Position Roundtables: #4 Starter
Jeff: No. 4 Starter: Gil Meche
Gil Meche is younger than I am by four years. Already, he’s had
big-league success, major surgery, a long recovery process, another
full season as a starting pitcher and an almost comically up-and-down
season that saw him return to the minors, get knocked around, and
subsequently return to Seattle and a modicum of success.
To engage in a bit of hyperbole, Meche’s 2004 was a bit like the
Portland woman who was driving along just fine, then lost control of
her car and flew off of the Morrison plunging 60 feet to the river
below. No one would expect a dramatic recovery, especially after the
SUV sank 55 feet to the bottom of the Willamette. But that’s exactly what
Eventful life to this point (and overblown analogies) aside, there is
really no reason to expect 2005 will be any less turbulent for Meche.
He’s got the stuff to be successful, but the track record of pitchers
with this type of history is spotty at best. Hence, PECOTA expects
Meche to break down and slip from the rotation at some point, making
three relief appearances mixed in with 21 starts.
There is good news. At 26, Meche’s body should more resilient than
that of an older player. Contract-wise, he also makes relatively
Finally, he turned in a fairly strong post-All Star break run that saw
Meche lower his ERA from around 7.00 to 5.01, turning in a 3.96
September figure that included an 116-pitch shutout of the Red Sox.
I’m not expecting Meche to turn in 30 starts, but I do hope that he’ll
fall into the category of “good when healthy.” His September record
offers hints that this just might happen.
Dave: There’s a great scene in Ocean’s Eleven where Clooney and Roberts, now
divorced, are having a biting back and forth conversation about her
willingness to replace him with a casino boss.
Ocean: Does he make you laugh?
Tess: He doesn’t make me cry.
Gil Meche is baseball’s Danny Ocean. Clooney’s character commanded
the allegience of men and made the hearts of women swoon. While
having experienced some past successes in life, he also spent a
significant amount of time in prison, losing out on some of the things
he’d achieved at an earlier age. While being rehabbed in a
penitentary, he’s theoretically better than new. Of course, with his
new found freedom, he then proceeds to rob a casino and end up back in
jail. The entire plan was brilliant, carried out to perfection, and
was a joy to watch, and in the end, he still ended up back where he
started, in prison.
Gil Meche makes us laugh, but he also makes us cry. He’s a ball of
potential, a 94 MPH fastball, a biting curve, dominating half seasons
mixed into a career of twists and turns. At his best, he’s a good
pitcher and was a borderline all-star in the first half of 2003. At
his worst, well, he’s back in Triple-A, working on his mechanics,
wondering why his ERA is over 7.00. He’s shown the ability to throw
strikes, miss bats, and keep the ball in the park, just not at the
same time, at least not for more than a few weeks in a row.
Gil Meche is a good talent. He’s not a good pitcher, not yet. He’s
flashed his potential, but he needs to put it together for six months
in a row. Championship clubs are not made by occassional brilliance,
and right now, that’s what he’s given us; a flash of success mixed
with a dab of failure is the recipe for mediocrity. What Meche needs
is a healthy dose of consistency. If he can continue to pitch like he
did in the second half of 2004, well, we’ll finally be able to call
him a good pitcher. Until then, he’s just an ex con robbing casinos
and losing his woman to Andy Garcia.
Derek: My only comment on Meche is the same comment
I have every time we discuss him: he didn’t turn into an ace after his demotion.
He chopped his walks dramatically, and that’s really the only thing he did.
Balls put into play against him turned into outs at a far greater rate than they
did before his promotion: combined with the drop in walks, it made his season
look like night and day, and leads to all kinds of hasty conclusions and rosy
predictions for this coming year.
Cutting walks is great, and it offers Meche the chance to be a good pitcher, but
until he can sustain that (and as Dave notes, sustaining any kind of positive performance
has been trouble), it’s only a chance. His starts are pulled from a grab bag, and his
2005 season … nobody knows. In any event, this is likely his last year as a Mariner, and
I worry that it will mean Meche is more likely to drive himself hard in starts and conceal
nagging injuries to try and get his starts and wins up, while the Mariners have a manager
who likes to work his starters hard and as an organization won’t be invested in his future at all.
Jeff: We always hear about consistency when discussing an up-and-down
player. The following rant is really unrelated to Dave’s points or
Meche, but is something I’ve been needing to vent my spleen about.
Why do people assume that becoming “consistent” means that the player
will be consistently good?
Sure, there are many talented but streaky players. There are also
players (like, hopefully, Meche) who just need to put a few things
together in order to make great progress. But there are lots of
players who can’t find consistently solid performance because their
true skill level just isn’t as high as the competition’s is.
Neifi Perez is consistent. Willie Bloomquist has been very consistent
since his hot-hitting cup of coffee. That hasn’t been a good thing for
Oh, and I lost my woman to Andy Garcia once. Once.
Jason: When looking at most players on the M’s, I feel I have a general idea what
sort of performance to expect next season. Sure, there are best- and
worst-case scenarios making up a sort of spectrum of performance, players
have huge breakot years (and horrible collapse years), and of course there
are players like Ichiro about whom it’s tough to guess (Derek’s touched on
this before with regard to PECOTA).
Then there’s Gil Meche. Darned if I know what he’s going to do next season.
He could work 200+ innings with a 2.95 ERA. His arm could fall off tomorrow
and never get properly reattached. He could start 30 games, post an ERA of
5+ and then bounce around the majors the next ten years looking for that
magical change of scenery to turn his career around.
While I fully admit that there’s a little bit of this to every player —
Player X could perform to the best of his abilities, Player X could suffer a
career ending injury, Player X could become a journeyman — for some reason
I can’t quite pinpoint, I feel strongly about putting “Gil Meche” and
“crapshoot” in the same sentence.
All that said… I’d much rather see him in the rotation than Aaron Sele,
Ryan Franklin or Felix Hernandez.