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What's the Source of Dillon Gee's Struggles?

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COMMENTARY | The New York Mets are expecting Dillon Gee to be a significant contributor to the starting rotation this season, but he hasn't been all that productive of late. He was the hard-luck loser in his season debut against the San Diego Padres, but has allowed 12 earned runs and 17 hits in his last two starts, spanning seven and two-third innings. What could be the cause of these lackluster results?

When looking deeper into Gee's statistics through three starts, I have a few concerns. From 2010 through 2012 with the Mets, he's seen hitters make contact on pitches put in the strike zone around 88% of the time. However, in 2013, that number has jumped up to 94.3%. Also, his BABIP has ballooned to .328 (increased from .270 in 2011 and .301 in 2012).

Despite this small sample size, there may be some reasons pointing to why he's struggled. After scrutinizing his FanGraphs stat page, there are two aspects of his approach I would like to see him change in his upcoming start.

Historically, his fastball velocity has settled in between 89 and 90 miles per hour, with 2012 being his high-water mark (90.2 mph). Each year from 2010 to 2012, Gee has thrown his fastball less often (59.5% in '10, to 51% in '12), allowing him to mix in his three other pitches.

Three starts into 2013, Gee's fastball velocity is the lowest it's been since he broke into the major leagues (87.5 mph), yet he's throwing it more than ever (59.5% of the time). Out of his secondary pitches, his curve ball has experienced the largest decrease in use, throwing it about 4% of the time, compared to more than 12% in 2012. Part of this could be attributed to the freezing temperatures he dealt with during his start against the Colorado Rockies, but the deviations from his normal statistics shouldn't be overlooked.

Why does this create a problem for the right-hander? The differences in speed between his slider and change up in comparison to his fastball aren't large enough to keep hitters off balance. Gee's slider is averaging 79.9 miles per hour, while his change up has been clocked a little faster, at 82.6 miles per hour. Meanwhile, the average velocity of his curve ball is 73.1 miles per hour. If he tries using that pitch more often, there is a chance opposing hitters will become more unbalanced in any given at-bat.

I'm not saying that Gee should start throwing curve ball after curve ball in his upcoming outing, but after two poor starts, he needs to try something different. In addition to disrupting the timing of opposing hitters, using his curve ball more often will change their eye level throughout the course of an at-bat.

His fastball, change up, and slider all take a similar trajectory from his hand to John Buck's glove, while also going at speeds that aren't extremely different from one another. Since Gee's fastball doesn't come in at the same velocity of a pitcher like Stephen Strasburg, he needs to continually keep the opposition on their toes. When good hitters know a pitcher is mostly throwing pitches that are straight, it's only a matter of time before they square one up, as we've seen thus far.

The Mets don't have enough starting pitching depth in the minors to turn to if he continues to underperform; someone else currently in the rotation needs to step up, because Jonathon Niese and Matt Harvey won't be able to shoulder the load all year. Hopefully, Shaun Marcum will be able to come off the disabled list soon to provide some reinforcement for a pitching staff that could use some continuity. I believe Dillon Gee will get himself back on track, but I also believe he needs a new approach to do so.

Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue and Rising Apple. He also provides his analysis and opinion on the rest of Major League Baseball at his personal blog, On The Way Home.

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