My opinion, like that of many others, is that knowledge lies at the intersection of scouting and statistics.
So then, consider one of the candidates for the last spot in the Mets’ starting rotation: Dillon Gee. Never considered a top prospect, Gee spent almost all of 2010 in AAA, where he pitched a very respectable 161.1 innings. He followed this up by starting five games for the big club, in which he acquitted himself fairly well.
Actually, that’s not fair.
By traditional measurements, Gee did well. With a sparkly 2.18 ERA and a 2-2 record, Gee’s conventional stats showed promise, despite a small sample size. But not only is the sample size too small, the ERA masks tremendous luck and an ability to keep the ball in the park that had never manifested before for Dillon. Opposing hitters managed only a .225 batting average on balls in play…which accounts for remarkable luck in his short major league tenure. Gee also didn’t strike anyone out (4.64 K/9) and walked too many hitters (4.09 BB/9).
In a major league pitcher, these ratios are simply unacceptable, but all is not lost. In the minor leagues, Gee’s numbers were far different than those in his cup of coffee with the Mets in late 2010. In addition, while September appearances can be deceiving (teams tend to run out AAA players (like Gee) in the lineup as well), Dillon Gee faced legitimate offenses filled with major league hitters. The Braves, Brewers, and Phillies all ran out 80-100% effective lineups, and Gee also faced the less-impressive Pirates and Nationals. As unlikely as it is for Gee to maintain a .225 BABIP, it is nearly as unlikely that his HR/9 and BB/9 rates continue to stray so far from his past rates in AA and AAA.
So what do we do when statistics don’t tell the whole story? Gee still has a relatively small sample size or data to work with, it may be best to look into his scouting report. Gee has a reputation of a “command-and-control” guy, meaning that he doesn’t have a devastating out pitch. While major league pitchers can be effective without a blazing heater or a Nintendo slider, there’s remarkably little room for error with pitchers like Dillon Gee. Almost every legitimate major league starter needs to have a pitch that can make hitters swing and miss, and Gee simply does not…yet. His best pitch is his changeup, which won’t shake the world.
As a pitcher who gave up a lot of HR in the minors, Gee will get a little bump from playing in spacious Citi Field. But that bump should be offest by the greater competition.
So what do the Mets have in Dillon Gee? Statistics tell the story of two pitchers, one whose strikeouts are balanced by lots of home runs…except when pitching in the majors. There he walks too many and strikes out too few, but leaves the ball in the park. Gee is a command pitcher without a decisive out pitch, but with five offerings. He has never been a top prospect, having been drafted in the 21st round and never sniffed a major Top Prospect list.
Add it up, and I think that Mets fans should temper their enthusiasm. Unless something changes, Dillon Gee appears to be a back-of-the-rotation starter at best. Of course things can change: pitchers refine their control, develop their pitches, and can find ways to win. But as it stands now, Gee looks like a placeholder: a stopgap until the Mets can find someone who can consistently pitch above a replacement level.