Dillon Gee was masterful Sunday afternoon against the Marlins. He became the first Mets pitcher in 2014 to complete eight innings as he hurled eight scoreless frames in the team’s 4-0 win. With the outing, Gee lowered his ERA for the year to 2.88 and in six games this season, he’s hurled four quality starts.
It’s quite a difference from how he began 2013. In five April starts last year, Gee was 1-4 with a 5.96 ERA and only one QS. And while Gee’s production is completely different from the start of last year, it’s not so different from how he finished the 2013 season.
Gee bottomed out last year in late May, when he got knocked around by the Braves. That dropped his record to 2-6 and his ERA ballooned to 6.34 in 49.2 IP. Just when it seemed like he was on the verge of being booted from the rotation, Gee ripped off one of the best starts of his career, as he limited the Yankees to just 1 ER in 7.1 IP. As if that wasn’t enough, Gee recorded 12 strikeouts in that performance.
From that Yankees game until the end of the year, Gee had a 2.71 ERA and a 1.132 WHIP in 149.1 IP. Flash forward to 2014 and Gee sits with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.008 WHIP. While it seems that he’s the same pitcher that he was over 75% of 2013, a deeper look into the numbers shows that’s not exactly true. He had a better K/BB ratio to finish the 2013 season, as he had a 3.5 mark in his big finish. This year Gee is not striking out nearly as many batters and therefore has a 27/13 ratio, just barely over a 2.0 rate.
The gopher ball plagued Gee in his first three starts of the season, as he surrendered 5 HR in 19.2 IP. However, in his last three starts, Gee has not given up a homer in 21 IP. It works out to an essentially normal HR rate, with just a 0.04 difference between his FIP and xFIP.
Gee’s problem is the difference between his FIP and ERA. While he has a sparkling 2.88 ERA, his FIP is a much more pedestrian 4.32 mark. Gee has an unsustainable 82.4 strand rate and batters have just a .202 BABIP against him so far this year. Combined with his ho-hum K/BB ratio, it’s easy to see he’s been pitching much better than his peripherals.
It’s doubtful any of us expected Gee to put up a sub-3.00 ERA over a full season here in 2014. But the question is if Gee can continue to beat his peripherals to any significant extent. Lifetime, his ERA is about 1/3 of a run less than his FIP, which certainly gives hope. We know that regression is going to hit but it sure would be nice if his ERA didn’t fall all the way to his current FIP.
Gee continuing to out pitch his peripherals would help in two distinct ways. First, it would help the Mets here in 2014. And second, it would likely help his trade value, either at the deadline or in the offseason. It’s the big dream of a lot of Mets fans that they are going to be able to flip Bartolo Colon for something worthwhile before the end of his contract. But the simple fact is that a pitcher in his 20s like Gee is going to be more desirable to other clubs.
Colon’s presence for the duration of his contract makes trading a Gee a little easier for the Mets to swallow. By the end of 2015, Matt Harvey should be back at full strength and hopefully Noah Syndergaard and/or Rafael Montero will be ready for a prime time slot.
But that’s all ahead of us right now. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the work that Gee is delivering for the 2014 club. While he doesn’t have lightning in his arm, he’s still getting fantastic results. To see him gut out the eighth inning today was a lot of fun, with Anthony Recker getting a big assist in pulling him through to record two strikeouts in his final inning of work.
Perhaps Gee is destined to be a guy who we recall more fondly than what the cold, hard numbers will tell future fans down the road. There’s no shame in that. Maybe Gee takes his place with other guys in Mets history like Pat Zachry or Walt Terrell or Jae Seo. And if we flip him for this generation’s Howard Johnson, that would be a nice legacy, too.