Category Archives: Dillon Gee

Mike Pelfrey: The New Long Reliever?

Mike Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey: Can He Be Successful As A Reliever?

(Note: This piece is cross-posted as a FanPost over at Amazin’ Avenue.)

With 22 games in the bank, the Mets have a problem that I never would’ve expected going into the season: they have too many starters.

Granted, the starting rotation hasn’t been extraordinarily effective, but that’s besides the point. The Mets now have six guys to fit into five spaces, and management needs to make a decision. Naturally, my opinion means little – but I do have a suggestion that may differ from the establishment expectation. First, let’s look at the current rotation candidates, as well as their 2011 FIP and xFIP (denoted as a triple-slash line, in that order, and provided by FanGraphs).

  • Mike Pelfrey – 7.23/4.70/5.57
  • Jonathan Niese – 5.10/3.92/4.06
  • R.A. Dickey – 4.10/4.30/4.47
  • Chris Young – 1.46/2.56/4.36
  • Chris Capuano – 5.95/4.52/3.96
  • Dillon Gee – 2.31/3.39/3.68

Which of these pitchers should be “demoted” to the bullpen, however?

Now, as always, the small sample size rule applies. We can’t assume that these would maintain over the whole season – and Young and Gee especially need to be taken with a grain of salt, given that they’ve only made two starts. But in the cases of Big Pelf, Niese, R.A., and CC-Queens the phrase “we are who we thought they were” applies. The peripheral numbers aren’t that different than what we might’ve expected – Pelf isn’t doing well, Niese and Dickey are doing okay, and Cap is up and down.

Obviously, since Young is just now coming off the DL, and been so effective, he’s got to be in the rotation. The same should be true of Dillon Gee, who has had success in nearly all of his ML appearances up to this point. Not only is R.A. Dickey (strangely enough) probably the most consistent of the bunch, but he’s also the only starter with a long-term contract. And I know there have been rumblings about Jon Niese moving to the bullpen, but his peripheral numbers INSIST that he stay in the rotation. He’s going to be a cost-controlled starter with consistency for the next five years.

So that leaves two options for the bullpen: Chris Capuano and Mike Pelfrey. Cap has pitched out of the bullpen before. Recently. As in earlier this year. He’s had some success there, and since he’s only on a one-year contract, the team doesn’t have to worry about his feelings being hurt.

With all this in mind, I think the Mets could be better served by making their Opening Day starter, Mike Pelfrey, a reliever.

The major worry here is probably how Big Pelf would respond to such a Big Demotion. He’s been a workhorse in the rotation, good for nearly 200 innings for the last few years. But one of Big Pelf’s big issues has been his lack of secondary pitches. He lives and dies by his sinker, but his fastball and splitter are so-so and his off-speed stuff (slider/curve/changeup) has been varied, and ultimately not very effective. Perhaps a move to the bullpen could give Pelf a shot in the arm. A couple of mph on the heater and a focus on just the sinker/splitter could be just what the doctor ordered. If Pelf could become a solid reliever, he’d be worth almost as much in trade as if he were a middling starter. And it’s hard to believe that Pelf will have continued value if he continues to pitch as poorly as he has over the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011.

There are plenty of rational reasons not to move Pelf to the bullpen. If Pelfrey stays a starter and pitches well, his trade value increases quite a bit. Pelf doesn’t have an “out-pitch”, something that managers love to see in their relievers, so that may make the transition messy. Most of all, it would obviously be a massive vote of no-confidence on the most consistent presence in the Met rotation over the last three years. And there were a number of reasons I mentioned earlier why Capuano would fit in the bullpen as well.

But make no mistake, moving Mike Pelfrey to a role in the bullpen, even perhaps a leveraged role, could pay dividends later. If he succeeds in the role, he could find new life as a swingman or leveraged reliever. If not, teams could rationalize away the Mets “misuse” of a starter as a reason why Pelf would succeed in their system. But with the talent currently in the rotation, it may be best for the Mets to move their big right-hander to the pen for what could be his last run with the Amazin’s before he becomes too expensive or too ineffective.

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Filed under Chris Capuano, Chris Young, Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey

The NY Mets Projected Rotation

I’m really, really worried about the NY Mets starting rotation. At it’s core, it is a collection of league average pitchers, none of whom are markedly above average, and several of whom are higher-than-normal risks for injury or collapse. As far as I can tell, six pitchers are going to get the brunt of the innings for the Mets this year:

  1. Mike Pelfrey
  2. R.A. Dickey
  3. Jon Niese
  4. Chris Young
  5. Chris Capuano
  6. Dillon Gee

Note: I’m cautiously pessimistic about Johan Santana’s return. Until I see him throw in a rehab start, I’m not pencilling him in for squat. We’ll talk again after the All-Star break.

It just so happens that I’ve listed these guys in how effective I expected them to be, just a few weeks ago. This is before I started to immerse myself in the knowledge available on the internet and in books. When I first heard about the Young / Capuano signings, I thought that they were low-risk, high-reward types of signings. In hindsight, I feel that Capuano might have been good, but Young is a worse bet than I originally thought. If it wasn’t for a lack of organizational depth, I’d actually argue that he shouldn’t be on the roster at all.

At any rate, I’ve looked at a set of projections for each of these starters – projections from FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus. I’d like to provide for you, my reader (maybe there are two of you) some of the “peripheral” numbers projected for Mets starters. So here you go:

Jonathon Niese

  • SO/9:   PECOTA – 6.55     James – 7.69     Marcel – 7.73     Fans – 7.43
  • BB/9:   PECOTA – 3.61     James – 3.24     Marcel – 3.20     Fans – 3.08
  • HR/9:   PECOTA – 0.92     James – 0.87     Marcel – 0.97     Fans – 0.93

R.A. Dickey

  • SO/9:   PECOTA – 4.61     James – 5.34     Marcel – 5.85     Fans – 5.48
  • BB/9:   PECOTA – 3.08     James – 2.97     Marcel – 2.96     Fans – 2.67
  • HR/9:   PECOTA – 0.85     James – 0.99     Marcel – 0.85     Fans – 0.81

Mike Pelfrey

  • SO/9:   PECOTA – 4.84     James – 5.44     Marcel – 5.65     Fans – 5.32
  • BB/9:   PECOTA – 3.42     James – 3.31     Marcel – 2.96     Fans – 2.67
  • HR/9:   PECOTA – 0.63     James – 0.65     Marcel – 0.65     Fans – 0.67

Chris Capuano

  • SO/9:   PECOTA – 6.92     James – 7.26     Marcel – 7.35
  • BB/9:   PECOTA – 2.83     James – 2.70     Marcel – 3.17
  • HR/9:   PECOTA – 1.26     James – 1.13     Marcel – 1.01

Chris Young

  • SO/9:   PECOTA – 7.55     James – 7.55     Marcel – 7.15     Fans – 6.73
  • BB/9:   PECOTA – 4.42     James – 3.54     Marcel – 3.92     Fans – 4.19
  • HR/9:   PECOTA – 1.04     James – 1.29     Marcel – 1.04     Fans – 0.96

Dillon Gee

  • SO/9:   PECOTA – 6.38     James – 8.09     Marcel – 6.78
  • BB/9:   PECOTA – 3.03     James – 2.73     Marcel – 3.39
  • HR/9:   PECOTA – 1.06     James – 1.18     Marcel – 0.82

Whew. That was a lot of stats. Here’s the last set I’ll give you.

National League in 2010:   SO/9: 7.4   BB/9: 3.3   HR/9: 0.9

Major Leagues in 2010:   SO/9: 7.1   BB/9: 3.3   HR/9: 1.0

What were my takeaways from this?

  1. Mike Pelfrey is not a #1 starter. In fact, he’s barely a #3. While he is GREAT at keeping the ball in the park, he is projected to strike out 2.3 hitters every nine innings less than last year’s NL average. I know, it’s not the best baseline, but it’s not even close either. His walk rate is about the league average. Big Pelf is a good pitcher, but NY fans may have completely unrealistic expectations for his season.
  2. Jon Niese is certainly projected to be the best starter in the rotation. To me, this is fascinating. He’s the only one in the rotation who looks to strike out hitters near the league average, and his other peripherals seem to be right at or just under the league average. Look for him to be very slightly above average…unless that curveball gets a lot better.
  3. R.A. Dickey is tough to project, given his single year of success and the zaniness of his knuckler…but these projections show him to walk the fewest batters in the rotation. With the knuckleball. That’s fascinating. They also project him to backslide from last year – no real surprise there.
  4. Chris Capuano looks like a steal, if he can remain healthy and effective. A left-handed, league-average starter for a little over a million dollars? I’ll take it. If only he could throw 200 innings this year – I expect something closer to 140.
  5. Oh man, does Chris Young’s walk rate look terrible or what? I’m going to be really worried every time he takes the bump.
  6. Dillon Gee’s projections make me much less nervous about him starting games for us this year. Before, I kind of viewed him as a swingman-type, even on this pitching-poor team, but every projection system finds a little to like about him. The trick will be striking out major league hitters. I guess that’s true for every starter, though.

Finally, and most importantly, we should NOT expect the same pitching performance we got out of the 2010 Mets this year. That team had a great ERA, this team doesn’t look to do the same. In order to outperform league-average (at best, even) the team will need more than a little luck, and some very solid defense. Here’s to hoping the team is up to that challenge.

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Filed under Chris Young, Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey

Dillon Gee – What To Think When Stats Aren’t Enough

Dillon Gee

Dillon Gee: A Reason For Hope?

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.

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