After being on the disabled list for a few weeks, Pittsburgh Pirates closer Jason Grilli has finally been activated, and will be available to pitch on Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers. Even though there are unwritten rules that say players shouldn’t lose their jobs because of injury, the Pirates need to strongly consider allowing replacement closer Mark Melancon to keep the ninth inning job.
Everyone seems to love Grilli because of his fiery demeanor. He is a player that fans don’t have trouble supporting, because he has a past that is filled with adversity and is a great human being. However, this is professional baseball. Jobs can’t be given out because someone is being a “good guy,” unless your name is Tim Tebow, then you will keep finding work.
On the surface, Grilli’s 2013 numbers are outstanding. In 42.1 innings, Grilli has a 2.34 ERA and 30 saves. His 14.03 K/9 is so good that it is absurd. In his last two months, June and July, Grilli has a 3.00 ERA and 10.80 ERA respectively. Obviously, he only pitched 5.2 innings in July, but even his 3.00 ERA in June is not as dominant as Grilli was early in the season. The same thing happened in 2012; he started off extremely well, but tailed off at the end of the season. It’s very possible that Grilli was playing hurt in July, but I would prefer to see him pitch in lower-leverage innings to prove that he is still the dominant closer that he was in April and May.
It isn’t like Melancon is some scrub that the Pirates can’t afford to have close games in the meantime. In fact, he’s been better than Grilli all season. In 61.1 innings, Melancon’s ERA is 0.88. He has been drawing comparisons to Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees recently, because he relies heavily on his cutter. Based on what Melancon has done this season, the Rivera comparisons don’t seem unrealistic. To go along with filthy stuff, Melancon’s control is also outstanding, with just a 1.17 BB/9 on the season.
I’m not saying Grilli shouldn’t be the Pirates closer in the postseason, but the Pirates do need to make sure he earns his job back, because Melancon has been lights out. The Pirates shouldn’t ruin a good thing, and that good thing right now is Melancon.