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.