Dillon Gee has managed to eek out three quality starts so far, and has in the other 4 starts, only once made it out of the 6th inning. To his credit, he’s made it into the 6th in every start, which for a lot of young starters is something to hang their hat on. Now, to be fair to Gee, his BABIP is sitting at .351 which is high despite his 21% line drive rate. He is forcing batters to put the ball on the ground pretty well (over 50% of the time) and he’s only giving up 25% of hits for extra bases. Gee will probably come around some, and his BABIP will come down to earth and he might well look respectable by the end of the year.
Jonathon Niese has never before tasted anything greater than mediocrity. He has been a league average or worse pitcher on some league average or worse Mets teams since making his debut in ‘08. Niese has managed to look almost like a different pitcher this year, going 6+ innings in all of his first 4 starts (all of them quality) before the wheels fell right off in Houston giving up 5 earned runs in 3 innings, which was followed up by a lack luster (but not awful) start in Philly before he was able to right the ship and threw 6 shutout innings against the Marlins. I would be worried that Niese is more the pitcher he has been over his career than he’s the pitcher that his solid 3.40 ERA and 1.235 WHIP make him out to be. His BABIP is at .261, which is 70 points lower than his career average, and none of his peripherals imply that that will continue. He’s giving up almost the same line drive percentage as last year, and is only forcing ground balls marginally better than last season, He is also walking more batters than ever before. If the increase in groundball rate can be sustained he might be able to get away with a few extra walks here and there, but I think Niese is going to regress as the season wears on.
R.A. Dickey has started this season off pretty well, if not quite as good as he’s been over the past 2 seasons in New York. Dickey is of course a knuckleball pitcher, and with that can come huge fluctuations from game to game in performance. That’s not to say that no other pitchers have off days, just that when a knuckleball doesn’t break, it moves like a BP fastball and often gets hit just as hard. Atlanta took advantage of just such an outing belting 3 home runs off Dickey in 4 and ⅓ innings of work to give them a nice healthy 8 runs back on April 18th. Dickey is walking, and striking out about 2% more batters than last year, and is giving up homers about twice as often, having given up 7 dingers in 7 starts. Fact is that it’s hard to say what a knuckleball pitcher will do from year to year, let alone from start to start. I don’t think Dickey will be bad this year at all, but to say that he’ll put together a 2010 like season again would be equally unlikely. Somewhere in the area of slightly below and slightly above league average seem like the safest bets you can make with an established knuckleballer, and that’s what I’d expect from Dickey.