Tonight at 9pm on MLB Network, they will rank the top relievers and top second baseman in the game right now. We’re posting a discussion thread early so you get a chance to follow along with both shows and discuss the rankings, or you can just talk about anything Pirates related in the comment section.(Results have been added below)
Last year, both Tony Watson and Mark Melancon made the list of the top ten relievers, though they didn’t get the same praise from the five hosts/guests on the show. Melancon ranked seventh and Watson ranked tenth by “the Shredder”(computer/analytic ranked process), but no one from the show even mentioned them among their top ten or players who just missed.
In 2015, Watson went on to post similar numbers to his strong 2014 season. His ERA rose slightly from 1.63 to 1.91 and his strikeout rate declined, but he also lowered his WHIP from 1.02 to 0.96 and he finished third in the league with 77 relief appearances. Putting up those stats for two years in a row should get him more notice than last year’s show.
Melancon also saw a slight spike in his ERA and a dip in his strikeout rate from 2014 to 2015. His WHIP went from 0.87 to 0.93, but the difference from 2014 to 2015, which should help his ranking, is that he led the NL with 51 saves and made a career high 78 appearances. So while he wasn’t quite as good overall in 2015, he should still rank high due to the workload and save total.
Following the top relievers show, they will then move on to ranking the top second baseman at 10pm. Josh Harrison ranked third among all third baseman last year, but then had a down year in 2015. Between a slow start and time missed with an injury, his overall stats paled in comparison to 2014. Harrison did however finish up strong with an .819 OPS in Sept/Oct. With Neil Walker gone, Harrison now takes over second base in 2015, though he could begin the year at third base if Jung-Ho Kang isn’t ready by Opening Day. It will be interesting to see how far Harrison drops off from last year’s ranking at a different position. If someone thinks his 2014 season and 2015 finish are closer to his potential for 2016, then he could rank in the top ten.
The strength of the positions will also factor into the rankings, so a strong/down season one year, might not help/hurt as much if the strength of the position changes. We will post results from the rankings below as they are announced.
So far, the Pirates have had four players rank among the best at their position. Last week, Starling Marte ranked second, while Jung-Ho Kang was rated seventh overall for third baseman. Andrew McCutchen ranked fourth for center fielders and Gerrit Cole was ranked in the top ten by multiple guests on the show, though he didn’t make the Shredder’s list. Next week, the series wraps up with right fielders and catchers, which should add two more to the tally for the Pirates.
Update 9:05 PM: Nice start for Watson and Melancon at the top of the show. According to WPA(Win Probability Added), which Brian Kenny said is a better way to judge relievers as opposed to using WAR, Melancon(5.5) and Watson(4.4) held the top two spots among last year’s top ten. That should get them ranked near the top.
9:14 PM: Tony Watson gets ranked eighth by the Shredder, ahead of Darren O’Day and Craig Kimbrel.
9:21 PM: Mark Melancon moved up one spot to sixth. We will have more rankings from the hosts/experts on the show.
9:45 PM: Bill James, Vince Gennaro, who is the president of SABR, and Mike Petriello, who is a baseball analyst for MLB.com, were the expert panelists and all three submitted their own list. Brian Kenny and Dan Plesac hosted the show and had their own list.
Petriello has Melancon tenth and Watson didn’t make his list.
Gennaro didn’t have either Pirate reliever on his list.
James has Melancon fifth.
Kenny has Melancon seventh and Watson ninth.
Plesac has Melancon eighth.
10:22 PM: Josh Harrison ranked surprisingly high at fifth overall. I was not expecting that after his season last year, but looking at the list of second baseman, I thought he could be in the 8-10 range. Just for the record, Neil Walker ranked seventh.
10:47 PM: Harrison didn’t make the top ten for any of the guests/hosts, but two of them did say they didn’t consider him a second baseman because he didn’t play there enough in 2015. So it’s tough to gauge where he ranks when at least two people didn’t even think to rank him.