Dillon Gee took New York by storm, coming up in April as an injury replacement. He started twice, had three relief appearances, the joined the rotation for good on May 7th. Over his first 10 starts (13 games), Gee was 7-0 with a 2.86 ERA, and talks of a Rookie of the Year run began. Gee was pitching some great baseball, with only a 3 BB/9 ratio and 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings (a 2.23 K/BB). Opponents were hitting .208/.288/.301 off Gee and in 238 at-bats, he had only give up twelve extra base hits.
Since then, however, Gee’s made exactly ten more starts, and the numbers are not good at all. His record is 4-4 over those starts with a 5.12 ERA, His K/BB sits at an uninspiring 1.1 due to a 4.5 BB/9 and a 5.1 K/9. Opponents didn’t exactly rake, but the .244/.346/.429 is nothing to be proud of. And those twelve extra base hits from his first half? Well, he’s given up 14 doubles since then, 23 XBH overall. And that’s in only 217 at-bats, 21 fewer than in his first ten starts.
You can say someone’s had a bad month, or hit a wall, and those things happen all the time. But this is a little more than that. This is half of his season and a 5.12 ERA and 1.1 K/BB are not major league caliber numbers. Gee is still having a good season, but to be 11-4 with a 3.92 ERA right now after starting out the way he did is concerning, to say the least.
What’s the cause? Well, we won’t really know if this is a trend or just an extended rough patch for another six weeks or so. If Gee pitches to a 3.00 ERA or thereabouts the rest of the way, we’ll have our answer. But if he continues this pace of a 5.12 ERA, I might have an idea.
I think he might be overworked.
I know…he’s thrown only 124 innings this season. But I’m not talking about this season. I’m talking about 2010. Between AAA and the Mets, Gee threw 191 innings. His previous high as a professional was in 2008, when he logged 154.1 innings, 36.2 innings fewer. He separated those two seasons with an injury-plagued 2009 in which he only made nine starts. I just think the poor guy was beat after last season and it’s affecting him as this season wears on.
I looked around to see if any other pitchers may have experienced this, and the list is certainly impressive. The following chart lists the season the corresponding pitcher struggled, his inning total the previous season and the difference between his previous professional high, and his season ERA followed by his career ERA in parenthesis.
I capped the list at these eight because as you can see, it can happen to the best of them, and I didn’t want to dilute the list with less impressive names. Some of the best pitchers in the game are on the list. This phenomenon is not a rule, of course, but there are some signs about the type of pitchers that “suffer” from this. It did not happen to CC Sabathia. It did not happen to Felix Hernandez. Nor did Roy Halladay suffer from it. But those guys are some of the strongest horses in the game and these pitchers on the list just aren’t the power pitchers CC, Doc and King Felix are. Neither is Gee. Also, aside from a very precocious Cain, the average age of the pitchers on that list is 25. Gee is 25. Just sayin’.
Well, what’s the solution? I think the solution is easy, but likely not going to happen. After September 1st, I’d go to a six-man rotation. Get Chris Schwinden up, and let everyone go at it every 6th day. There’s very little downside to this, unless you count six-man rotations being taboo as a downside. Get Schwinden four or five starts to let him have a taste and give the young guys Gee and Jon Niese a blow (Niese, by the way, is pitching to a 4.85 ERA in his last twelve games, compared to a 3.46 ERA in his first fourteen).
I certainly don’t want to see anything as drastic as the “Joba” rules applied to Gee or Niese, but I don’t see much value in trotting a kid out there when he’s gassed and getting near the end of his rope just for the sake of it. Gee hasn’t gotten through seven innings in his last five starts, something he did in roughly every other start from that May 7th start when he entered the rotation full time till the last time he did so, July 19th. I just don’t think he’s got much left in the tank during the dog days, and you can kill two birds with one stone giving Schwinder a few turns.