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April 18, 2012

What You Need to Know

Wednesday, April 18

by Daniel Rathman

The Tuesday Takeaway
In yesterday’s What You Need to Know, I wrote about the stellar performance by the Rangers bullpen over the first 10 games of the season. The Red Sox relief corps, on the other hand, has been as shaky as it was during the team’s September collapse, and its weaknesses were thoroughly exposed in last night’s 18-3 rout.

After Jon Lester was knocked around for seven runs in two awful innings, manager Bobby Valentine asked Scott Atchison to eat some frames in a game almost certain to end in defeat. Atchison did his job for four innings, and Matt Albers chipped in a solid seventh, but then Mark Melancon—who entered with a 22.50 ERA—decided to turn the eighth into a home-run derby.

It’s hard to find an adjective to describe Melancon’s results on Tuesday night, in a low-leverage situation, with Texas ahead 8-3 in the eighth inning. He faced six batters and allowed all six of them to score. In the process, he threw 26 pitches, only half of which were strikes. Of the 13 strikes, four were turned into hits, all of which went for extra bases, and three of which cleared the Fenway fences. One of those homers was a mammoth 469-footer by Josh Hamilton.

Let’s put that into perspective: Only two other relievers in major-league history have faced at least six batters in an appearance, allowed at least four-extra base hits, and failed to record an out. None of them gave up three home runs. So, depending on your subjective evaluation of relief appearances, it’s possible that Melancon’s outing on Tuesday night was the pinnacle of ineffectiveness, the worst trip to the mound by a reliever of all time.

And, as if that weren’t enough, Justin Thomas and Vicente Padilla combined to cough up four more runs in two innings of mop-up work.

Put that all together and the Red Sox’ bullpen now has an aggregate 6.23 ERA for the season. More historical perspective: The highest ERA compiled by any bullpen in 2011 was the Twins’ 4.51, and the last relief corps to go a full year with an ERA over 6.00 was the Devil Rays’ 2007 bunch, which weighed in at 6.16.

It appears Valentine might have considerably bigger fish to fry than Kevin Youkilis’ focus—and that’s despite the fact that Youkilis topped off the nightmarish game by collecting a golden sombrero.

What to Watch for on Wednesday

  • R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball gives many players fits, but few can claim to be as mesmerized by it as Dan Uggla. The Braves’ second baseman is 0-for-23 in his career against Dickey, with two walks and five strikeouts. He’ll have a chance to get off that schneid when they do battle in a 12:10 p.m. ET matinee at Turner Field.
  • According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann might be the next young pitcher to lock in a long-term deal. The 25-year-old righty has a perfect opportunity to audition for the front office with the Astros in town at 7:05 p.m. ET. Zimmermann has yet to pick a win despite logging a 1.29 ERA over his first two starts.
  • Chris Capuano was triumphant in his return to Miller Park as a member of the Mets last year, hurling six innings of one-run ball on June 7. He’s back again, this time as a member of the Dodgers, and will tango with Zack Greinke at 8:10 p.m. ET. Capuano (with the Brewers in 2005) is the most recent pitcher to win at least 18 games in a season during which he allowed more than 30 homers—a feat only eight starters have accomplished since 1990.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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