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.
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?