May 17, 2007
BASEBALL: Meche Godzilla
Gil Meche, who entered 2007 with a career ERA of 4.65 and no seasons with an ERA of less than 4.48 in 100 innings or more, has an ERA this season of 1.91. What gives? Let's break out Meche's numbers for thus far in 2007 compared to his full season numbers for 2006 as well as his good first half in 2006, which ran through July 19 before the wheels came off. Stats courtesy of ESPN, THT and Pinto; the detailed stats aren't available for just a part of 2006:
The immediate fact that jumps out is that Meche is allowing just over one unearned run per 9 innings, a high enough number to suggest that his ERA is misleadingly low. In fact, his overall numbers are much more consistent with a guy with an ERA in the high 2s than below 2.00.
That said, Meche is pitching dramatically better, even though his K/9 ratio is actually down a bit and the percentage of outs on balls in play (DER) is not much changed (even though the number of line drives he surrenders - LD% - has improved). Meche's improvement has come in a large step forward in his control plus a great improvement the proportion of ground balls among balls in play, which has resulted in many fewer doubles and home runs and many more double play balls.
The warning signs are twofold. First, the improvements in control and ground ball percentage are both way out of line with his career (ESPN lists him as having a 1.98 G/F ratio this season compared to 1.01 for his career and 3.89 BB/9); while he has shown real improvement and not just luck, the issue will be how long he can sustain that. Second, of course, is the durability issue. Meche flamed out in the second half last season after passing the 120 inning mark, he's never thrown 200 innings, and of course when younger he missed two full seasons with arm trouble. At his present pace, which puts him just an inning off the league lead, he is on track to throw 242.1 innings. There is a very serious question as to whether he can keep that up.
So far, Meche really has been worth all that money the Royals paid him. Stay tuned.
The improvement has been attributed to a change in his delivery. He was landing on his heal before and that was change to him landing on the ball of his foot. The belief is that landing on his heal was jarring him and causing erratic pitch location, also adding strain to his arm. We will see, but it makes sense.
The Kansas City Star setup a "Meche-o Meter" to gauge whether he was worth the investment. By the standard they set he is almost half way to breaking even and on pace to score over 50% better than break even.
I think without a doubt at this point in the season he is the best of this years free agent pitcher crop. The season is young and we will see how the second half goes. The Royals starting pitching has been great. If we could just hit a little more this season could turn around.
People in this neck of the country are killing themselves over this. The Mariners unloaded Meche and got Weaver (the wrong one). Meche immediately goes out to pitch like the guy the M's hoped he would be about 3 years ago but never gave any indication that he would turn into over the past 3 seasons. Meanwhile Weaver is having an historically terrible season and likely will be cut at some point. To top it off they got rid of Pinero who has pitched OK for the Sox. Two sub-30 arms for one over-30 (crappy) arm. Despite nearly no offense and a once every five games guaranteed loss the M's are hanging around in the amazingly terrible AL West. If they had made an off-season move that made any sense at all they would likely win this pathetic division.
Just remember how well Mike Hampton pitched for the first couple of months of 2001 with Colorado.
Don't you think the reality of Colorado just caught up with him? No one goes there and does well. He, unlike Meche, was an elite pitcher for the previous four seasons. I think CO just ate him up like it does almost every pitcher that goes there. Not saying that Meche isn't going to flame out and turn back into Gil Meche but I think Meche has a chance to be better this season than his previous body of work might indicate. This guy, just 3 seasons ago, was considered a potential 20 game winner. Certainly the jury is still out but considering the slop the M's ended up with...
Hampton was a breaking ball pitcher going to a park where the ball can't break. But don't feel badly for him; after all, he didn't care. They had a great school system.
Meche. Don't know the Royals. I do know the defense has totally changed, so maybe, just maybe, he runs into some strings of good luck, the defense just might suite him. Not to an ERA of 1 over a season. It takes Gibson to do that. But this I do know. He has enough of a history to state he won't stay on that level. He won't stink out the joint too much. He will have some bad games, and he will have an ERA close to 4. In the end, the team is just not good, and neither is he. However, anyone can be hot for a month or 2.
Although Meche is exceeding expectations, it was always a reasonable bet that he'd be worth the money this season. How the other four years of his deal work out ought to be interesting to see.
The Royals defense last year was pretty good except for SS. Pena, Jr. has upgraded that. we just need to hit. Gordon has struggled, Shealey has been terrible. DeJesus and Buck have been the only real bright spots, but now Teahan is starting to come on. It could be a fun rest of the season, but they have already dug a hole that will be hard to climb out of.
I actually really wanted the Sox to make a run at Meche. While this start is certainly surprising, I thought he was a good pitcher waiting for the right situation to break out...
2 years ago when Bellhorn started striking out basically every other at bat I kind of hoped the Sox would pull off a trade that would bring them Boone and Meche (taking Boone and his contract off the M's hands) that would have given them a 2nd baseman that could still pick it and might have had something left in his bat (turned out in Minnesota that he did not) and a starter that might be better than OK in a situation where he was the 3 or 4 guy and not the up-and-coming-number-1. I don't know if KC is the right place for him long-term. I think he is more a sneaky-effective number 3 or possibly 2. If he gets to a point where he can go 200 innings he could pitch another 8-10 years and be a guy that wins 135-150 games in his career.