Dillon Gee got off to a fantastic start this year in what is technically his rookie season. After making a couple of spot starts and an unsuccessful stint in the bullpen, Gee rattled off five solid outings between May 19th and June 10th, in which he posted a 2.02 ERA while allowing just 23 hits in 35.2 innings with 22 strikeouts against seven walks. There was even talk of Gee as a Rookie of the Year candidate. But then things started to turn south, and with some big name pitching prospects on the way, Gee’s future in the rotation might not be so secure.
Not every outing of Gee’s since June 10th has been poor, but he hasn’t found the same type of consistency that he had going earlier this season. Since June 15th, Gee is the owner of a 5.63 ERA and 1.3 K/BB in 76.2 innings. Overall, Gee has seen his ERA rise to 4.48 (4.80 FIP, 4.34 SIERA), his WHIP to 1.320 and his K/BB drop to 1.62, while also leading the league in hit batsmen with 13. The pitcher who seemed like he could do no wrong has come falling back down to Earth.
The most unsettling stat relating to Gee’s recent struggles are the walks. Not overpowering (his heater averages just a tick below 90 mph), Gee has to rely on control and movement in order to get outs. After demonstrating great control early on, Gee is now walking 3.9 batters per nine innings, which is unacceptable for a pitcher with such a low strikeout rate (6.3 K/9). To put things in perspective, Oliver Perez walked 3.7 batters per nine innings in 2004, but had a K/9 of 11.0. Even in Ollie’s ’07 season with the Mets, which was arguably his best, he walked four batters per nine, but posted a K/9 of 8.8. Gee allows too many balls in play to hurt himself with a high walk total.
Actually, outside of his stint earlier this season, Gee hasn’t exhibited great control since arriving in the Majors. During his September call-up last season, Gee walked 15 batters in 33 innings. In the minors, however, Gee was a stickler with his command, posting a BB/9 of 2.0 across 437.2 innings, leading to K/BB of 4.05. Of course, Major League hitters are more disciplined than those in the minors, but the rise in walk rate is too high for that to be the sole factor. Gee needs to get back to controlling the strike zone. His stuff has actually been decent: in terms of runs above average per 100 pitches, his fastball is worth 0.62 runs, his change (thrown 25.4% of the time) is worth 0.46 runs, and his new cutter (thrown 6.4% of the time) is worth 0.43 runs). Gee still needs to improve his curve (thrown 10.7% of the time and worth -2.10 runs below average per 100 pitches) because he won’t last too long as a starter without a solid breaking pitch.
Gee has the stuff to make a big league rotation, but beyond 2012 (and even then) his future is a little murky. Johan Santana, Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey are locks for next year, but the other two spots are unclear. Gee’s competition will likely be some combination Mike Pelfrey, Chris Capuano and Chris Schwinden (and possibly others), if the first two are retained through arbitration and free agency, respectfully. However, Gee’s real test will be when guys like Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia and Zack Wheeler get closer to the Majors. These guys are all power arms with fairly high ceilings, and at least one of them could turn into an ace. Not that they will necessarily all pan out in the way the Mets hope, but for Gee to stick around for the long term, he needs to rediscover his command and be the control pitcher that he can be.
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