One score and seven years ago (that’s 27 years for all of you modernists), Dwight Eugene Gooden electrified baseball with his 98 mph fastball and his unhittable sweeping curve en route to one of the finest rookie seasons in Mets franchise history. Doctor K won 17 games while posting a 2.70 ERA and leading the National League with 276 strikeouts, breaking Herb Score’s rookie record of 245 set in 1955. What a debut. For his efforts, Gooden was the overwhelming choice for the 1984 NL Rookie of the Year Award.
It’s been a long drought for the Mets since that magical rookie campaign that was oh so long ago. But are the baseball gods ready to smile down and bless the Mets this season with not one, but two potential rookie of the year candidates? Or is this just another one of those teases – another cosmic joke – like we’ve seen so many times before?
Meet the two prime candidates.
Dillon Gee – The right-hander was quickly dispatched to Buffalo at the end of Spring Training when the Mets carved out their original Opening Day roster, but it wasn’t long until injury struck and Gee returned to replace Chris Young in the rotation. Young would only pitch 24 innings for the Mets before succumbing to more surgery that will wipe him out for 12-18 months.
For Gee, who made a strong case to earn a spot in the rotation with a stellar September in 2010, it was a second chance to prove he belonged and he had no intentions of taking another shuttle to Buffalo this time.
In seven starts this season, Gee is 5-0 with a 3.38 ERA and overall since his initial call-up last season, Gee is 7-2 with a 2.85 ERA in 12 starts.
He won’t overpower hitters with his low-nineties fastball, but his killer changeup has kept batters guessing and usually guessing wrong. Gee’s philosophy on pitching is quite simple, “my main goal: to be consistent and give my team a chance to win every five days,” Gee said. Take heed Mr. Pelfrey and Mr. Niese.
Gee currently leads all rookie pitchers with five wins, with only one other pitcher close behind – the marlins’ Mike Dunne who has four wins.
Among pitchers with 40 or more innings pitched, Gee ranks second in WHIP with a 1.15 mark, and he is also second among all rookies in strikeouts with 37.
His odds of copping the award are very strong if he continues on this pace.
Justin Turner – Here’s another Spring Training casualty who failed to make the roster and wasn’t very happy about it either. However, Turner took it like a man and then went about his business which happens to be the art of smashing a baseball.
Like Gee before him, Turner missed a considerable chunk to the start of the season, but he’s making up for it and compiling some big numbers in a hurry. As of yesterday’s game action, Turner is now batting a scorching hot .337 with a .384 OBP and .457 SLG. His 21 RBI ranks fifth among all rookies despite only 91 at-bats this season. The leaders range from 147 AB to 193 AB.
Turner leads all National League rookies with 85 or more at-bats in batting average and on-base percentage, and he ranks second in the league with a .852 OPS.
You won’t find Turner’s name on this year’s All Star Ballot, because the Mets are represented by the now defunct Brad Emaus, but he is in fact playing at an All Star caliber level.
Turner would be blowing away the rookie field across the board if he hadn’t spent the first month of the season tearing the cover off the ball in Buffalo.
Even if Turner’s bat were to cool off some, there is still the potential for him to finish the season as a leading candidate for the award.
Dillon Gee and Justin Turner have made this season a lot more exciting than anyone expected.
Their strong performances thus far have given the team hope that at the very least, we may have uncovered two very significant players for the rotation and the infield moving forward.
Let’s hope their joyrides continue.