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July 18, 2013

Skewed Left

Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, and the Pirates Approach to Building a Bullen

by Zachary Levine


The Pirates blueprint to building the bullpen that has become one of baseball’s best is no longer a guarded secret on the North Shore. While Neil Huntington was away at the All-Star break, an anonymous source who’s not generally much of a talker handed over the plan of how the Pirates did it in five easy steps that will leave the rest of baseball shaking their heads.

1. Trade your best reliever
2. Let a 36-year-old journeyman close
3. Get a bunch of starters who can't go six innings
4. ?????????
5. Sports Illustrated cover

It seemed genius, and it’s worked out just that way. With a 2.78 ERA, the Pirates’ bullpen ranks second to only the Braves’, who deserve a lot of kudos themselves for how they’ve patched a very strong one together despite the losses of two-thirds of the O’VentBrel trio that had them rolling a couple years back.

But thanks to their starting pitching, Atlanta has had to piece together only 264 1/3 innings, while the Pirates have had to go a brutal 329 2/3 in 93 games (11 outs per game). Only the Blue Jays, who have endured miserable injuries and spot starts left and right, have required more relief.

And this week in New York, the Pirates’ “Shark Tank” was well and justly represented.

The stories of All-Stars Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon are the stories of the Pirates bullpen and the Pirates season. But the stories of how they got to New York—one a journeyman who suffered a debilitating injury as a 30-something and one a castoff from a terrible Red Sox team using the Pirates to “upgrade”—are very different.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: G... (07/18)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Skewed Left: Planning ... (07/11)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Skewed Left: The Dodge... (07/25)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Changing Speeds: The A... (07/18)

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