The Arizona Diamondbacks had a tumultuous couple of years at the closer spot in the bullpen before making a financial commitment to a good one, 37-year-old Mark Melancon, a free agent signing on a two-year, $14 million deal.
The right-hander that led the National League in saves last season, though, has not lived up to that reputation.
Through 22 appearances, Melancon has a 6.87 ERA with a 1.800 WHIP and six losses. It’s a total of 28 hits and five walks sacrificed across 18.1 innings pitched for 14 earned runs.
It has reached nearly two months of struggles to begin the year, including Melancon’s second blown save of the season in a 2-1 loss on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Despite that, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said that conversations have not taken place yet about potentially looking elsewhere in the ninth inning with the game on the line.
“The data and the information that we’re getting is showing up as that it’s good stuff,” Lovullo told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Tuesday. “Just maybe a mistake pitch or two.”
Lovullo said he hates attributing anything to luck but believes that it has just been a few bad breaks for Melancon.
The manager also stated there’s been a change in philosophy with how Arizona uses its right-hander.
“I know some of the outings have not been necessarily been save opportunities,” he said. “We’ve made some adjustments to his workload when we can. We’ve been working with him tirelessly.”
Across the 22 outings, 13 of them have been in save situations. Melancon, actually, has been OK in those. It’s 14 hits, one walk and six earned runs in 11.0 innings with two blown saves.
Six of the other nine appearances were in tie games. Those nine are where the brunt of the damage is: Fourteen hits, four walks and eight earned runs in 7.1 innings.
Melancon has multiple drop-off points analytically compared to his All-Star 2021 with the San Diego Padres.
After striking out 22.3% of the batters he faced last year, that number is down 12.8%, nearly half of the MLB average and one of the worst marks in baseball, per Baseball Savant.
Opposing batters are blasting his curveball. That has been Melancon’s main secondary pitch beyond his cutter and it limited hitters to a batting average below .200 in at-bats that ended on that curveball for 12 of his first 13 seasons.
It was that consistently great for him, and now in the 26 at-bats this year to conclude on that pitch, 14 hits have come off the curveball for a .538 batting average.
Arizona takes on the Cincinnati Reds in game two of its four-game series at 3:40 p.m. on ESPN 620 AM and 98.7 FM HD-2.