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Thursday Wakeup Call: Are Grilli/Melancon even human?

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

>> The weekly chat will begin at noon, right here on this blog. Hope to have you.


>> Haven’t paid much attention to the baseball team, for obvious reasons. Haven’t even been able to see many of the games, other than video highlights on my iPhone. As a result, most of my thoughts are of the type that are fairly distant from the subject matter itself.

Which, once in a while, can be the healthiest kind.

So let me ask those who have been watching this: Are Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon even human?

What’s going on here?

Have you noticed, when you aren’t cheering through the 10 or 12 minutes needed to breeze through the eighth and ninth innings, what they’ve done numerically so far?

I’ll try to lay it out in the starkest of stats:

Grilli: 20 appearances, 17 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 2 runs, 29 Ks, 4 walks, .148 opponents’ average

Melancon: 21 appearances, 20 innings, 14 hits, 1 run, 22 Ks, 1 walk, .182 opponents’ average

Three runs over 41 combined appearances!

What is that?

Who does that?

An excellent figure for weighing relief pitching, infinitely better than ERA, is WHIP, or Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched. Grilli’s is 0.74, Melancon’s 0.71. Those figures both rank in the top 10 in the majors for relievers with at least 15 appearances, a number I think is fair to this point in the year.

For some perspective, last year, the number of relievers who finished with a 0.75 WHIP or lower was exactly one: Craig Kimbrel of the Braves. Kimbrel was so extraordinary that he earned votes for Cy Young, including the fourth spot on my ballot.  That doesn’t happen much for a reliever.

For further perspective, in 2003, the year Eric Gagne pretty much set the gold standard for a closer’s single-season performance, he had 55 saves and a 0.69 WHIP, the latter not far from either Grilli or Melancon right now.

Before this season, Grilli never posted a WHIP below 1.14. He got that with the Pirates last season at age 35. Before joining the Pirates in 2011, his career WHIP was 1.45, roughly double what it is now. Before joining the Pirates, his best strikeout-to-walk ratio in any season was 1.92. Last year, it was 4.09, and now it’s 7.00.

Melancon is 28, and he’s had only one year where he’s appeared in more than a quarter of his team’s games. That was in 2011 with the Astros, when he had a 1.22 WHIP, miles above his current figure. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was never higher in any season than 2.92. Right now, it’s 20.00.

I don’t even know what to do with these numbers. My brain can’t process them.

Maybe I should just stick to hockey.

>> Then again, maybe not …

This document was getting a few yuks around the Internet yesterday, an actual Dave Littlefield scouting report on Jason Giambi that projected Giambi as a ‘bat off the bench.’

To which I’ll simply reply with this: Wait until the Internet gets a hold of the Pirates’ current staff’s written assessment of then-amateur Mike Trout.

I’m guessing this will be the reaction …

>> Here’s all our Penguins coverage for the day. I took the day off, as I’ll do again today with the exception of the chat because it’s my daughter’s take-your-dad-to-school day.

Hope those kids don’t ask me to define reliever excellence.

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Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.

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