Breaking Down the Value of the New York Mets' Dillon Gee

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Breaking Down the Value of the New York Mets' Dillon Gee
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Over his last 30 starts, nearly a full season's worth, Dillon Gee has a 2.72 ERA, seventh-best in the majors in that span.

After joining the league in 2010, Dillon Gee has quietly developed into one of the most reliable pitchers on the New York Mets.

Gee does not light up the radar gun, or New York newspaper headlines, like a Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler. Instead, the 21st-round pick relies on movement, consistency and a superb changeup that manager Terry Collins calls "as good as anybody's in baseball," per Anthony Mccarron of the New York Daily News.

In the last year, Gee has learned to maximize his abilities and has been consistently pitching like an ace.

Last year, on May 30, Gee shut down the New York Yankees in an impressive 12-strikeout victory. Since then, Gee has made 29 more starts, almost a full season’s worth, compiling a 2.72 ERA over that span. The only pitchers to post a better ERA in that span are Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Yu Darvish, Julio Teheran, Max Scherzer and Adam Wainwright.

Not a bad list to be associated with.

This year, the 28-year-old is 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in eight starts. Since giving up five home runs in his first three starts, Gee has given up just one in his last five starts. His current ERA and WHIP would rank in the top 20 and top 10 in the majors, respectively.

More impressively, the Mets are paying Gee just $3.625 million this season.

For that price, the Mets have a reliable pitcher who gets the job done each game. Gee has yet to go fewer than 5.2 innings or give up more than four earned runs in any game this season.

Interestingly, Gee is producing more balls in play this season yet still achieving the same results. Look at the below chart comparing Gee’s advanced metrics over the last three seasons:

(Note: LD% = line drive percentage, H/9 = hits per nine innings, O-Contact% = contact percentage on pitches outside strike zone)

Dillon Gee, 2012-2014
Contact% O-Contact% LD% H/9
2012 76.8% 65.0% 20.1% 8.9
2013 80.7% 68.1% 19.6% 9.4
2014 85.1% 69.6% 19.5% 7.0

fangraphs.com

This year, Gee is generating much more contact, especially outside the strike zone, but giving up proportionally the same amount of line drives and more infield fly balls (IFFB). But the most impressive feat is that Gee’s hits per nine innings has dropped considerably despite the increased contact rate.

Gee’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) has plummeted this season from .296 to .219, which is third-best in the majors behind Teheran and Johnny Cueto. This good fortune has undoubtedly contributed to his success this season. 

At the same time, Gee deserves plenty of credit for his development and performance this season.

Since he is not a power pitcher, Gee has to rely on keeping hitters out of their comfort zone in order to be successful. This year, Gee has completely changed his approach in an attempt to induce more bad contact rather than try to miss bats. Considering his H/9 dropped so much, the strategy is clearly paying off.

Another key component of Gee’s value is that he now uses his pitches in much different ways. Look at the chart on Gee’s pitch type from the previous three seasons:

Dillon Gee Pitch Type
FB% SL% CB% CH%
2012 51.0% 13.1% 12.3% 22.6%
2013 53.8% 18.3% 9.6% 18.2%
2014 62.8% 12.1% 13.6% 11.5%

fangraphs.com

Gee is throwing significantly more fastballs this season and significantly fewer changeups. If a pitcher can keep the ball down consistently, which Gee has done so far, this strategy can be very successful.

Notably, Gee employed these changes just this season, which may explain why he gave up some late-inning home runs in his first three starts.

Gee has been cruising as he enters the prime of his career. He has learned to command his fastball well and use off-speed pitches in the right situations. Currently recovering from a strained right lat muscle, Gee should pick up right where he left off assuming a full recovery. But recent reports claim that Gee suffered another setback in his rehab, which could extend his absence even more.

Even if Gee does struggle, he has shown the ability and willingness to dramatically alter his pitching approach. As a result, any slump he may have should not become too prolonged.

In the end, that is exactly what makes Gee so great.

He may not strike out 10 batters per game (or even five), but Gee will always get weak outs and give the Mets a chance to win.

With so many prized young arms in the Mets system, it is easy for Gee’s name to fly under the radar. But he is pitching like a bona fide ace and does not appear to be stopping anytime soon.

  

Stats via ESPN.com, mlb.com, baseball-reference.com

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