Monday, July 10, 2006

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.


At 7/10/2006 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trading Meche has merit, but I think you really need to let next year take care of itself.

I think trading Meche would hurt the team morale-wise more than gaining a guy who could project to be better than him down the road. It's dangerous either way. That's why I would lean more toward keeping him.


At 7/10/2006 2:41 PM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

For the record, I'm precisely advocating keeping Meche around. And I know I've completely flip-flopped on that issue (and I believe that it's OK to change your mind, when you have information that you didn't have before -- or MISinformation that has since been corrected ;-). Unlike in 2002, the M's are in serious, serious need of starting pitching. Unless there's a GM crazy enough to make a Kazmir-Zambrano equivalent trade, there's no way I trade him right now.

There are waaaay too many holes in the starting rotation right now that, no matter what we do with Meche, won't help our chances for the division title in 2007 (and beyond). If the M's lose Meche, even if they get a servicable starter in return, won't help them in 2006, and could really hurt them in 2007 and beyond. Even league-average starting pitching is EX-PEN-SIVE!!!

While I don't like the fact that Meche is throwing a lot of pitches in an inning, he has shown that he's capable of putting together a string of quality starts consistently. My biggest beef with Meche is that I didn't see him ever having the gumption to throw more than 5 innings. Now that he's done it for a decent string of starts, I believe it's equally possible for him to go 6-7 solid innings in every outing (without getting shelled consistently) and to collapse entirely. only being able to throw 4-5 innings max.

It's really hard to predict the future, even using statistical analysis. By most statistical analysis, Adrian Beltre was on his way up as a player, and his breakout year only proved that he was finally becoming the player the scouts & statheads thought he might. Both the scout-types and the stat-types told me that Adrian Beltre was the player that the M's should target. While he's solved a lot of problems defensively, I'm not sure that paying him $64 million to play good defense is what the M's had in mind.

Maybe indeed the M's need to take the same course of action they did with Freddy. Give him another 2 years of innings, and see what kind of a haul you can bring in for him later. It makes me nervous, sure, but so does relying upon Howard, Chuck & Co. to come up with the cash to fund the needs in the rotation.

At 7/10/2006 11:15 PM, Blogger Citizen K said...

I agree on the not dealing Meche. Remember, he's coming off some major wing injuries. It has taken a while for him to get back his entire range of motion; he's lost 1-2 mph on the fastball, but has improved in his go-to curve and also in his newfangled slider. He always was pegged as a 3-4 pitch guy, and now he has them. None are incredible, but all are average to above-average. When he has one or two of them working, and is changing speeds, he's pretty tough. He throws a lot of pitches comparable to another starter because he doesn't have to rely on the easier-to-control fastball all the time; he can work in some offspeed stuff, nibble (or flat-out miss) for a couple pitches, and still bring the ol' 94 octane on occasion. He's being labeled the #1 by the management for the second half. Citizen K thinks it would be sounding a death knoll for the club's chances to deal Meche at the deadline.

Unless, following the break, they go on a horrific losing streak, while the A's slither into one of their patented two-digit win binges. If they're down by 10+ on July 28, let's see what's available. Until that point in time and standings, however, let's say Meche will remain--along with Lopez, Betancourt, Johjima, Putz, and Soriano--one of this season's surprise success stories. Keeping that core together for the future would be great, again assuming the club remains in contention throughout August.


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