Why Mark Melancon Should Permanently Be The Houston Astros Closer

By Connor Nielen

Houston reliever Mark Melancon has recently been assigned the role of ‘closer’ in lieu of Brandon Lyon’s trip to the disabled list. This is a smart decision by manager Brad Mills, but would be even more beneficial if the 9th-inning duties were to permanently be handed to Melancon, a hard-throwing former Yankees prospect.

The general assumption is that upon Lyon’s injury recovery, the closer reins will be stripped from Melancon, the temporary guy, and handed back to Lyon because he has “earned” that right. Has he really, though? The former Diamondbacks closer has never saved 30 games in a season, and while he may have looked good in a short stint last season, he looked downright awful in 2011. The guy had already racked up 5 blown saves before hitting the D.L.!

Meanwhile, Melancon’s been marvelous this year. A scintillating 1.62 ERA and 1.20 WHIP contributed strongly to the anointing of the hard-throwing righty as the replacement closer. Melancon was extremely effective in his first save opportunity, last week in Pittsburgh. If he continues to get the job done, why would you even consider going back to Lyon? We’ve already seen division-rival St. Louis yank Ryan Franklin from his 9th-inning gig due to ineffectiveness and he had previously “earned” the right to be there. If a strong team like that can make the swap, why couldn’t Houston?

Some believe Wilton Lopez was the right man for the job and a more deserving closing candidate over Melancon. Here’s the counter-argument to that: Lopez is a really good pitcher, he was profiled extensively in Spring Training on Houston Hotbed, but he’s not the hardest of throwers. That’s generally a required skill-set of a good ‘closer’. Plus, Lopez is doing a good job as the set-up guy, so why mess with it? Even with Lyon back in the fold, the Astros appear to be best suited to go Lopez – Melancon in the 8th & 9th, with Lyon either serving as the 7th-inning guy or trade-bait to a contender looking for a ‘name’ to add to their bullpen.

Into Fantasy Baseball? Would be worth your while to check your waiver wire and see if Melancon’s available. If he does indeed keep the closing job, he could be a really nice, inexpensive source of saves for the rest of the season!

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