Let’s say you were in Las Vegas, needing to bet on a simple proposition: which New York Mets starting pitcher will have the best 2014 season?
There’s certainly an argument for Zack Wheeler, who has managed to hold his own at the big league level. Still, that 3.22 ERA is a bit misleading, compared to his xFIP, which is a more pedestrian 4.09. It’s a solid debut, to be sure, just not quite as good as raw results would have you believe. He’s also never pitched a full season in the major leagues. He’s never failed to, of course, but it’s still a barrier for him to clear, uncertainty when betting on 2014.
Then there’s Jon Niese, who has a 3.88 ERA, right in line with his 3.86 xFIP. However, he’s done so in just 123 innings, thanks to a rotator cuff injury that cost him roughly two months. He’s never been much of a workhorse, with fatigue limiting him in several seasons, and he’s never logged more than 30 starts in a season. He’s been excellent since his return, and there’s reason for optimism with Niese.
But is he as good a bet as Dillon Gee?
Gee’s ERA this season is 3.47. But since May 30, when he had his revelatory, 12-strikeout start against the Yankees, it is 2.42. And that’s in 137 innings, or more than Niese’s entire season, or Wheeler’s season since getting promoted. He’s at 187 innings, which means if his next start goes even moderately well, he’ll top Niese’s career-high in innings.
So Gee owns the best, and longest, stretch of starting pitching for the Mets in 2013 this side of Matt Harvey, who, sadly, doesn’t look like a very good bet to pitch at all in 2014. And he’s going to lead the team in innings pitched by a pretty wide margin.
Projecting pitchers is a notoriously fickle business. And Gee carries his own caveats, not least of which is an injury history that’s cost him large chunks of seasons, as recently as 2012, and that 6.34 ERA over the first two months of 2013.
But if you were putting your money on one guy to be the best starting pitcher for the 2014 Mets, wouldn’t it be Dillon Gee?