A Meche, A Conundrum
I got a decent chance to watch Gil Meche pitch yesterday, after really trying to avoid it. It looks like the M's are using a different pitching philosophy with Gil than they are with Felix. It's certainly debatable whose stuff is better -- the thing with Meche is that he's always had "good stuff" and that he just needed to learn how to use it. I'd probably rate Felix's curve and change-up a little better than Meche's right now, so certainly you have to examine why the pitching strategies are different for the two pitchers.
Meche last night seemed to be using his curveball a lot at the start of counts. In the at-bats in which I was paying close attention to, he started the batter out with 2-3 straight breaking pitches. The results were different, of course, with each batter -- a few more aggressive type hitters (Granderson, Shelton) would bite at the curve, while guys like Guillen and Ordonez seemed to watch it go by -- and more often for a ball than for a strike.
Dave Cameron initiated some good discussion on Gil Meche over at USS Mariner last night. Of course, Dr. Detecto and Silent Padna have some further discussion over at Detect-O-Vision. I have my own views -- driven less by statistical analysis and more by "who does this player remind me of -- and are those good memories or bad memories..."
Right now, I'm looking at Gil Meche and am reminded of Freddy Garcia in 2002. Back then (before I was addicted to blogging and message boards), I was screaming for the M's to trade him at the All-Star break. His trade value was pretty high back then, coming off an 18-6/3.05 season, and starting the year 11-5 with a 3.44 ERA. Of course, those things aren't what I judge a starting pitcher by, but I'm not a MLB GM. I feel the same way about Gil Meche right now.
And now for the conundrum.
Unlike in 2002, when the M's farm system seemed to be loaded with replacements -- this year, the farm system is pretty depleted. The M's were basically in the pennant race in 2002, just like they are in 2006. The 2002 M's chose to "Stand Pat" and blew the division lead, and haven't been the same since. What happened to Freddy Garcia? He went 5-5, and got pummled for a 5.66 ERA (with a .306 BAA). And in 2003? He got worse.
This is my fear -- Gil Meche's trade value couldn't get any higher, really, and I'm not convinced he's going to sustain the "success" he's shown so far in 2006. The stakes are a lot higher this time around, and the M's 2006 pennant chances very much hinge on what the M's decide to do with Gil Meche. I personally believe that they really need to add starting pitching -- both for a 2006 pennant run and for any hope of competing in 2007. Losing Gil Meche -- either via collapse or via trade -- really would hurt the M's both now and in the long-term.
My suggestion? Pray for Gil ;-) And let Felix in on Meche's pitching strategy.