Dillon Gee's Metamorphosis Into a Front of The Rotation Pitcher

March 30, 2012; Jupiter, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Dillon Gee (35) attempts to bunt in the third inning of a spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. Gee fouled out. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

Dillon Gee was never highly touted, never a top prospect and was never thought of as anything more than a number five starter, but for some reason he's defied all odds and has pitched to a 3.53 SIERA, good for 23rd in baseball. I figured this would be as good of a time as ever to look back at Gee's success this season given his recent injury to his shoulder and the fact that he might not pitch again this season.

Last season Dillon Gee was called up from the minor leagues mid April and went on a run. Over his first nine starts he had an ERA of 2.65 and a sparkling 7-0 record. The New York media was sure the Mets had found their next great young ace and all the SABR analysts wrote how he was clearly overperforming his peripherals and was a sure bet to regress. Well, believe it or not the saberites were correct and by seasons end Gee's ERA (4.43) was practically identical to his SIERA (4.48). To say the least, Gee was not an ace.

After the season, expectations were again low for Gee and most Met fans were skeptical if Gee could ever be anything more than a number five starter.

Gee has proven most people wrong and has made a real, statistically significant, improvement in performance this season. Not only has Gee cut down on his walks, lowering his rate from 3.98 walks per nine innings last season to 2.38 this season. Gee has also developed the ability to make batters whiff, shown by his improvement in K/9 from 6.39 in 2011 to 7.96 this season and his improved swinging strike rate which has gone from 9.1% to 10.6%. Gee has also increased his groundball rate and infield flyball rate. Basically, Gee has improved in every possible way and has become a very good starter in the process. Gee has become the pitcher no one expected him to be and the underlying question is how.

Pitch Selection

Pitch 2012 2011
FA 26% 23%
SI 25% 32%
SL/FC 15% 10%
CU 12% 10%
CH 22% 25%

Prior to this season Dillon Gee decided to nix his cutterr in favor of a slider. Gee had also been throwing less two-seam fastballs and more four-seamers. Those two changes basically account for 18% of his pitches, meaning Gee has changed his pitch selection by roughly 18% from last year to this year, which is pretty uncommon.

Velocity and Movement

Pitch H. Mvt 2012 H. Mvt 2011 DELTA V. Mvt 2012 V. Mvt 2011 DELTA Mph 2012 Mph 2011 DELTA
FA -7.59 -5.54 2.05 -15.48 -14.43 1.05 90.96 90.37 -0.59
SI -12.84 -11.41 1.43 -20.37 -18.86 1.51 90.88 90.52 -0.36
SL/FC 3.17 2.3 -0.87 -30.71 -23.22 7.49 83.29 87.24 3.95
CU 13.72 13.8 0.08 -54.7 -53.67 1.03 74.49 74.07 -0.42
CH -12.92 -11.83 1.09 -30.34 -29.18 1.16 83.77 83.2 -0.57

Gee has seen an uptick in velocity this year and when considering that Gee hasn't even pitched during the summer months of the season, it is a pretty impressive feat. Gee has also seen an increase in movement in every single one of his pitches from last season to this season. Obviously the biggest change is when comparing his cutter from last season to his slider this season. His cutter was faster than his slider but had less movement. By adding a slider Gee essentially added a third swing and miss pitch to go along with his curveball and changeup. Gee's Whiff/Swing rate on his cutter last season was 19% and this season his slider's been inducing whiffs at a much higher rate of 33%.

Command

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Dillon Gee's pitches form much tighter clusters this season, which show his improved ability to locate his pitches in the strike one and have much better control.

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The curveball versus left handed hitters

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The fastball versus left handed hitters

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The changeup versus left handed hitters

As is pretty much clear, Dillon Gee has been spotting the ball with much more precision this year than last. Each one of his pitches are clustered more clearly in a certain area of the strike zone. His curveball is bunched closer together at the bottom left of the strike zone, meaning the outside corner to the left handed hitters. His fastball has clearly been focused on the upper half of the zone in 2012, as opposed to the way more erratic one he threw in 2011. Gee's changeup is also more closely bunched together, but he'd also been throwing his changeup further out of the zone in 2012.

Conclusion

With the uptick in velocity, the increase in spin deflection (movement), the move from a cutter to a slider and improved command of his pitches, Dillon Gee looks like a different pitcher. The slider has given him another weapon in his improving arsenal and Gee's command has been top notch this season. Hopefully, Gee's injury won't affect his future performance on the mound and when Gee does return he'll continue to be one of the better control pitchers in baseball.

All data has been taken from either BrooksBaseball.net or TexasLeaguers.com

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