Mark Melancon had some horrific stretches during this past year, including his first four outings.
One of Boston GM Ben Cherington’s biggest offseason acquisitions before the 2012 season, Melancon surrendered 11 earned runs (49.50 ERA) on 10 hits, including five home runs, in his first four outings this season.
Boston had seen enough.
Melancon, who saved 20 games with a 2.78 ERA in 71 relief appearances for the Houston Astros in 2011, was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket to figure out what was wrong.
Once considered a possible replacement for the then-injured Andrew Bailey at closer, Melancon was thought to have a confidence issue. New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden recently wrote, “How did Cherington not know what the Yankees, who originally signed Melancon, told everyone who ever asked about him — that the kid had good stuff but a very delicate psyche not fit for pressure cooker environments like the AL East?”
Melancon returned to the Red Sox on June 10 after a lengthy stay in Pawtucket.
His 2012 season totals weren’t impressive: 0-2 record, 6.20 ERA, 1.267 WHIP, 31 earned runs in 45.0 innings.
But Melancon had a tremendous September/October, posting a 0.90 ERA (one earned run) in eight games, 10.0 innings. During that stretch, he posted a 0.50 WHIP and .114 batting average against and he allowed just four hits.
He also struck out 13 batters compared to just one walk.
The only problem — Melancon did have a strong stretch in June, too, posting a 1.17 ERA in 7.2 innings after his return from Pawtucket.
But he then followed that up with a poor July (6.57 ERA in 12.1 innings) and poor August (6.23 ERA in 13.0 innings).
All in all, it’s tough to predict what Melancon will give the Red Sox next year.
He has good control and had strong years in 2010 and 2011. So he might return to form in ’13. Or he might just continue to be as inconsistent as he was in 2012.