Blind Squirrel, Acorn

Dave · May 25, 2006 at 10:10 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

April 15th, 2004: Ryan Franklin goes 8 innings, allows 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, and 8 strikeouts.

May 22nd, 2005: Aaron Sele throws a complete game shutout, giving up 4 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 3.

May 6th, 2006: Joel Pineiro tosses 8 innings, giving up 4 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, and 6 strikeouts.

What do all these starts have in common? Each one was a great performance from a bad pitcher, and each one inspired all kinds of talk about this being the start of improved performance for any variety of reasons. Franklin had shrunk his repertoire, and now that he wasn’t so confused, he was going to be good. Sele finally got his arm strength back after years of surgery. Pineiro reinvented himself as a groundball pitcher who threw strikes.

Of course, all three pitchers quickly returned to their previously established levels of crappiness, and all the talk about these quick fixes were quickly forgotten. We’ve even seen this with Meche multiple times. He’s keeping his hands up. He’s throwing a 2 seamer instead of the flat 4 seamer. He’s abandoning the curve and throwing a slider. He’s going to throw more change-ups.

None of it matters. Gil Meche is still the same lousy AAA starting pitcher he was when he woke up yesterday morning. He’s just now a lousy AAA starter who had a good performance the last time he took the hill.

Let’s not add May 25th to the list of starts that get us overly excited about a bad starting pitcher. After all, Aaron Sele has a 1.69 ERA right now. It happens.

Gil Meche still sucks.

edit: True to form, Art Thiel writes the classic “He’s Fixed!” piece. He even spells Rafael Chaves’ last name incorrectly about 184 times. Good times.


44 Responses to “Blind Squirrel, Acorn”

  1. joser on May 25th, 2006 10:56 pm

    Is Bronson Fricking Arroyo in this category too?

  2. carcinogen on May 25th, 2006 11:12 pm

    The heretofore calm, calculating analysis we’ve come to expect from Dave has turned to spite, and outright anger…Amazing.

    Although, I feel you Dave. After all, its a matter of potential. This team could be better! But the never-ending cycle of repeated mistakes breaks one’s spirit over team.

  3. brian_sun on May 25th, 2006 11:41 pm

    I am actually one of the few people who like him, mainly because he’s from our own farm system. But over the last couple years, it has been frustrating to see him pitch.

    But I don’t think Gil Meche is really the problem for this team, at least this year. If you look at his overall lines in 10 starts (not a small sample size any more,) he has been an average starter (average ERA, WHIP, below average BB rate, above average K/IP rate and a 4-3 record.) In 7 of his 10 starts, he’s allowed 3 runs or less. In the other 3 starts, he allowed 4 runs twice and 5 runs once. In general, he’s kept the team in the game pretty much every time he starts. He’s the 3rd best starter in this club while making 4th starter money. The main problem I have with him is he throws too many pitches and usually is taken out of the game in the 6th inning. But in reality, his IP is about the same as Joel. With the # of pitches he throws every game, he should be a 7 inning pitcher, but he’s not. But he’s still just 27, and he has pitched better than last year. I don’t think I want to give up on the guy yet.

  4. brian_sun on May 25th, 2006 11:50 pm

    One thing that jumps out to me on his stat this year is: opposing hitters are hitting .291 against him, with a 382 OBP / 459 SLG% / 841 OPS. That’s by far the worst OPS against Gil has over his career. Yet, his 4.4 ERA is the second best in his career. Maybe he’s just lucky to have a 4.4 ERA. He can’t keep his ERA that low if he continues to let opposing hitters hit 382/459/841 on him. So base on that, I would say his luck has a lot more to do with his relatively average ERA.

  5. BelaXadux on May 26th, 2006 12:22 am

    To that, brian, I’ll add that Gil has helped himself out mightily so far this year with the K. Much moreso than in the last two years. When guys hit his pitches, they’re nailing them, but Gil’s getting a number of Ks, especially in his better starts, and it’s also in those starts that his BB rate has been well below his established norm. I can’t believe that this is going to last, given Gil’s last few years; it’s much easier, regretably, to believe that the mashing of his pitches is going to catch up with him.

    If Gil really is throwing a few more strikes past batters because ‘he’s finally learned how to pitch,’ we’ll have good evidence of that by July. I’m putting no money on it. —But I’ll take the wins for now, thank you.

  6. Churchill on May 26th, 2006 3:50 am

    More reasons to not believe that Meche has turned a major corner…

    He’s had six starts this year in which he allowed less than four runs. Sounds decent, until you realize he did the exact same thing a year ago. He had only four starts through May in which he allowed four runs or more, and only one (same as this season) in which he allowed MORE than four.

    His control numbers almost identical, also…

    2005 – 25 walks in 58 1/3 innings, or 3.86/9.
    2006 – 26 walks in 59 1/3 innings, or 3.94/9.

    His G/F ratio is the same…

    2005 – 1.18
    2006 – 1.21

    His WHIP is the same…

    2005 – 1.42
    2006 – 1.40

    He’s actually giving up the extra-base hit more often in 2006, as his .459 SLGA suggests, though he’s yielded seven homers through 10 starts… just like in 2005.

    Pitches per PA, which is a big one for Meche, is ahalf pitch worse this year…

    2005 – 4.05
    2006 – 4.61

    The only significant POSITIVE difference is the K rates.

    2005 – 5.21/9
    2006 – 7.43/9

    If he kept the strikeout rate up, he’d certainly be better in 2006 than he was a year ago.

    Otherwise, he’s the same pitcher. The best the M’s can hope for is a about six more decent starts and three more good ones after that to fool some NL club into forking over a prospect or two for him.

  7. JMHawkins on May 26th, 2006 8:57 am

    If anything, yesterday’s game should start the “Rodrigo Lopez is fixed” bandwagon. I mean, Meche may have looked good, bur Lopez looked Hall-of-Famish (er, Fame-ish?). Snapped a seven game losing streak, didn’t give up any dingers, yeah, he’s fixed. Or maybe he was just pitching against the M’s…

    Going back six years or so, what was Meche’s toolkit that made him a great prospect? Wasn’t he going to be in the rotation at age 20 or 21? Was his fastball electric back then, before the surgeries? Or did have have great off-speed stuff? I can’t remember anymore.

  8. Mike Snow on May 26th, 2006 9:16 am

    There’s no reason to believe any pitcher is fixed just because he shut out the Mariner offense.

  9. Paul B on May 26th, 2006 9:17 am

    Who would you trade or dump first, Meche or Pineiro?

  10. Dave on May 26th, 2006 9:23 am

    Meche, for sure.

  11. Dash on May 26th, 2006 9:27 am

    Bill Simmon’s just gave you a shoutout in his latest mailbag. Specifically on Felix and Dave’s charting of all of his pitches. I have a feeling traffic is going to spike.

  12. Paul B on May 26th, 2006 9:28 am

    #3, agree the M’s record isn’t Meche’s fault.

    It’s really more due to the hitting. And before someone says that is because of the Safeco Field affect, look at the M’s on the road.

    M’s are 9th in the AL in runs scored, 11th in the AL in road runs scored (although they have played fewer road games than other teams, so…), 9th in the AL in OPS in road games.

    So the offense really has been 9th out of 14 teams.

    M’s are 6th in the AL in ERA, 7th in the AL in ERA in road games.

    So overall the M’s pitching is middle of the league, but hitting is worse than average.

  13. Jim Thomsen on May 26th, 2006 9:30 am

    Dave, I have to agree, having drunk deeply from the Aaron Sele Kool-Aid a year before. Of course, back then, I was still doing conventional sportswriting, and spent hours interviewing Sele and Bryan Price and others about the excruciating minutae of his “turnaround.” I still have lots of tape of Sele explaining how he changed his release point after watching hours of video, how he and Price figured out that he needed to work down in the zone more, and when to spot his curveball, etc.

    I interviewed Sele again about a week before he was released, and he said he and Price still believed their game plans were just as valid in July as they were in May. “I’m just in a bit of a rough patch right now, but we think it’ll level out,” he told me.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. So now when I see Sele off to a good start with the Dodgers, I am able to see why more clearly: It’s typical “once-around-the-league” syndrome. NL hitters have no idea who this guy is, and so he’s going to get away with his junk for a little while before the scouting reports catch up and the hitters figure out how to adjust.

    When I see Gil Meche off to what looks like a better start with the Mariners, like the others above, I look to the stats now to see what’s changed. And like them, I see nothing different other than a slightly elevated strikeout rate, which is not a substantive improvement given the broad spread of his mediocre peripherals.

    The Mariners aren’t that smart, but I would fervently wish they sell high right now. Remember last year when Piniero, on a hot streak, beat the Yankees a day before the trade deadline? Just think what a shrewder front office could have leveraged that into with the Yankees, who were locked in a desperate pennant race and straining without Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and Kevin Brown. People are trading right now. Why wait until late July?

  14. Jake on May 26th, 2006 9:32 am

    Thiel’s column was just in time to pick up his Friday afternoon paycheck from the Mariner front office. What a joke.

    By the way, it’s called proofreading…. try it sometime.

  15. jimbob on May 26th, 2006 9:38 am

    Sorry to disagree but Meche looked terrific yesterday and was the only bright spot yesterday compared to a dismal Mariner offensive performance. I realize it’s tough once you’ve crossed over to the USSM “s-list” to redeem yourself — it’s probably better to switch teams and/or leagues.

  16. Steve Nelson on May 26th, 2006 9:48 am

    Re Sele: it’s worth noting that the movement on breaking pitches lessens as air density decreases. Which means that curve balls are more hittable in summer and at elevation.

  17. Jim Thomsen on May 26th, 2006 9:52 am

    #15: That’s our point, Jimbob. If he looked so terrific in one game, why can’t he more often? The answer: Because he can’t.

  18. loki on May 26th, 2006 10:02 am

    To be fair, the M’s offense may have sucked yesterday, but earlier in the homestand they roughed up a couple of pitchers who were supposed to shut them down. (Kris Benson and Chan Ho Park)

  19. proncis on May 26th, 2006 10:04 am

    off topic

    [deleted, off-topic]

  20. ChrisK on May 26th, 2006 10:18 am

    “People are trading now. Why wait until July?”

    1. The Mariners don’t get rid of guys until their trade value has diminished to virtually nothing.

    2. They are still under the illusion that they’re “competitive” and will ride that out through at least June (Btw, can’t wait until they sweep KC in a couple weeks, which will buy them more time to wonder if they’re a good team or not…just like the previous two seasons.)

    3. They might be foolish enough to think that Meche is actually “fixed”. Hint: broken Meche IS the real Meche.

  21. msb on May 26th, 2006 10:27 am

    #14– What is really odd is that it is spelled correctly the first time, and then wrongly the rest of the way…

  22. brian_sun on May 26th, 2006 10:29 am

    Where was Jamie Moyer at the age of 27? After 16 years and 207 W, he will go down as one of the top 2 M’s pitchers of all time. No, Meche hasn’t figured it out yet, but to give up on him at the age of 27 doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  23. gwangung on May 26th, 2006 10:31 am

    Um, brian, you’re comment only makes sense if we KNOW Meche will figure it out. There are MANY other pitchers who haven’t.

    Do you know?

  24. Steve Nelson on May 26th, 2006 10:40 am

    #22: Where was Jamie Moyer at the age of 27? After 16 years and 207 W, he will go down as one of the top 2 M’s pitchers of all time. No, Meche hasn’t figured it out yet, but to give up on him at the age of 27 doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Ummm, Does the fact that Jamie Moyer became a good pitcher after age 27 mean that every pitcher will become a good pitcher after age 27?

    If you’re going to use Jamie Moyer as the basis for your argument you really need to say why Moyer is a good comparison. Because if you just want to grab a random pitcher to compare with Meche, why shouldn’t we compare Meche with Jose Lima? Or Bobby Ayala? Or Cy Young? Or Bob Wolcott? ….

  25. leetinsleyfanclub on May 26th, 2006 10:41 am

    “The Mariners don’t get rid of guys until their trade value has diminshed to virtually nothing.”

    Therein lies a massive problem with this organization. There is nothing proactive about them. They are always in a reactionary mode, and constantly deal from a position of weakness. I can’t think of one player that they have traded at the right time in order to receive maximum value in return.

  26. Matthew Carruth on May 26th, 2006 10:44 am

    As long as the K rate stays where it is, Meche becomes basically a league average SP. For his cost, he’s a value right now.

  27. Grizz on May 26th, 2006 10:53 am

    Of the 490 players who pitched in the major leagues in 1990 (Jamie Moyer’s age 27 season), how many of them followed Moyer’s career path? One, Moyer himself. In terms of percentages, that is 0.2%.

    So what exactly makes Meche more like Moyer than the other 99.8%?

  28. msb on May 26th, 2006 10:55 am

    #22– not really quite the same thing…

    At 27 Moyer had just finished his first year in Texas (after being traded there with Palmiero); he’d missed three months of that year with a strained triceps muscle, and so spent the next season (when 27) splitting time between the bullpen and starting.

    Texas let him go at the end of the year, and he signed a minor-league deal with St. Louis. Moyer claims he didn’t figure thing out until Baltimore, which was after the minor-league contract with St. Louis, a demotion to Louisville after 5 starts, released, re-signed to minor league contract by Cubs, cut after spring training, a minor-league contract with Detroit (spent in Toledo), minor league free agent for Rochester, and finally promoted to Baltimore around age 31…

    “There were times when the light flickered for me,” left-hander Jamie Moyer said, remembering the struggle to become a major-league pitcher, “but there was no flash. It was a dim bulb.”

  29. Jim Thomsen on May 26th, 2006 11:00 am

    The only pitchers who made successful mid-career resurgences were those who completely reinvented themselves. Jamie Moyer at 27 was just another mediocre power pitcher. Mike Scott drifted along for nearly a decade until he learned to throw a split-fingered fastball. Frank Tanana used normally career-ending surgery to convert from a flameballer into a Moyeresque finesse pitcher for more than a decade.

    Much more common is the talented flameout who just couldn’t or wouldn’t learn the off-speed or out pitch they needed to be successful. Bob Wolcott is a perfect example. Bill James wrote at length about the mystery of a 1980s-era pitcher named Brad Havens, who sounds for all the world like a left-handed Gil Meche.

    Don’t be fooled by the high tolerance for experienced mediocrity in baseball. Why Mark Hendrickson is allowed to start every five days is beyond me. Why Jose Lima keeps getting chances despite the certainty of failure is a mystery to rival Amelia Earhart. Mark Redman, John Wasdin, Rick Helling, Tanyon Sturtze … you can run a list like this forever.

  30. msb on May 26th, 2006 11:33 am

    Moyer wasn’t ever a “power pitcher”

    1987: “The Cubs’ left-hander hasn’t attracted the attention others on the heavily-exposed club have received. But that is not as surprising as the fact that Moyer is succeeding the way he is. “You look at the way he throws and you don’t figure he’s going to be that effective, but he is one heck of a pitcher,” says San Francisco Giants Manager Roger Craig, considered one of the best judges of pitching talent
    in the league. Unlike some recent young phenoms, Moyer doesn’t possess a blistering fastball or a split-finger fastball. In fact, his repertoire looks rather simple compared to most. “What he has done at a young age is master an off-speed pitch and change-up,” says Cubs’ Manager Gene Michael. “It’s rare for someone so young and relatively inexperienced to have this type of maturity on the

    1989, after a 13 SO game against the Jays: “That’s not my kind of game,” said Moyer, who was traded by the Chicago Cubs during the off-season. “I may not have more than five strikeouts again in any game this season. My game is to change speeds, move the ball in and out.” Moyer, 26, mixed his sinking changeup with a good fastball and curve. “They got overpowered by a changeup the way some teams get overpowered by a fastball pitcher,” Rangers general manager Tom Grieve said. Moyer’s fastball travels about 85 mph, while his changeup goes about 67 mph.”

  31. Paul B on May 26th, 2006 11:34 am

    It’s interesting to look at Moyer’s list of most similar pitchers by age. I think this reinforces the notion that his career is way out of the ordinary (if there was any real doubt).

    Early on in his late 20’s, it was the Matt Youngs and Mike Kekichs, but then that gradually morphed into David Wells.

    See the Most Similar by Age column:


  32. msb on May 26th, 2006 11:37 am

    so I guess we can say he’s a freaky aberration of a pitcher 🙂

  33. Steve Nelson on May 26th, 2006 11:41 am

    #31It’s interesting to look at Moyer’s list of most similar pitchers by age. I think this reinforces the notion that his career is way out of the ordinary (if there was any real doubt).

    Early on in his late 20’s, it was the Matt Youngs and Mike Kekichs, but then that gradually morphed into David Wells.

    I’m pretty sure that the similarity with Mike Kekich at age 28 only involves pitching.

  34. Frozenropers on May 26th, 2006 12:20 pm

    #17: Meche’s problem’s have never been with his “stuff”….he’s got quality “stuff”…..low-mid 90’s fastball….great curve and even a solid changeup. That’s the reason we see great outings from him on occassion……and the reason he “should” put up above average strikeout numbers every season…but he doesn’t…….

    Meche’s problems have always been between the ears.

  35. DMZ on May 26th, 2006 12:22 pm

    Pitches that sometimes have good movement and sometimes can be thrown consistently for strikes do not make good stuff.

  36. Evan on May 26th, 2006 1:46 pm

    So when Jamie was 35 his most similar pitcher was a right-handed knuckle-baller?

  37. Evan on May 26th, 2006 1:55 pm

    Those baseball-reference comp lists are great. Ichiro’s is especially amusing:

    Most similar by age:

    26 – Al Wingo (1919-1928)
    27 – George Stone (1903-1910)
    28 – George Stone (1903-1910)
    29 – Bill Everitt (1895-1901)
    30 – Mike Donlin (1899-1914)

    As if we needed more evidence that Ichiro is a dead-ball era player…

  38. msb on May 26th, 2006 1:59 pm

    speaking of blind squirrels, Matt Thornton has a piece on the Bigleaguers site

  39. Frozenropers on May 26th, 2006 3:37 pm

    #35: Sorry, but I disagree. Throwing strikes has nothing to do with having great “stuff”. Having command of that great “stuff” results in strikes being thrown.

    “Stuff” has always been a discription of a pitcher’s raw pitches, speed and movement on the fastball, bite/snap on the curve……movement on the changeup….etc…….Saying a pitcher has great “stuff” is in reference to their raw ability to throw the ball…and has nothing to do with the pitchers ability to control that “stuff” or to learn the actual “art of pitching”.

    Outside of the time Meche was recovering from his shoulder problem when his velocity dropped…..he has always had great “stuff”, which is why so many people were always so high on him…..hoping that at some point in time it would finally “click” and he’d learn how to actually pitch and execute his pitches rather than just throw the ball up there.

    Speaking of Matt Thornton….another pitcher with great raw “stuff” but

  40. Deanna on May 26th, 2006 3:45 pm

    37 – Mike Donlin! Geez. That’s really messed up. If there’s a Japanese player who’s a current reincarnation of Mike Donlin in personality, at least, it’s Tsuyoshi Shinjo.

  41. Jim Thomsen on May 26th, 2006 3:58 pm

    Speaking of Japanese baseball, here’s a blind ex-Mariner-farmhand squirrel finding an acorn:

    “TOKYO — Rick Guttormson became the 72nd pitcher in Japanese League history to throw a no-hitter.

    Guttormson, a 29-year-old right-hander from Torrance, Calif., struck out nine and walked one in the Yakult Swallows’ 6-0 win over the Rakuten Golden Eagles on Thursday.

    “It’s an amazing feeling,” Guttormson said. “I can’t explain it.”

    Guttormson, who has no major-league experience, had an 8-5 record in his first year with the Central League team last season.

    “I started to think about the no-hitter around the third inning,” said Guttormson. “Everyone on the bench stopped talking to me after the sixth inning.”

    Yakult shortstop Shinya Miyamoto committed a first-inning error and Rakuten’s Katsumi Yamashita drew a walk in the fifth before Guttormson retired the final 13 batters for his first career no-hitter.

    It was the league’s first no-hitter since Kei Igawa did it for Hanshin in 2004.

    Mel Bunch was the last American to throw a no-hitter in Japan, doing it for the Chunichi Dragons in 2000. Other American pitchers to accomplish the feat include Terry Bross and Gene Bacque.”

  42. Deanna on May 26th, 2006 4:35 pm

    …and the Swallows’ first no-hitter since Kazuhisa Ishii pitched one in 1997.

    He did it on 139 pitches; going into the 9th on 128 pitches, manager Atsuya Furuta was just like “You’re going out for the ninth, too.” They had a 6-0 cushion, so if it got broken up, they could just take him out then.

    I didn’t realize Guttormson had actually been in the Mariners’ system, though now I see he was in San Antonio in 2004. Wacky.

    Of course, you have to understand that the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles are like the NPB equivalent of the Kansas City Royals, only worse. Shunsuke Watanabe had a no-hitter going against them earlier this year, which was broken up not by a hit — well, not exactly — in the 7th inning he hit Tsuchiya Teppei in the head with a pitch and was immediately ejected under the “dangerous pitch” rule. Oops.

  43. Jim Thomsen on May 26th, 2006 4:43 pm

    Guttormson was a Mariner farmhand in 2003 and 2004, I believe, having been one of Charley Kerfeld’s legendary indy-league signees. He actually was invited to spring training with the M’s in 2005, and was sold to the Swallows shortly after camp began. He’s actually a local boy, having played at Anacortes High, and his family lives in Everett.

  44. msb on May 26th, 2006 5:37 pm

    and Melvin Bunch was an M as well…

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