam fastball has averaged 92 mph this season.

However, he has refined his cut fastball — a cross between a two-seamer and a slider — to the point that it has so much movement that hitters lose sight of it just as it reaches home plate.

“Mariano Rivera threw the best cutter ever,” said a scout from an American League team, referring to the New York Yankees great, who had a major league record 652 saves.

“Melancon has the second-best cutter I’ve ever Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

John Perrotto

Pirates Insider

John Perrotto is a contributor to Inside Pittsburgh Sports, covering the Pittsburgh Pirates, MLB. John has covered the Pirates for over 20+ seasons and is an exclusive member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

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