A few readers of my last article, Debunking Dillon, brought up a similar point in response to my contention that we shouldn't expect too much from Dillon Gee in the upcoming season:
I actually did not intentionally leave out the fact that Gee was able to do that last season. In my research on the topic of Gee, I actually did come across the following article by Toby Hyde pointing out this interesting accomplishment:
Dude, you forgot to mention that Gee was the K leader for all of the AAA! How can you accidentally leave out that stat, somewhere around 170 k's!! And don't forget, alot of those AAA bats are major leaguers or soon will be. I think his 5 games pitching in the bigs was a good sampling! It is at least 20% of what an average starter will do in a season. - Anonymous #1
Gee seemed to have alot of success in AAA Buffalo this year. I think he came back this year after a shoulder injury and recieved the "Come back player of the year" award and "The Sterling Award" for AAA pitchers. Also, I believe he was one game shy of leading the league in wins for AAA. That does not sound to shabby considering the other talent he was up against in AAA. - Anonymous #2 (you guys really need to start logging in for your comments!)
Dillon Gee set a new Bisons’ strikeout record last night. Even so, despite a sparkling 4.2 K/BB I cannot make an argument based on Gee’s stats that he’s ready to be an asset to the Major League team.He goes on to take a closer look at Gee's season and determines that "I think we’ll see [Gee] in September, but I’m not convinced it’s going to go well." Well, as history indicates, Gee *did* make the Show but performed much better than Hyde or anyone else expected that he would.
But the readers do make a good point - was Gee's season in Buffalo better than the superficial stats would indicate? If you recall, his performance in Triple-A was one of the reasons why I was slightly less enamored of Gee than I was heading into the season. So, for the sake of completeness, here is a fuller look at Gee's performance last year:
2009 - Buffalo - 48 IP, 47 H, 22 ER, 5 HR, 16 BB, 42 K, 1.30 WHIP, 4.10 ERA
2010 - Buffalo - 161 IP, 174 H, 89 ER, 23 HR, 41 BB, 165 K, 1.33 WHIP, 4.96 ERA
The first thing we can do is look at that ERA and just throw it out the window. Gee was better in almost every controllable category in 2010 than he was in 2009, so let's take a look at some of those components.
2009 - Buffalo - 8.75 H/9, 0.93 HR/9, 2.98 BB/9, 7.82 K/9
2010 - Buffalo - 9.71 H/9, 1.28 HR/9, 2.29 BB/9, 9.20 K/9
As you can see, he allowed more hits and home runs, but his K/BB ratios were both much improved. As most prospect hounds will tell you, you want to look more at K/BB than you do at hits (which can be affected by luck) as well as HR/9 (which to an extent is somewhat also controlled by luck). Here's a look now at a couple of the simpler sabermetric numbers:
2009 - Buffalo - .232 BABIP, 75.4% Strand, 4.11 FIP
2010 - Buffalo - .342 BABIP, 67.4% Strand, 4.01 FIP
Dillon was pretty lucky in his Buffalo stint in 2009, and was somewhat unlucky in 2010. In fact, his FIP, bears out the fact that he only was nominally better this year than he was last year despite the large variance in ERA.
I suppose that is where I begin to make my attempt at fusing statistics with scouting and experience - and I think that this is where both fields are most useful. Of course, one could easily just take Dillon's statistics from last year and do a Major League Equivalency and assume he'll perform at that level in the majors. But in real life, there are so many factors affecting each individual player, that if you *do* know of those factors, you need to use them to help you make your own opinion.
Last article, I mentioned a pitcher named Yusmeiro Petit. Here's what I wrote about him:
"I used to think that Petit was one of the best pitching prospects on the planet. He posted K/9 figures of 12 or better at FOUR consecutive minor league stops... But he didn't pass the eye test for some, and scouts didn't like him at the higher levels... I thought, "So what if his stuff is no good?"Take a look at what Yusmeiro did at Double-A Binghamton at the age of 20: 2.91 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 1.38 BB/9, 9.94 K/9. At that level, despite being young, he was Pedro in his prime. Marc Hulet had an interesting write up of Petit in mid-2008 and his takeaway was this: "Stats are great, but sometimes you just have to trust the scouting report." A little simplistic, but close enough.
Lo and behold, Petit got crushed by better competition - unlike lower minors batters who he could strike out at ease, the more talented competition could take him yard at will."
Another red flag for Gee is former sabermetric love-fest Brian Bannister. There are many similarities between Bannister and our sample group. Though my memory wanted to tell me otherwise, fangraphs tells me that Bannister's average fastball has been between 89 and 90 each of the last four seasons. Bannister, in fact, may be an even better example of a pitcher like Gee, but Petit came to mind for me first because I was so spectacularly wrong about Petit.
In any event, some numbers on Bannister. He was always old for his level (like Gee), and posted good K/BB ratios (like Gee, though not quite as good). He put up a 4.32 ERA in St. Lucie with 8.65 K/9. The next year, he posted a 2.56 ERA in Binghamton with 7.76 K/9. He even performed well in Triple-A, better than Gee has, be posting a 3.86 ERA and a K/BB ratio better than 4 in a handful of starts.
One thing that Bannister had, and Petit had, and Gee has, is an escalating home run ratio. Bannister's, as he increased levels, went from 0.49 (A) to 0.91 (AA) to 1.19 in his last stint in Triple A. Petit's went from 0.87 (A-), to 1.15 (AA), to 1.30 (AAA). By the same token, Gee's has escalated from 0.42 in Single A to 1.28 in his last year in Buffalo.
Boring details: Even successful major leaguers who you would consider stinkers do not show this pattern. Livan Hernandez never had a HR/9 greater than 0.55 in Triple-A. Jon Garland - who admittedly is a sinkerballer - never had a HR/9 greater than 0.92 and saw it decrease as he climbed the ladder. Kevin Millwood had HR/9 numbers that hovered around 1.0, but they did not increase *as* he climbed the minors. Dave Bush's HR/9 went from 0.68 to 0.70 to 0.44 to 0.63. Paul Maholm went from 0.41 to 0.55 to 0.50.
In summary, there are three things that Petit, Bannister, and Gee have in common that make me wary about Gee's ability to strive in the majors.
1. Low-minors success based on excellent K/BB ratios
2. Right-handers with low-velocity fastballs (topping out around 89)
3. Escalating HR/9 ratios, particularly in Triple-A
When you throw soft, and depend on location, it is a very bad if not fatal sign when more advanced hitters can start taking you yard with regularity.
One final note on Gee, because I know this has been lengthy. Yes, Dillon performed admirably in Buffalo this season, but many times Triple-A success just doesn't translate to major league success. Here's a list of Dillon's teammates who performed well in Triple-A who made it to the majors:
Pat Misch: 3.23 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
Raul Valdez: 3.00 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
Sean Green: 4.64 ERA, 1.45 WHIP
R.A. Dickey: 2.23 ERA, 1.04 WHIP
John Maine: 0.00 ERA, 0.92 WHIP (4 innings)
Oliver Perez: 2.31 ERA, 1.46 WHIP (11 innings)
Manny Acosta: 3.47 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
Ryota Igarashi: 3.31 ERA, 1.47 WHIP
Bobby Parnell: 4.14 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
So it's Dickey and Parnell - both who have great stuff - and various levels of replacement-level to unmitigated disaster.
I hope that Gee proves me wrong, but there are a lot of reasons to believe that his statistics in Triple A this season (not bad) to his major league cameo (fantastic) are the best we'll ever see from him.
Side notes from Baseball Cube research on minor league home run rates:
-- Cole Hamels is underrated
-- Did you know Mark Buehrle was a THIRTY EIGHTH round draft pick yet spent only 36 starts in the minors before skipping Triple-A and coming to the Majors? Dude is seriously underrated - he's only 31 and has 148 career wins and an ERA below 4 in an American League pitcher's park. Oh, and he also has two no-hitters.
-- I was so excited about Kiko Calero last season, what happened to him?