Should the Mets count on Dillon Gee in 2013?

In his last start of 2012, Dillon Gee allowed 1 ER in 8 IP and picked up the win, as the Mets improved to 46-39. For the rest of the year without Gee, the club was 28-49, meaning either that Gee picked a fortuitous time to get hurt or that his loss was a bigger deal than many thought at the time.

Coming into the season, I thought Gee was the weak link in the rotation and that he would be sent to the bullpen before the year was out. While Gee did not finish the year as a starter, it was not due to a demotion but rather because he was shut down after a damaged artery was discovered in his pitching shoulder, one which required surgery to remove a blood clot.

Prior to the injury, Gee was having a terrific season. While his 6-7, 4.13 ledger does not seem impressive on the surface, a 3.34 K/BB ratio led to a nifty 3.54 xFIP, tied for the 27th-best mark among 142 pitchers who threw at least 100 IP in the majors in 2012.

When people try to be optimistic about the 2013 Mets, they point to the starting rotation, mention Gee as one of its members and say that all of the starters are good. Is this a valid view point? Especially given how Gee’s 2012 season ended?

While there’s always concern about a pitcher coming off shoulder surgery, Gee has not suffered any setbacks in his rehab, he threw off a mound in September, indicated that he will follow his typical off-season regimen and expects to report to Spring Training without any restrictions. So far, so good for Gee.

So, let’s assume that Gee is healthy. Then the question becomes: Is he really good?

In 39 starts at Triple-A, Gee has a 4.76 ERA and a 1.310 WHIP. That’s hardly the stuff that inspires confidence. In 52 games (49 starts) in the majors, Gee has a 4.06 ERA and a 1.312 WHIP. Last year the NL average for SP was a 4.04 ERA and a 1.299 WHIP. Gee figures to be the Mets’ fourth or fifth starter and he has numbers that are solidly league average. That seems pretty good to me.

So how does a pitcher who was mediocre in Triple-A post league-average numbers in the majors?

Gee’s Triple-A numbers might have to be taken with a grain of salt. Most of those – 28 of 39 starts – came in 2010. Gee’s 2009 season was truncated due to a strained shoulder. He opted for rest instead of surgery and was able to pitch a full season in 2010. But it’s not crazy to think he was operating at less than 100 percent efficiency that year.

If we look at Gee’s time in the majors, we see steady improvement. He had a cup of coffee with the Mets in 2010 and while his ERA checked in at 2.18 his xFIP told a different story at 5.00 for his stint. In 2011, his xFIP dropped to 4.46 and last year it was 3.54 at the time he was shelved for the year.

In the minors, Gee had pretty good strikeout rates without lighting up the radar guns. And we see in the majors that his K% has increased each year. It started out at 4.64 in his debut in 2010, rose to 6.39 in 2011 and checked in at 7.96 last year, the 43rd-best rate among pitchers with at least 100 IP last year.

While no one will fear Gee’s fastball, he has a good changeup, a better cutter and last year he displayed one of the best sliders in the game. Gee threw his slider three times more often in 2012 and by linear weights on a rated, per-100 pitches basis, it ranked as the 10th-best slider in the majors last year.

Assuming that Gee is healthy, I am bullish on his chances in 2013. We’ve seen him make great progress in the majors, getting more comfortable with his stuff and switching to more effective offerings. He’s greatly increased his strikeouts, cut his walks (4.09 to 3.98 to 2.38 BB/9) and kept his HR rate near league average.

He’s done everything you would want a pitcher to do. Now, much like with Jonathon Niese heading into 2012, we are just waiting for results to catch up with his peripherals. Perhaps he needs to maintain his peripherals for another year to indicate that 2012 wasn’t merely a fluke. But if he does indeed keep his K/BB ratio in the 3.0 range, I have no doubt that he will someday break out with noteworthy Wins and ERA totals.

8 comments for “Should the Mets count on Dillon Gee in 2013?

  1. Rev. Al
    November 1, 2012 at 10:58 am

    I think he should at least be showcased so he can be a trade chip?

    • November 1, 2012 at 11:07 am

      I guess it’s not impossible that a strong first half would make him valuable come the trading deadline.

  2. Metsense
    November 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    The Mets strength is their starting pitching. Dickey-Niese-Harvey-Gee-Santana. Gee projects as a #4 or #5 starter in this rotation. If Gee was placed on an average NL team he would be a #3 or #4. This conclusion is based on an 80 IP criteria with his league average in parenthisis. There were 85 NL pitchers meeting this criteria. His statistics: 4.10 ERA (54) 1.25 WHIP (41) .697 OPS (28) 3.71 FIP (32). Gee seems to be underated by fans but he is a very solid #5 starter in this rotation (assuming Santana-2013 and then Wheeler-2014 move ahead of him).Even if this is his ceiling and he maintains it, he would be a valuable commodity and should be counted on in 2013 and possibly for years to come.

    • 7train
      November 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      Agree Metsense.

      Dillon certainly appears to be a very valuable 4th or 5th starter and could possibly transition into a 6th starter 2 inning guy on a very good pitching staff and that is a very valuable piece for a contender. With the very real chance of Harvey, Wheeler, Niese, Fulmer, Montero by 2015 this could be his eventual landing spot.

      His value is depressed at the moment until he comes back and proves to be healthy and while he shouldn’t be shopped, he shouldn’t be off the table either.

      He reminds me quite of bit of Rick Aguilera who made a great transition to the bullpen who’s best pitch was a slider as well, didn’t have a blazing speed but did have great control and went on to be one of the top closers in the game.

      That may be too much to ask for but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities.

      • November 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm

        Interesting comparison to Aguilera – don’t think I’ve heard that one before. When Aguilera became a reliever, I think he focused more on his splitter/forkball than his slider.

        I think I should point out that Gee still is mostly fastball/changeups — with a slider, curve and cutter mixed in. He threw the cutter least of any of his pitches but had good success with it. It’ll be interesting to see if he incorporates more sliders and cutters in 2013.

        • 7train
          November 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm

          I forgot about that splitter but was it part of his arsenal when he was with the Mets? I don’t recall, nonetheless what I’m getting at is going back to a more pitcher type of reliever instead of the big fastball/slider blow you away type we and many other teams have gone after in recent years.

          Gee I could see serving as a very capable swingman if he ever did get pushed out of the rotation and hey, he could possibly learn the splitter too, he does seem to show up with something new or more evolved every year.

          • ricky86
            November 2, 2012 at 11:05 am

            I really like Dillon Gee, while on the minors his change-up was rated as the best in the farm system, and yes he is smart,learn quickly and could be an asset on a contender pitching staff,type of guy that you keep, won’t blow you out ,but knows how to pitch, is getting better and better.

  3. Name
    November 2, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Can Gee take the same route as Niese?
    Niese had a couple of years where he had high ERA numbers but good xFIP and underlying numbers and it seems like the same thing is happening to Gee. Harvey, Wheeler, Niese, Gee, and Dickey alone could be all be above average in as little as 2 years, which would make that the premier rotation in the NL.

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