"On Mark Melancon: "We really like his stuff and have liked his stuff back to his college days at Arizona and we feel like the second half of the season, he really developed a better feel for his cutter. He's always had a good curveball. He's a really aggressive pitcher. Tough, confident and we think he has the intangibles to compete in the American League East. Just felt he was a really good upgrade to our bullpen."
Adding a legit cutter can have a big impact on a pitcher's future performance, so this got me to digging a little bit more. It turns out he started working on the pitch last off-season:
One of the key’s to Melancon’s success has been a cutter he developed to accommodate his 92 mph fastball, sharp curveball and work-in-progress changeup. The day after the 2010 season ended, Melancon began showing up at Minute Maid Park to work on nothing but the cutter. He spent all of October working on the pitch and phased it into his repertoire in spring.
If FanGraphs' pitchfx data is to be believed, he actually didn't get around to throwing one in an MLB game until the Astros' 5/6/11 game vs. the Pirates.
A look at TexasLeaguer's data seems to confirm this, and appears to really drive home the resulting change to Melancon's repertoire:
4-seam Fastball: 60.4%
4-seam Fastball: 40.8%
And how successful was Melancon's foray into cutter-dom? With all due warnings of small sample sizes and potential for bad data...FanGraphs lists Melancon as deriving the 10th most "value" from the cutter among all MLB relievers (even considering the fact that he only threw it for the first time in the last half of the year):
It's hard to say whether Melancon can consolidate the progress he made last year with the pitch, or whether his reported plans this off-season to work on his changeup might add an additional weapon, but it seems worth watching, and perhaps worth analyzing in more detail before determining if the Sox really did "buy high" on Melancon, or if there are still areas of growth for Melancon as he seeks to become (we hope) an elite relief ace in the AL East.
In any event, I thought it was an interesting throw-away line for Cherington to make.
Edited by Hairps, 15 December 2011 - 04:25 PM.