If you ask most Mets fans if they are more worried about the hitting or the pitching for the 2012 team, they’ll say the pitching. And now that the Winter Meetings are over, if you ask fans if they’re more worried about the starters or the relievers, the answer will likely be the starters. So let’s take a look at each of the five starters who make up the rotation here in mid December. Let’s give an optimistic projection for each, assuming good health and everything goes right.

Johan Santana – 15 Wins, 3.50 ERA
R.A. Dickey – 15 Wins, 3.00 ERA
Jonathon Niese – 15 Wins, 3.25 ERA
Mike Pelfrey – 15 Wins, 3.75 ERA
Dillon Gee – I have no idea

Seriously, what would be a “realistic” optimistic projection for Gee? In his first 15 games last year, covering 12 starts, Gee was 8-1 with a 3.32 ERA. That’s a significant part of the season and knowing that he’s capable of doing that, is it really a stretch to consider that he could pull a 2010 Pelfrey season (15 W, 3.66 ERA)?

My take is yes – that type of season from Gee just isn’t in play, even knowing that we have our rose-colored glasses on and assuming everything goes right. I’ve said before that Gee’s pitching is what kept the 2011 season from being a disaster, as he came in and gave them a shot in the arm when they needed it the most. I just don’t see him duplicating that stretch ever again in his major league career.

Here’s what we know about Gee: In 2010 against Triple-A batters he had a 4.96 ERA. Then he came up in September and put up a nice ERA (2.18) but his peripherals were much worse, as he had a 4.20 FIP and a 5.00 xFIP.

Then he had a phenomenal start in 2011 yet ended the season with a 4.43 ERA, which was right in line with his FIP (4.65) and xFIP (4.46). Gee pretty much delivered what we should have expected from his components. But he did it in a way where he essentially bunched above-average performances in the first half of the year and rotten performances at the end.

The end result was one of the worst pitchers in baseball. There were 145 pitchers in MLB last year that threw at least 100 IP. Only five finished with a fWAR lower than the 0.2 that Gee put up. He is grouped in with luminaries like J.A. Happ, Kyle Kendrick and Kevin Correia. His full season numbers brand him as a replacement-level pitcher. We could sub in old pals Nelson Figueroa or Pat Misch and at the end of the year we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

So, what’s the upside with this type of player? Correia, Happ and Kendrick have a combined 11 seasons in the majors where they pitched at least 100 IP. Seven of those ended up with a fWAR less than 1.0, another was exactly 1.0 and three were above that threshold, led by the 2.5 mark Correia put up in 2009.

So, it seems like there’s at least some chance of turning in a decent season for Gee. Certainly, I would sign on the dotted line for Correia’s ’09 season out of Gee in 2012. So, how does Gee defy the odds and turn in a season where he’s noticeably above replacement level?

In his first 13 games last year, Gee had 22 BB and 49 Ks in 66 IP. That’s a 6.7 K/9, a 3.0 BB/9 and a 2.2 K//BB ratios during his best pitching. In his final 17 games, he had 49 BB and 65 Ks in 94.2 IP. That’s a 6.2 K/9, a 4.7 BB/9 and a 1.3 K/BB ratios.

No pitcher can thrive with a 4.7 BB/9. Five pitchers had a BB/9 of 4.5 or greater last year. They went a combined 30-50 with a 4.69 ERA. A 1.3 K/BB ratio would rank as the third lowest mark among 2011 pitchers with at least 100 IP.

Any optimistic scenario for Gee has to include him getting his walks in the 3.0 per nine innings range. In his 13 Wins last year, Gee averaged 2.7 BB/9 while in his 6 Losses he averaged 5.5 BB/9. Even in his no-decisions, he averaged a 5.4 BB/9. For a comparison, Gee had a 5.5 K/9 in his Wins and a 6.3 K/9 in his Losses and an 8.2 K/9 in his no-decisions.

The Bill James projections are out on FanGraphs and they are usually considered the most “optimistic” ones out there. These show Gee with an 8-10 record and a 4.33 ERA. This projection gives him a 3.49 BB/9 or about a half a walk better than he did in 2011. Even with this marked improvement in his walk rate, Gee does not forecast as even an average pitcher. Last year the average NL pitcher had a 3.94 ERA.

So, my optimistic forecast for Gee is 12 Wins and a 4.25 ERA in 2012. What’s your optimistic projection for him?

19 comments on “What’s an optimistic projection for Dillon Gee?

  • AJ

    My prediction is he’ll produce or he’ll quickly be out of the rotation.

    Although reasonable people should agree that the Mets will not likely be legitimate contenders in 2012, everyone will be looking for signs of positive movement. This past season Alderson and co. were busy setting up the triage unit, focused primarily on staunching the bleeding and sorting out the disaster to determine what could be salvaged and who needed to go to the morgue. Gee got a chance, came on strong the first (almost) half of the season, caught everyone’s attention and then stumbled through the remainder of the year. Without a viable alternative to take his place in the rotation, the reasonable approach was to wait and see if he could right himself and return to early season form. It didn’t happen.

    I expect Gee is going to be closely monitored by management this year, starting in spring training. If he doesn’t give them some reason to believe, I wouldn’t expect him to stick around for very long. I think there’s going to be a lot less tolerance for players who don’t perform.

    • Brian Joura

      In an ideal world, this is how you would treat Gee. But the Mets just don’t have any suitable replacements available right now. Which is why re-signing Miguel Batista and Chris Young makes sense.

      • Bus

        I think they are going to sign Young to a minor league deal, and they just signed a couple of major-league ready, fringe prospect pitchers to minor league deals, so there are replacements if he bombs. Otherwise we might have to see Chris Schwinden or Dylan Owen (or Cohoon maybe).

        But Gee, he is what he is. Back of the rotation, control-type pitcher with some decent offspeed stuff and not a whole lot else. There is room for growth, but his ceiling isn’t particularly high.

        • Brian Joura

          I like the Garrett Olson pick-up. He actually pitched better as a SP than RP in the minors last year. He hasn’t been very good in the majors but guys who have had success generally aren’t available on the waiver wire. Looks like a decent Pat Misch replacement.

    • Ron Davis

      Hey i like optimism but to expect any or all those guys to hit 15 wins. I have more faith in Gee winning 10 then i have Pelfrey winning 15 he may lose 15 but win 15 not happening.

  • Brendan

    While I too appreciate the optimism in your projections I think they are incredibly generous. The only person on that list I feel is capable of 15 wins is Jon Niese, and maybe Johan Santana if he is the Johan we all know and love. Dickey will be solid again but 15 wins is unrealistic and Pelf winning that many games is the least likely of all. I think Gee may be able to pull somewhere between 9-12 wins this season, and I think that would be great too. He had a great first half last season, hopefully he isn’t the second coming of Pelfrey. I can’t stand watching that guy pitch!

    • Brian Joura

      Just to be crystal clear – the above numbers are not projections of what I think will happen but rather the top end of what we could reasonably expect in 2012. A real projection does not go top end but rather the middle of the reasonable outcomes.

      • Bob M

        I don’t see that top end as even close to reasonable.

        • james

          I will disagree there, i think any of those numbers would be the “best” we could see from any of those pitchers, none of them would reach that level but in the best possible case scenario i would say those are pretty good.

  • Bob M

    First, where are you getting these optimistic ERA’s for the rest of the staff from? Santana is not even a definite to pitch and at best I believe he will have an on again/off again year, hopefully getting stronger as the year progresses. I would not expect less than a 4.00. Dickey at 3.00? I doubt it. He was not as good last year as the year before.I think possibly a 3.50. While I do think Niese is an up and comer, you really think he will drop that era from high 4’s to 3.25? Good luck with that. He still hasn’t shown he can take the rigors of a full MLB season and has tired the last 2 seasons, although not as bad last year. I think Pelf can do what you say if he figures out what is in his head, but you again are asking alot. Finally, with Gee, he is never going to be a dominant guy, but he is just getting his feet wet in the majors. I expect last year’s experience alone will help him improve. It is also no secret to what his success is. He needs to figure out how to have consistant command all season long. When he has the command he doesn’t walk anyone and makes his pitches tougher to hit when he is able to hit his spots. If he can do that I expect a sub 4.00 era and above .500 recored and if he can’t, when what you said. I just can’t stand all these stats which take nothing else into account. What the hell is a FIP anyway?

    • Brian Joura

      FIP is an ERA estimator. It attempts to take the “luck” and defense out of a pitcher’s ERA. It calculates an ERA using the things completely under his control — walks, strikeouts and home runs.

  • eraff

    15 wins for the top 4 starters?…..with THAT kind of “optimism” you don’t need to project the 5th starter. A team with four 15 Game winners is a TOP Contender.

    What is your “Optimism Drug of Choice”?

    • Brian Joura

      I’m not in any way, shape or form saying that all of these pitchers are going to have 15 Wins.

  • NateW

    Nice info on Gee, it presents the info that a lot of optimistic fans would like to overlook. That is that Gee’s early success is the anomaly not likely to be repeated.

    Optimistic for the Mets would that Gee start the year in AAA and works on developing a third weapon, and refining the fastball control so that his changeup can be more effective. Then when Santana goes on the DL Gee can contribute something above replacement level.

    Realistic would be that he repeats the second half of last year where he struggled to get through 5 IP while mixing in the occasional 7 IP gem.

  • RickeyBobby

    You know, he was a rookie, i think there’s still reason to be somewhat optimistic that he can make adjustments and improve his command. If Harvey had this rookie season most would look to him to improve..but i guess since he doesn’t have overpowering stuff, he quicker to get dimissed.

    He has a good demeaner and looked real good when he had command of his change up, hopefully he can either pick up a third pitch or be more consistent w his current repitriore

    ..

  • Ron

    I think the optimistic predicitons are fair, but I would be curious to hear some worst-case scenario projections for the rotation. We could then expect the actual performace to be somewhere in the middle.

    I also think it’s interesting that as much as I have trouble embracing Pelfrey, I think his worst-case potential season is probably better than anyone else’s (except possibly Dickey?). Johan may pitch 3 games. Gee could go 2-9 before getting the boot. Pelfrey should at least log 200 innings and get 25 decisions.

    Really Niese, Dickey, and Pelfrey are the workhorses of this rotation. Santana and Gee are gamers, no doubt, but it’ll be an uphill battle for them to have even average seasons.

    • Bus

      Yeah, this rotation is in sad, sorry shape right now. I don’t even care who they have running out there to begin the season, because it isn’t static and Harvey will probably make his debut late this year, with possible cameos by Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia.

      • Ron

        As long as it’s appropriate with their development, I agree. I’d love to see them log some major league experience – but if that’s too much of a rush for any of them, then I guess I’ll have to support some more Miguel Batista or Chris Young starts.

        If only we were in a major market and had a little more money to spend.

        • Bus

          Yeah, well bargain bin spending, it is what it is, and until the Wilpons let go from their grip around the Mets throat, that’s how it will be.

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