So far in 2012, National League starting pitchers have a 3.98 ERA. Dillon Gee has a 4.42 ERA, almost exactly identical to last year’s 4.43 mark. Coming into the season, I thought Gee was the weak link in the rotation and someone from whom the Mets needed to upgrade. But despite the similarities in results from a year ago, Gee has made some real strides here in 2012. Now we just need to see if this is a small sample issue or if Gee can be a rotation member on a pennant contender.
Things looked bleak for Gee after his start on May 15th, when he was knocked around by the Brewers. His ERA stood at 5.65 – or right in line with the 5.51 ERA in his final 94.2 IP in 2011. But since then Gee has ripped off five straight Quality Starts, with a 2.88 ERA in his last 34.1 IP, over a run better than the average NL starter. This strong stretch has gotten Gee in line with last year’s ERA.
But it’s not accurate to say he is pitching like he did a year ago. Gee had a great start in 2011 and then was rotten for over half the season. His 4.43 ERA was right in line with his peripherals. But if we look at 2012, we see that Gee’s peripherals paint a different picture.
He posted a poor 1.61 K/BB ratio in 2011 but this year Gee has a 3.18 mark, the 34th-best among qualified pitchers in MLB. That’s a remarkable turnaround, one for which Gee does not receive enough credit. Now Gee just needs to work on keeping the ball in the park.
In 2011, he had a slightly elevated 11.1 HR/FB ratio but nothing too out of the ordinary. This year his HR/FB mark sits at 15.3 percent, which is tied for the 18th-worst mark among qualified hurlers. And while the MLB average for HR in 2012 is for 57 percent to be solo shots, Gee’s solo HR rate is 44 percent. In raw terms right now, it’s not a huge difference. But Gee’s gopher balls have definitely hurt him and if he keeps up this current pace of allowing more HR with runners on base, it will be a factor by the end of the year.
Still, if you had offered me the chance for Gee to have a 3.34 xFIP, I would have signed on the dotted line with no questions asked. He’s doing a lot of the things you want your pitcher to do. Gee is striking batters out, he’s limiting the free passes and the majority of opponent’s batted balls wind up on the ground, as he has a 54.5 GB%.
Consider me cautiously optimistic about Gee at this moment in time. I’d like to see more changeups from him (sacrificing some fastballs and curves in the process) but that is not a huge quibble. Of course we have to see him maintain this good pitching over a larger stretch of the season. Remember he was fantastic over a 10-start stretch in 2011 before it fell apart. Here’s hoping for a different outcome in 2012.