Commentary

Gee's hot start part skill, part luck

There's no doubt he's better on the mound, but there's more to the rookie's 7-0 record

Updated: June 20, 2011, 11:31 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

Rookie Dillon Gee's win total ranks in the top 10 in the National League. His 2.86 ERA ranks 14th. And, oh, he's unbeaten in 2011.

[+] EnlargeDillon Gee
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicGee is exceeding nearly all expectations so far this season.

Just how has Gee raced to a 7-0 start entering Tuesday's series-opening outing opposite Oakland Athletics left-hander Josh Outman at Citi Field? Gee has overcome a lack of anything exceptional in his pitching repertoire with pinpoint control -- placing the ball where he intends and minimizing mistakes.

"He's not a real hard thrower. And his offspeed? There are a lot of guys with better offspeed stuff," said an NL scout who has recently watched Gee. "His overall package is very strong. This guy commands what he has. I like him. He's Rick Reed to me, Rick Rhoden. Those types of guys."

Gee is off to the best start to a season by a rookie in the majors since Jered Weaver opened the 2006 season 9-0 with the Los Angeles Angels. Gee's 7-0 start is the best by a New York Mets rookie to open a season in franchise history, exceeding Jon Matlack's 6-0 start in 1972. That year, Matlack won the NL Rookie of the Year award.

Opponents are hitting only .208 against Gee, who was a 21st-round pick out of the University of Texas-Arlington in 2007.

"His stuff is more consistent," said an AL scout, contrasting Gee's performance last season, primarily at Triple-A Buffalo, with his current outings at the major league level. "His location is better. He's throwing a little harder at times than I saw last year, too. I just think it's just a culmination of a kid getting better as he's gotten more experience."

Gee's changeup is his key pitch, working off a fastball that averages a modest 89.5 mph.

"It sets up everything else," the AL scout said. "His breaking ball is not great, but his fastball has enough velocity on it now, and he's sneaky quick. And he has location -- that's the key."

While Gee has pitched strongly, he needed some good fortune as well to get to 7-0.

Gee trailed 4-0 at Houston on May 13 after reliever Ryota Igarashi allowed a pair of inherited runners to score in the sixth inning. Yet the Mets scored four runs in the eighth, on two-run homers by Fernando Martinez and David Wright, and rallied for a 6-4 win, freeing Gee from responsibility for a loss. Twelve days later at Wrigley Field, Gee surrendered four first-inning runs to the Cubs, yet the Mets answered with five runs in the second inning and the rookie ultimately notched his fourth victory.

"Not only has he pitched well, he's had a lot of good luck," the AL scout said. "That's how you get to be 8-0 or 9-0 or whatever he is. He's pitched great. He's exceeded everybody's expectations probably but his."

That scout sees Gee ultimately as a No. 4-type starter, which is actually a compliment, not a knock.

"I'm glad for the kid and am glad for the Mets," he said. "They need some good stories."

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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