Little relief in sight
“In the deal, the Red Sox sent pitchers Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel, infielder Ivan De Jesus and first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands to Pittsburgh. Along with Hanrahan, the Red Sox received infielder Brock Holt.”
Putting aside the “extra pieces” in this deal, swapping the younger, cheaper (and better?) Melancon for an alleged proven closer was bad baseball and bad business. At the risk of having an “I told you so” moment, it’s probably time to look at the results of this deal.
All the usual warnings apply here. We’re dealing with small sample sizes that may belie each player’s eventual 2013 performance. Nevertheless, the differences between these two pitchers are so stark that they have to be acknowledged.
Mark Melancon, now back in the NL Central, earns $521,000 this year and will be under team control until 2017. In contrast, Joel Hanrahan makes a whopping and completely ridiculous $7.04 million and will be a free agent in 2014, barring an extension. And no, that last bit can’t be said with a straight face.
Melancon: 16 innings pitched/ 0.56 ERA/ 15:0 K:BB/ 0.63 WHIP
Hanrahan: 7.1 innings pitched/9.82 ERA/ 5:6 K:BB/ 2.18 WHIP, plus a stint on the disabled list and, this week, forearm tightness that knocked him out of a game.
These numbers, taken at face value, aren’t all that meaningful. Seven innings as a measure of value is virtually worthless. However, it’s not so much the on-field production numbers themselves that matter, but rather, the obvious and predictable pattern they represent.
First, it’s easier to pitch in the National League. Speaking in broad strokes here, but it’s not an incorrect statement. Second, Hanrahan earns 13.5 times more than Melancon. What kind of output advantage could he possibly provide to warrant that kind of jump?
Hanrahan looked fantastic over the past few seasons. In Pittsburgh. Melancon had looked fantastic prior to his arrival in Boston as well. In Houston. When these guys arrive in the AL East, things change. We know this, as casual fans and armchair analysts. How is that the decision-makers in Boston seemingly do not? Why was it so easy to jettison Melancon after less than one season’s worth of struggles yet be so confident ($7 million worth of confident) that the next guy would fare better?
At the end of the year, it could very well be the case that Hanrahan’s numbers are superb and Melancon’s merely adequate. Or worse. Any number of things could happen that might make this deal look somewhat less terrible. But we shouldn’t hold our breath. Hanrahan will almost certainly get himself on track, but it’s doubtful that the return on investment will ever make this a worthwhile situation for the Red Sox.
Still, 21-11 is 21-11…
The flip side of this particular coin is that Boston’s bad moves haven’t caught up to it yet. Even as Harahan is saddling the bullpen with horrid numbers, Boston is wildly successful. With a .656 winning percentage and a first-place position in the division, the Sox are making it very difficult for fans to voice any real gripes.
The offense is chugging right along, second in the AL in OPS and fourth in scoring at 4.94 runs/ game. More surprisingly, the pitching has been stalwart, ranking fifth in the league with 3.64 ERA. Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester have been dynamite, carrying a rotation that has defied expectations. And it’s not really luck (in either direction) given the team’s FIP (fielding-independent pitching) ERA is 3.65.
It’s unlikely that Buchholz will maintain a sub-2.00 ERA. And sooner or later, the likes of Ryan Dempster (3.00 ERA, 11.8 K/9) and John Lackey (3.52, 9.4) will have to come back to earth. …Right?
In any event, enjoy the ride while it lasts.