OK, how many of you out there thought that Dillon Gee could be this good? I see a few hands raised. Ordinarily, I might be inclined to call BS on that but Gee had many vocal backers this Spring so I’ll cut you some slack. But did you really think he was going to be 5-0 good? To me, that has to be the biggest surprise of 2011 for the Mets.

Of course, Gee hasn’t really been “5-0 good” but he’s given the team a chance to win on most nights and there’s really not more that you can ask of a pitcher. Because of the injury risks surrounding Chris Capuano and Chris Young, I expected Gee to get a shot to pitch meaningful innings for the 2011 Mets; I just never imagined that at the end of May we could make a case for him being the staff’s best pitcher.

How has that happened? Well, let’s review where Gee was in 2010 just so we can appreciate even more the job he’s done this season. Gee’s 2009 ended early due to a strained right shoulder. Rest and rehab were used rather than surgery and Gee came back to pitch the entire season in 2010. In 28 games at Triple-A, Gee was 13-8 with a 4.96 ERA. He had a 9.20 K/9 and a 4.02 K/BB ratios, both excellent.

He made five starts in September for the Mets and was the opposite of his minor league numbers. Gee had a strong ERA (2.18) but his peripherals suggested a much weaker pitcher, as he had a 4.20 FIP and a 5.00 xFIP. Basically, Gee was very lucky in his stint with the Mets last year. He had a .225 BABIP, an 80.7 strand rate and a 4.7 HR/FB. All three of those marks were significantly better than what we would expect a major leaguer to produce.

So, how is Gee doing in those three markers in 2011? His BABIP is up from a year ago, but still way below average at .241 after 47 IP. His strand rate is essentially average at 69.3 while his HR/FB rate has nearly doubled (but still below average) at 8.0 percent. Given this information, I would have expected Gee to have an ERA in the 4.50-4.75 range but instead he is at 3.83 for the season.

So, how is he doing it?

Gee has made great strides both in his K-rate and walk-rate. Last year with the Mets he had a 1.13 K/BB ratio and this year he has nearly doubled that with a 2.06 mark. That’s amazing progress, an improvement that I would not have thought possible.

His K-rate last year was 4.64, a mark which I expected him to improve upon this year. But he wildly exceeded my expectations by not only getting up to six, but currently having a 7.09 K/9 rate. And he also cut his walks by a significant amount, going from a 4.09 BB/9 in 2010 to a 3.45 mark this season.

You hear people blabber on about the virtues of “pitch to contact” all of the time. But you want your pitchers to amass strikeouts. Just ask Rays fans about how Wade Davis’ decision to “pitch to contact” is working out. Gee does not yet have enough innings to qualify on the FanGraphs leaderboards, but if he did his 7.09 K/9 would rank in the top half of pitchers, just outside the top 50.

Last night Gee had 8 Ks and 0 BB in 7.0 IP.

Now the question is: Can he keep it up? Gee had good-to-strong strikeout numbers in the minors. He has a deep repertoire but he does not have an overpowering fastball. In fact, you could call his fastball underwhelming. His average fastball velocity this year is 89.4, right in line with last year’s 89.1 average. That’s Joe Saunders and J.A. Happ territory. Most people whose fastball is under 90 are crafty lefties, knuckleballers and unsuccessful righties.

The righties whose fastball averages below 90 mph and who are successful usually have a very strong secondary pitch. Trevor Cahill, Jair Jurrjens, Shaun Marcum and Kyle McClellan all have plus pitches with their change-up. Dan Haren and Ian Kennedy both have a strong cutter and breaking ball to frustrate hitters.

Gee’s changeup has been effective, with a Pitch Type Value of 0.87 but his other non-fastball pitches have been below average. His slider checks in at -0.75 while his curve is currently at -1.40. Gee is doing most of his damage with his fastball, which seems unlikely to continue going forward without another plus pitch that hitters have to fear.

Right now, Gee’s ERA is perfectly in line with his peripherals. He has a 3.83 ERA, a 3.93 FIP and a 4.04 xFIP. Going forward one wonders if Gee can continue to get this many strikeouts with his repertoire. His BABIP is likely to increase going forward. And if he allows more batters to hit the ball, the results could be ugly.

Just ask Wade Davis what happens when you allow more contact.

Like all fans, the results that Gee is giving the Mets in 2011 thrill me. I always love to be wrong when a player performs better than I expected. But it’s hard to look at Gee’s numbers and expect that he will continue to pitch and win like an ace. If Gee ends the year with an ERA less than half a run *higher* than it is now, I think his season will be a success. That would give him an ERA in the neighborhood of 4.30 for the year.

Last year, five qualified pitchers had ERAs between 4.22 and 4.30 and they combined for a 56-57 record. Only one of those finished with a record above .500 and that was Brett Cecil, who was 15-7 with a 4.22 ERA. This year Cecil’s in the minors after he allowed 16 ER in 21 IP.

What do you expect Gee’s record to be at the end of the year?


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One comment on “Dillon Gee has been great but can he keep it up?

  • MyMets

    Kind of funny how people keep belittling Dillon Gees STUFF, but he sports an incredible 18% swinging strike rate.
    I dont know where all the info is coming from on his stuff but Gee definately has a plus to plus,plus pitch in his cu.
    What would they be saying if he was a top prospect with his numbers?
    No one really knows where any pitcher will end up, even statheads, but Im betting on Gee!

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