Monday, July 5, 2010

Evan Meek- A Deserving, Yet Improbable All-Star Selection

With the National League All-Star team announced yesterday, the Pirates lone representative came as a bit of a surprise to many.  It wasn't Andrew McCutchen.  It wasn't even Garrett Jones.  Instead, the honor went to reliever Evan Meek.  To, me Meek was the most deserving Pirate, but also the most improbable to be selected.

Why is he deserving?  The numbers don't lie.  Meek currently has the lowest ERA in the majors at 0.96.  He's made a staff high 37 appearances and has 42 strikeouts to only 11 walks and has a .178 opponents batting average against.  Meek has become John Russell's go to guy in the middle innings.

Why is he such an improbable selection.  Take a look back at Meek's Rule 5 season of 2008.  Meek was quite awful.  You could tell he had a power arm though.  At that time he was really the only hard thrower in the organization.  The problem was he was all over the place.  He was so erratic, it was almost comical.  If you would have told me then, that Meek would be an all-star a quick two seasons later, I would have laughed at you.

There another reason why Meek's selection is so improbable. Is there a more low-profile position in sports than pitching middle relief, much less middle relief for the last place Pirates?  The Pirates haven't had a middle reliever selected to the Mid-Season Classic since 1938.  Pitching well against the Phillies and Charlie Manuel this weekend probably strengthened Meek's case.  Even doing so though, in most cases, middle inning guys usually give way to starters and closers when it comes down to all-star selections.

To me, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the young Meek.  He has great stuff and has learned to pitch.  He will be the future closer of the Pirates within a season or two.

Give two people credit for the success of Meek.  First of all, Meek himself.  After his struggles in 2008, he could have went in the tank, the way some young athletes do.  He instead, worked extremely hard to get to this point in his young career.

Secondly, give Neil Huntington some credit as well.  Meek was his first major league acquisition upon taking the job.  After his immediate struggles, he could have returned the Rule 5 pick back to Tampa and nobody would have criticized him for doing so.  He saw the potential in Meek and worked out a deal to keep him in the organization.  For all that Huntington gets thrown under the bus, he deserves some credit here.

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