Published on March 9th, 2013 | by Josh Chapdelaine2
How Dillon Gee Became an Important Asset to the New York Mets
The New York Mets may have fallen to the Detroit Tigers this afternoon in Lakeland, Florida, but there were reasons to be happy with several performances in spite of the loss. Dillon Gee, coming off of season-ending surgery to remove a blood clot from his right shoulder, continued his successful spring with four innings of one-run ball. Although Gee struggled with his command (allowing three walks), he allowed only one hit and is a highlight of the rotation through two early starts.
While it’s important not to put too much stock into a spring start, Grantland’s Jonah Keri believes that Gee might be in line for a big season. Citing Gee’s strikeout rate (eight per nine),walk rate (2.4 per nine), and ground ball percentage (50.3%), Keri took into consideration his shortened season and his potential moving forward.
It’s hard not to see Gee’s potential. Even the advanced metrics support that Dillon Gee has become one of the best anchors in the game. His xFIP* dropped from 4.46 (poor) in 2011 to 3.54 (very good) in 2012. While some may cite Gee’s perennially high career WHIP, that, too, dropped from 1.376 in 2011 to 1.249 in 2012. While 2012’s statistic still may appear high, his success wasn’t based off of luck. Quite the contrary, his higher strikeout rate and lower walk rate allowed for Gee to actually leave less runners on base in 2012 (71.5% in 2011 compared to 68.9% in 2012). Essentially, all evidence supports that if Gee can maintain a low walk rate his success should indeed be an indicator of future performance.
Baseball is far from a predictable game, and Gee is living evidence of such a statement. Drafted in the 21st-round of the 2007 draft, Gee was thought to be a short and stocky pitcher with a below-average fastball. Despite the scouting reports, Gee performed well in his debut campaign for Brooklyn. A 2.47 ERA, 8.1 K/9, and 1.3 BB/9 led the way for Gee to earn a promotion to Port St. Lucie in 2008 where he would post similarly strong numbers before ending the season pitching for AA-Binghamton (where, again, he would see immediate success in a small sample, posting a 1.33 ERA through 27 innings).
Despite the success, scouts still didn’t believe that Gee’s arsenal would produce quality big league numbers. If there was any evidence to support the scout’s sentiments, it finally came in 2009 when Gee struggled upon his promotion to AAA-Buffalo. Gee’s cup of coffee with Buffalo saw his peripherals head in the wrong direction. A 3.0 BB/9, 7.8 K/9, and 1.303 WHIP were all career highs. Gee would start the 2010 season as a starter for Buffalo, and while his K/9 (9.2) and BB/9 (2.3) both returned to numbers more typical of his career, the results didn’t mirror them. Gee posted a 4.96 ERA, so it came as a bit of a surprise when Gee was called up to Flushing and was immediately successful. Although maybe it shouldn’t have been.
Throughout Gee’s 2010 season in Buffalo, his FIP (4.01) was average. Combined with his peripherals and BABIP (.332), it would appear that Gee was unlucky rather than struggling. After all, Gee didn’t necessarily have the strongest defense behind him (Lucas Duda, Jesus Feliciano, Val Pascucci, and Fernando Martinez were all part of the effort). His luck didn’t actually begin until he pitched in Flushing.
Gee quickly earned the admiration of Mets fans in 2010 after a series of very good starts. He would start five games for the club, producing a quality start or better in each of his outings. His peripherals were actually in stark contrast to his results; however, as his strikeouts (4.64/9) were nearly identical to his walks (4.09/9), and his .225 BABIP was much lower than his other career sample sizes. It was a small sample size that would have regressed, but Gee earned serious consideration for the future. And rightfully so.
His 2011 season would begin on April 17th, taking the roster spot of the recently DFA’d Pat Misch. His first half became a fairytale ride as his first seven decisions all went in his favor, pitching to a 2.86 ERA before a rain-shortened start in Atlanta led way for Gee to produce his first below-quality outing of the year against the Oakland Athletics. As an anecdote, it’s easy to recall friends wanting to head out to the park only on the days Gee would pitch during that first half. The calls for him being an All Star were heard as well. He would eventually end the season with results more in line with what his 4.65 FIP would suggest: A 4.43 ERA because he was still walking nearly four batters per nine innings.
So what has been learned about Gee throughout his career? His key to effectiveness is maintaining a low walk rate. His strikeout rate has risen with each professional major league season, and his walk rate has corresponded in the opposite direction. In 2012, Gee’s walk rate was a primary reason that his success was noticeable and as with his start in Lakeland today, Gee only faced trouble when he allowed a walk that would turn into a run.
Dillon Gee is of extreme importance to the New York Mets in 2013. He’s not a top-of-the-rotation starter, but his performance as a middle-to-back-end-starter will be the difference between the Mets staying in contention early in the season or quickly falling out of the race. It’s no coincidence that once Gee was diagnosed with a clogged artery that the starting rotation seemed to drop off almost immediately. His presence is very large, and probably underrated by most. According to Fangraphs, he was worth $6.9M in performance to the Mets in 2012. That’s a whole lot of money on the free agent market, but Gee is still controllable and could be next in line for an extension with a strong 2013.
Dillon Gee became important not because of his athletic build, blazing fastball, or deceptive delivery, but rather his ability to control the aspects of the game which he has complete control over. He has learned to adapt and pitch to his strengths, so when they’re faulty his performance will follow. He’s prone to be blown up once in a while, but for the majority of the time that he’s on he is of utmost importance to the New York Mets and will be a key to their future success if he can control what only Gee can.
Photo Credit: Michael Baron