Mark Melancon seemed like the obvious closer fill-in for the Red Sox following Andrew Bailey’s thumb surgery, but manager Bobby Valentine announced today that Alfredo Aceves will begin the season with ninth-inning duties.
Melancon saved 20 games for the Astros last season, whereas Aceves has just four career saves, and while Aceves is certainly capable of thriving in the role a large part of his value comes from the rubber-armed ability to soak up innings as a bullpen workhorse (and potential rotation option).
He threw 114 innings last season, making four starts and 51 relief appearances, but very few modern managers have used closers as more than one-inning guys and very few closers pitch more than 60-70 innings per season.
Aceves’ workload figures to drop as his save total rises, so it’ll be interesting to see how Valentine deals with not having the right-hander to put out fires in all kinds of situations. Valentine said that Melancon will serve as the backup closer, getting save chances on Aceves’ days off.
Bailey, who was acquired from the A’s after Jonathan Papelbon signed a $50 million deal with the Phillies, is expected to miss 3-4 months.
Everyone is well aware of how good Angels outfielder Mike Trout is at the game of baseball. The 26-year-old is already an all-time great, having won two MVP awards — and arguably deserving of two others — and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award. He has accrued 54.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference, which is right around the threshold for a Hall of Fame career. Trout does it all: he draws walks, he hits for average, he hits for power, he steals bases, he plays good defense.
But here’s an achievement that is amazing even for a player like Trout: he has yet to strike out this spring. In 41 Cactus League plate appearances, he has 10 hits (including a triple and two homers) and six walks with zero strikeouts. Across his career, Trout has a 21.5 percent strikeout rate, right around the league average. He isn’t usually such a stickler for avoiding the punch-out, but this spring he is.
To put this in perspective, 134 players this spring have struck out at least 10 times, according to MLB.com. 938 players have struck out at least once. The only other players to have taken at least 10 at-bats without striking out this spring are Humberto Arteaga (Royals, 23 AB), Tony Cruz (Reds, 18 AB), Oscar Hernandez (Red Sox, 10 AB), and Jacob Stallings (Pirates, 18 AB).
According to Angels assistant hitting coach Paul Sorrento, the lack of strikeouts hasn’t been a conscious effort from Trout, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Ho hum. The best player in baseball is apparently getting even better.