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Gil Meche’s Mechanics

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on March 28, 2006

Ya know, watching Gil Meche pitch is agonizing, sure, but there are advantages to watching the righthander pitch in March – the games don't count.

But unless the 27-year-old, sixth-year veteran gets it together in a hurry, the Seattle Mariners are in for yet another long season – every five days.

We all know this. It's not a secret. It's also not a secret that Meche's problems are both upstairs and in his mechanics, which are easily the worst on the staff.

I've talked recently about Meche staying ahead in the count and keeping his pitch counts at reasonable levels. But it's impossible to do with below average control, which is caused by terrible mechanics.

Meche took the hill against Texas on Monday night and had good stuff, just horrific command, again caused by flaws in his delivery.

This is what I saw with Meche on Monday night:

An inconsistent delivery, meaning he wasn't repeating the motions. It was slightly different every few pitches. To get a hold on his command and the most out of his pitches, Meche, like any pitcher, has to find a consistent arm slot and repeat it, along with the same leg kick, waist bend and spacing between his drive foot and his plant foot. He was doing none of the above against the Rangers.

Along with his natural fall-off toward the first base side of the mound that alters arm angles and fiddles with his location, Meche has one red-flag flaw that I would fix immediately, even if it meant that he had to stay behind in Peoria for an extra week or two working on nothing but this.

Seen easier from the wind-up but also visible from the stretch, Meche has a negative action with his upper body starting with his head and ending around his hip and thigh area, causing a shift in balance and making him use more arm than he needs to be. It keeps him from locating his pitches and causes pitches to stay up in the zone.

Meche begins his delivery by facing the plate, shoulders nearly squared off, standing on the third-base side of the rubber and leaning slightly forward toward the batter. His first movements are to straigten his posture as his left foot, which will become his plant foot, moves back toward first base to give him balance and leverage for his next movement.

As the left foot plants behind him, he's opening his body to face more toward third base as he preps his right foot, his drive foot, on the rubber. He actually picks his right foot up off the ground and then puts it down where he needs to drive off the rubber.

When the right foot is down solid, his left foot is a half step behind his body – we're still in the backward motion before his leg kick – and his hands are met together, ball in hand in glove. His head is turned perfectly toward the plate, while his body is in mid-spin from facing the plate, where he started his wind, to facing more toward the third base area.

The moment the spin is completed, his left foot (plant foot) lifts from its position of a half step behind his body and begins his leg kick. At this point in the delivery, there isn't much to pick apart, with the possible exception of the fact that he is standing straight up, but many pitchers have the same routine prior to the leg kick.

During the leg kick – the rocking motion – is where his biggest mechanical flaw takes place.

As his left knee raises, Meche's head and shoulders are tilting back toward second base, very slightly. It's almost impossible to detect. But it gets worse.

When the leg kick reaches it's peak, which may be a little too high for my liking (near his chest in height from the ground), Meche's shoulders make a very noticable negative tilt, taking his head along for the ride.

What this does is make it almost impossible for Meche to stay on top of his pitches. His entire body, including his head and arm, are swung back too far and they are never able to catch up. He finishes his pitch without the necessary leverage to keep fastballs down and his curve ball from hanging. It basically means his control would have to be naturally PERFECT for him to have a chance to throw the pitches where they need to be thrown.

No pitcher has much of a chance when that occurs.

Meche also has wide plant foot positioning which pulls him toward first base, which also makes it difficult for him to stay on top of his pitches.

Felix Hernandez stays on top of his fastball with such ease, that even when he misses up in the zone, the ball has a downward angle as it hits the zone and the hitter still pounds it into the ground.

Meche's two-seamer has pretty solid action on it. And his change has been his best pitch all spring. Both are good signs.

But until he can find a delivery that allows him to stay atop his fastball and curve and still allow him to bring it at 90-93, he'll continue to be one of the league's worst starting pitchers.

Fixing these two flaws, particularly the negative tilt at the height of his leg kick, will also help with his command, which is an enormous issue for him.

You can bet that Rafael Chaves has these and other issues inked into his mind and has been working with Meche on them everyday. They just aren't easy fixes. But if anybody can get it done, it's Chaves.

Meche needs to stay strong in mind and patient as things get worked out.

I still think we'll see a better Gil Meche in 2006. That is, as long as his head hangs in there, which is certainly no guarantee.


20 Responses to “Gil Meche’s Mechanics”

  1. Same old freakin’ story with Meche. When does his salary become guaranteed?

    If Bavasi can pull SOMETHING out of Thornton (and Borchard will likely hurt the M’s less than Thornton would), he could find something for Meche.

    The first inning was the last straw for me yesterday. I’m so done with him. Gil Meche is the new Matt Thornton.

    While I do believe that Chaves is the best in the M’s system for getting Meche back on track, I seriously doubt Meche will pull it together as long as he’s a Mariner. He seriously may be better off in a different organization.

    We desperately need another starting pitcher. Nageotte may be the closest to being ready, but I’d like him to get a little more seasoning in Tacoma. Appier might be an option, but I seriously doubt he’d be much better than Meche. Foppert showed his true colors in his last outing.

    All the more freakin’ reason I’m so disappointed Howard didn’t give Bill a bit more cash to bring in someone like Weaver, Loaiza, Byrd, etc… If only the M’s weren’t run like the freakin’ office of the redundancy department’s committee, and had some true leadership.

  2. Byrd and Loiaza had no interest in Seattle anyways, but Weaver may have come here for 3 and 30.

    But that would have meant TWO grossly overpaid starters…

    Giving Meche 3.7 mil was dumb to begin with. It should have been a competition between about eight guys, including Nageotte, Foppert, Livingston, Cruceta, MATEO, etc.

    Right now, the M’s would owe Meche 1.5 mil in termination pay.

    As of Sunday, all of it is guaranteed.

    Meche’s line looks okay, not good or great, but okay, AFTER the first yesetrday. Buthis mechanics were still terrible.

  3. Willmore said

    What could Meche fetch on the open market ? On a scale of 0-100 with 100 being a blue-chipper and 0 being a 40+ year-old who will retire in a week.

  4. -40.

    More salary than Meche is making.

  5. Willmore said

    What about moving him to the bullpen ? He can actually become an asset there, especially with the deficit of good relievers on the roster. Sure it’s a pricey reliever, but it’s better than a 5+ ERA of a starter, and we can use Nageotte or Livingston as the starter which will cost us next to nothing.

  6. Problem is, as he displayed yesterday, Meche tends to have really bad innings early, and (if given a chance) only later (if, well, ever) settles down a bit. I’ve strongly considered that, too, but really, you don’t want your relievers giving up 5-6 runs in their inning (or portion thereof).

    Sure he seemed to pitch a little better as the game went on yesterday, but he never really looked good out there. I don’t think his command problems can be fixed in Seattle.

  7. I think they can, at least enough to make him a league average SP.

    I completely disagree with scouts who believe he’d be good reliever.

    You can’t walk guys when you are only going to throw an inning or two.

    Control is magnified in shorter stints.

  8. Willmore said

    He seemed to fare well in his relief opportunities last year with no walks.

  9. Willmore said

    In 4.2 innings last year, he allowed 3 hits, no walks, no runs and 3 strikeouts. With opponents batting .214 against him.
    Jason, could you check if there was a change in his mechanics during those stins or if he had increased velocity or something that would explain him being better in relief (even in such a small sample size)

  10. Willmore said

    Also, I don’t have the stats for this, but he seemed to have some relief appearances for San Antonio in 2002, do you have his stats for that year split between relief and starter appearances to see if there was a change.

  11. He had no increased velo and there wasn’t anything different in those 4.2 frames then there has really ever been.

    He had five great innings to start this spring, too.

    Re: splits… i’ll track them down.

  12. Willmore said

    So anyway, in an arbitrary look at pitchers going from starter to reliever.

    Gagne had a BB/9 of 4.5, 5.3 and 2.7 as a starter.
    As a reliever: 1.7, 2.2, 2.4, 2.0

    ehhh, inconclusive, since he did have a good last season as a starter.

    How about K/9:
    Starter: 9, 7, 7.7
    Reliever: 12.5, 15, 12.5, 14.9

    ERA also plunged after the switch.

    Smoltz, Eckersley both experiences a boost in K/9. Smoltz to a smaller degree, but eckersley to a great one – he went from 5-6 K/9 to over 9.

    Honestly, I don’t know if Meche can cut it as a reliever, but he will definitely be more valuable to us as a reliever than as a starter. Not only that, add to it that he will be an improvement over any other pitcher we can get for that bullpen spot.

    Upside: Possible great reliever.
    Downside: Expensive reliever, young new 4th starter like a Negeotte or Livingston.

    I think it boils down to whether one thinks that either Jetty-man and Ishmael over there can post a sub-5 ERA. Which, according to the VORP theory, they should easily do, especially with out defense.

  13. But Meche isn’t nearly as good as any of those pitchers. Not in the control dept, not upstairs.

  14. Willmore said

    Doesn’t hurt to try.

    Especially if he is compared to the likes of Harris, Woods, Fruto or Gonzalez in the bullpen.

  15. A 4 million dollar reliever?

    No thanks.

    And yes, it CAN hurt to try.

    The difference between Harris and Meche, and maybe Fruto ultimately, is that Harris and Fruto arent head cases.

    Makes a big difference.

  16. Willmore said

    I say keep Gonzalez as the 2nd lefty, just because of the rule 5 thing, then move Meche to the pen as a middle-reliever/spot starter.

    Gonzalez is a Thornton disaster waiting to happen, so let’s just hope he doesn’t pitch more than 20 or so innings, and does not become Hargrove’s lovechild like Matt was last year.

    Now, we need a #4 starter (if we still refuse to move Felix up)
    Eliminating the possibility of a trade, we have Livingston and Nageotte as possibilities. And I would not be averse to either of them getting a shot at it. Not too far from that, Blackley will get to 100%, then perhaps Campillo, we do have options.

  17. Willmore said

    Jason, i never take the base – I always swing for the fence, thinking of the greatest payoff, not the most conservative moves.

  18. while u swing for the fence, you miss three times and walk away with nothing.

    Don’t swing for the fences with Gil Meche. He’s a paper towel, not a Louisville Slugger.

  19. Willmore said

    I’m just saying that before trading him for scraps, give him a month in the pen, see if it works, if it doesn’t, I’ll be the first on the trade Meche bandwagon.

  20. best case scanerio in the pen — 4+ ERA, erratic (still).

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