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.