Gil Meche’s Issues with the Stolen Base

Needs explaining by folks who watch Gil Meche more often than myself.

Meche allowed 29 steals between 1999 and 2007. Those 29 gave opposing baserunners a 45% success rate. Running on Meche was a chore rather than a pleasure. Since 2008, though, Meche has allowed 42 steals at an 88% success rate. The basepath between first and second has essentially become a runway.

Three hypothesizes came to mind:

1) The Royals changed his delivery

Maybe they did, but teams didn’t start abusing Meche until the 2008 season, his second in Kansas City. That means either teams sat on the change for a full season or Meche didn’t make a change until 2008. This would seemingly be where the Royals fandom that regulates the site can chime in. Did Meche start taking longer? Did he work out of the windup with runners on? Did he add a hitch to his delivery? Anything, nothing, something?

2) Quality of catcher/runner

The stealing rates by Meche and then the rest of the pitching staff in each of his seasons since 2005:

SB%	Meche	Team
2005	50	70
2006	42	68
2007	44	76
2008	86	73
2009	94	72
2010	83	71

Suffice to say that’s not it. The quality of runner argument is dampened by this too. If the runners really were more talented, then either the team’s catchers are elite or it’s just not true.

3) The injuries

Meche has had numerous shoulder and back injuries, but they all came in 2009 and later … which doesn’t explain his 2008 numbers unless he was hurt then too.

So, Royals fans, I ask, what’s changed with Meche?

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My gut says you eliminated the “quality of catcher” argument too soon, RJ. In his time with the Royals, Meche has primarily worked with John Buck, while other Royals pitchers worked primarily with Miguel Olivo. Buck’s caught stealing % was lower than Olivo’s, took a strong downturn in 2008, then declined steadily each season after (although I can’t vouch for how he’s doing this year).

I’m not saying that it’s the only cause, and my memory of his delivery in 2007 is nonexistent, but at this point I would also describe him as “slow to the plate,” in addition to perhaps not being as attentive to baserunners as he should be.

I also gave some thought to his pitch selection, thinking perhaps he was throwing fewer fastballs, but according to your pitch type charts that is not the case. However, it also led me to wonder about your charts, because they say that Meche throws a slider when he himself has said that he does not, never has, and doesn’t because he can’t get the feel for it despite trying. He has, however added a cutter, I believe in either 2008 or 2009. So I can’t really draw a conclusion here.

Just a few of my thoughts.