If all goes according to plan, the Mets will have 6 starters as of next Tuesday, when Zack Wheeler is expected to join the team in Atlanta. They may need the extra starting pitcher for a while, as the team will be in a stretch of 23 games in 24 days, from June 18th through July 14th. Wheeler’s arrival will require a roster move, most likely a reliever being sent down. However, eventually, the rotation will settle back to the more normal 5 starting pitchers, and someone will be displaced (probably to the bullpen). The most likely candidates are Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee.
So far this year, Hefner has compiled a 1-6 record, with a 4.11 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. Hefner has struck out 51 and walked 22 in 70 innings pitched. While his won/loss record is less than desirable, Hefner has pitched well of late. He is becoming something of a hard-luck pitcher, evidenced by his start against the Cardinals on June 11th. In that game, Hefner went 6 innings, allowing 6 runs, but only 1 was earned. Hefner seems to be locating his fastball much more effectively, and inducing more soft contact. Hefner’s best start came on May 29th against the Yankees, when after staked to an early 5-0 lead, Jeremy pitched 6 innings, allowing 3 earned runs with 5 strikeouts and only 1 walk.
Dillon Gee’s season ended early last year, when he was diagnosed with a vascular condition in his arm in early July. Gee had been pitching very effectively when he went down. Early this season, Dillon had been struggling in his return. However, like Hefner, Gee has begun to turn his season around. Gee has posted a 5-6 record in 2013 with a 4.84 ERA, and a 1.53 WHIP. Gee has struck out 63 and walked 20 in 70 and 2/3 innings pitched. While Gee’s record is better than Hefner’s, his statistics are slightly inferior. In his most recent outing on June 12th, Gee beat the Cardinals, allowing 1 earned run with 7 strikeouts and 2 walks over 6 and 2/3 innings pitched.
Looking at the 2 pitchers, they seem quite similar statistically (wins and losses are not usually a good indication of a pitcher’s effectiveness). When the time comes to remove a pitcher from the rotation, I’d like to see Gee retain his spot. Considering that Gee is coming back from season-ending surgery, and his season’s trajectory has been clearly upward, it’s rational to believe that Gee will continue to improve, and return to his 2012 form (1.25 WHIP and a strikeout to walk ratio of 97/29). Gee’s endurance in his starts is clearly growing (he pitched into the 7th on Wednesday night), and his pitch speed has also been increasing. Gee’s control has always been his hallmark, and he seems to be locating more effectively with each start. Gee has the bigger upside, in my observation. I’m casting my vote for Dillon to remain in the Mets’ rotation for the remainder of 2013.