Is Dillon Gee For Real?
First things first. As you may or may not know, I’m new to TRDM. My name is Kirk and I’ve been added to the TRDM team to contribute to the Sabermetric side of the blog. I’m a huge Mets fan who was born and raised in NYC. I’ve really taken to Sabermetrics the past few years and my goal is to provide analysis that will both satisfy the Sabermetric crowd and also help convert some traditionalists. My opinion is that EVERYTHING has evolved in the past 100 years so why shouldn’t the way we quantify what we see on a baseball field? Sabermetrics themselves are not a perfect science and they continue to evolve as well. However I still feel they are far and away more accurate than old school statistics. Anyway I hope you like what I bring to the table and I’m thrilled to be a part of this.
I don’t think anyone would have guessed that at this point in the season Dillon Gee would lead the Mets in wins. I’ll also go out on a limb and say I don’t think anyone thought he would be 7-0 and have the lowest ERA amongst Mets starters. While that’s all well and good, one has to wonder if Gee can sustain this success. Before I begin throwing stats at you I’m going to preface this by saying that I don’t think Gee can sustain his current numbers. I don’t think thats too controversial of a stance either. However, I do think Gee can be a solid back-end of the rotation starter provided he continues to work on the things he needs to improve. Because while there’s a few things you have to like about what Gee has done there’s certainly some things that he hasn’t done well.
The first thing I notice when looking at Gee’s stats is that he has scrapped his slider almost entirely. After throwing it 15.4% of the time in 2010, he’s throwing it just 3.8% of the time thus far in 2011. Gee has instead heavily favored his changeup, throwing it an incredible 29% of the time. According to FanGraphs Pitch Type Value his changeup rates 4.7 runs above average, making it his best pitch for the second year running (4.2 in 2010). Obviously it’s a good idea to use your best pitch more often.
Gee has also done a good job of inducing ground balls, which are statistically the best way to get an out. He’s gotten hitters to hit the ball on the grass 48.6% of the time. That’s a nice rate when you consider that the MLB average is 43.2%.
He’s getting hitters to swing at bad pitches. Although we’re talking small sample sizes, in 33 IP in 2010 batters swung at 29% of pitches outside the zone. In 2011 that number has risen to 34.2% (MLB average is 31.1%). Perhaps his increased use of his changeup has been the reason for this improvement.
He’s been lucky. Whether its his BABIP (.244 for Gee, .297 MLB avg) or his fielding independent adjusted ERA’s (3.59 FIP, 3.91 xFIP, 3.62 tERA), all signs point to defense, ballpark and just pure luck helping Gee’s traditional numbers. The BABIP is slightly troubling so a regression is ERA should be expected.
(Note: For those of you who are new to Sabermetrics- FIP,xFIP and tERA are ways of measuring a pitchers performance similar to ERA. These numbers try to equate ERA in a way that removes any good/bad luck provided by defense and ballpark factors. All three stats are slightly different and incorporate different variables. xFIP is a good way to predict a pitchers future performance while tERA is best for determining how a pitcher has actually pitched so far.)
Gee doesn’t throw enough strikes. While earlier I told you that Gee has been successful at getting hitters to chase pitches outside the zone, that isn’t likely to carry forward. Hitters will take notice and make adjustments. Which means Gee will have to adjust by hitting his spots in the zone more consistently. So far Gee has thrown 39.3% of his pitches inside the strikezone. That’s slightly below the league average of 41.5%. More troubling is that he’s managed to throw just 39.5% of first pitch strikes. That’s well below the league average of 44.6%. Getting behind hitters leads to fatter pitches later in at-bats and more walks, obviously.
In summation, I think my inital forecast for Gee holds true. While he is certainly pitching above his head, there’s no reason to think he can’t be a solid 4 or 5 starter in an MLB rotation. Most of his other metrics and rates have stayed pretty consistent and don’t raise any red flags. whether or not he sustains success at the major league level will depend on how he adjusts to hitters, who will certainly adjust to the things Gee has done to get them out so far. Things like throwing more strikes (good strikes) and walking less batters will go a long way to making himself a mainstay in an MLB rotation.