R.A. Dickey and the Myth of One Great Year

Like many others, I’ve expressed some bewilderment on Twitter about how the Mets are handling their negotiations with R.A. Dickey. Dickey was one of the game’s best players in 2012, and the Mets were reportedly offering him the same kind of contract Joe Blanton just signed for, and have now improved their offer to make it equal to what Jeremy Guthrie just signed for. There’s a discount involved with signing an extension a year out from free agency, but the discount has to be reasonable, and these offers don’t strike me as overly reasonable. They don’t strike Dickey as overly reasonable either.

However, there’s a common retort from some folks whenever it is suggested that the Mets pay Dickey like a top-shelf starter. “It was just one year.” Here, see for yourself.

Apparently, there’s this idea that pre-2012 R.A. Dickey was a worthless nothing, and after his fluke season, he’s headed right back to being a trick pitch sideshow. That idea is just hilariously wrong.

61 pitchers threw at least 350 innings between 2010 and 2011. During those two years, Dickey posted an ERA- of 81, meaning that he prevented runs at a rate 19 percent better than the league average. We’re using ERA- for Dickey because knuckleballers have a long exhibited history of being an exception to FIP, by the way. That put him squarely between Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, and ahead of guys like Hiroki Kuroda, Dan Haren, Chris Carpenter, and Mat Latos. Not bad company.

However, most of those guys had been a little more consistent than Dickey, and had a track record of excellent pitching prior to 2010. His success is a little newer, so if we’re going to look at a comp for Dickey, we need to find a guy who really established himself for the first time in 2010. Thankfully, there’s a highly touted ace who has performed at nearly the exact same level as Dickey in each of the last three years, and his track record in terms of run prevention is a dead on match for Dickey; that guy is named David Price.

It might sound like heresy, but take a look at their last three seasons side by side.

Season Name IP K/BB HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA- FIP- xFIP-
2010 David Price 208 2.38 0.65 0.270 79% 69 86 92
2010 R.A. Dickey 174 2.48 0.67 0.276 77% 73 94 94
2011 David Price 224 3.46 0.88 0.281 73% 90 86 82
2011 R.A. Dickey 208 2.48 0.78 0.278 75% 89 101 103
2012 David Price 211 3.47 0.68 0.285 81% 66 77 75
2012 R.A. Dickey 233 4.26 0.92 0.275 80% 72 87 84

They got there different ways, but it’s hard to tell 2010 Dickey from 2010 Price. Their K/BB, HR/9, BABIP, and LOB% are all basically the same, and not surprisingly, they both were among the league leaders in run prevention; Price ranked #7 in MLB in ERA-, Dickey was #10.

In 2011, both went backwards in terms of results, as they both gave up more hits and home runs which led to lower strand rates, and again, they basically posted the same ERA-, though this time, it represented good results rather than great ones. Price’s problems stranding runners masked his breakout, though, as he drastically cut his walk rate and improved his overall profile. Dickey kept doing his thing, looking like basically the same pitcher as before, just with fewer stranded runners.

Then, last year, both Dickey and Price put it all together. They were again among the league’s best at preventing runs, but both did it with dramatically better peripherals than in 2010. Rather than just having ace-like results, both pitched liked aces, and were honored with Cy Young Awards for completing their first season as a legitimate #1 starter.

Because Price is a former #1 pick who throws 95 MPH, there’s no skepticism about his track record. No one ever refers to David Price as a one year wonder. But yet, when you actually look at his performance over the last three years, it’s hard to make a case that he’s been any different than Dickey. Over the total of his last three seasons, Price has an ERA- of 75, while Dickey has an ERA- of 78. The full list of pitchers with an ERA- between 75 and 80 over the last three years: David Price, Cole Hamels, CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Cain, and R.A. Dickey. That’s his group of peers, not based on one great year, but on three excellent seasons where Dickey has been one of the game’s best starters.

Yes, he was better last year than he had been in prior years. So was David Price. If you’re going to call one of them a one year wonder, you have to call them both a fluke. Personally, I’ll just go the other direction, and call both of them elite starting pitchers, worthy of all the adulation you want to throw their way. And, in Dickey’s case, worth the contract he’s asking for. Just stop lowballing him and pay the man. He’s earned it.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

143 Responses to “R.A. Dickey and the Myth of One Great Year”

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  1. attgig says:

    yes. thank you.

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  2. Reese says:

    I agree he’s earned it and whether it’s $10 million per year for 2 additional years or $12.5 per year for the same period, when you average it out over the 3 year span you’re getting a bargain.

    Unfortunately, the team has so many holes in it that Dickey (or Niese or Wheeler and to a lesser extent Flores) will need to be moved to get outfielders, a catcher and bullpen help. There’s precious little left on the FA table save for luxury items like Hamilton, Bourn and Swisher, Anger Management reject Delmon Young and Cody “Scott Hairston” Ross. Trades are the best way to gain some potential talent in terms of AAA players who could make a difference (or could fall on their faces).

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    • acerimusdux says:

      And I wonder if he is asking for a no trade clause? Even without a clause, you can’t trade him before June 15 once you sign him, under the CBA. So it does make sense for the Mets to continue to explore the trade market first.

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    • Jack Strawb says:

      This is simply wrong. You don’t average it out over three years, but calculate it as a two year deal starting in 2014.

      There are a half dozen things that have to go in a very particular direction in order for signing Dickey to be the difference between the Mets going and not going to the postseason, and those things combined are far less likely that Dickey, pitching along the lines of 2010 and 2011, contributes usefully to an admittedly very unlikely postseason run.

      The simplest way to think about it is, the Mets are nowhere near contending, and Dickey is the most interesting and one of the two most popular players on the team, asking for a reasonable deal during which he’s likely to be a two win guy, which would be fair return. And, he could be much better.

      Put it another way, if Dickey posts 150 innings in each of 2014 and 2015, with an ERA+ around 90, is that REALLY going to keep the Mets from the postseason? No, it won’t. It just won’t.

      Pay the man.

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  3. Twain says:

    People don’t trust knuckleballers to be able to sustain their success. Right or wrong, that’s the story.

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    • RMD says:

      That’s the story, but I just don’t understand it. One excellent pitch is better than five or six mediocre ones that only aim to keep hitters off balance.

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    • Sparkles Peterson says:

      I suspect his age has more to do with their reluctance than his signature pitch. There’s one very big reason to suspect that he’ll hold up better than non-knuckleballers as he approaches 40, and one very big reason to suspect that he won’t hold up as well as most knuckleballers. As has been said a billion times this offseason, he’s a pitcher without any real peers. I just don’t see how the Mets are the best team to gamble tens of millions of dollars on him remaining healthy and effective over the next several years.

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      • chuckb says:

        Age may be a reason for skepticism with Dickey but age isn’t the reason people are calling him a one-year wonder. They just simply haven’t paid attention to Dickey’s 2010 and 2011 seasons.

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      • Mel says:

        Awesome Get A Life reference. Well done.

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      • Sparkles Peterson says:

        Fair enough, I was responding more as if he meant the Mets were scared off by the knuckleball. I think for the general public, the one-year wonder thing is just that Dickey never registered on a national level when he was merely a good pitcher on a bad team.

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  4. Nick says:

    It’s hilarious that Dave so blatantly avoids WAR here because he knows it tells a completely different story. “Dickey was a worthless nothing” is a pathetic straw man. Nobody thinks that and he wasn’t as good as price 2010-2011. Sometimes the consensus is right.

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    • chuckb says:

      He’s not saying that Dickey is as good as Price. He’s saying that bloggers (and the Mets) who seem to be treating him as though he’s just a one-year wonder are wrong. I think Dave would acknowledge that comparing ERA- between the AL and NL has its flaws and the point isn’t that Dickey needs to be considered an ace. It’s just that he’s better than many people on the internet, and apparently the Mets, are making him out to be.

      Good God…put away your agenda.

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      • Dune Muffin says:

        Just a side note: Something that’s possibly more important than the NL/AL split, and in Dickey’s favor, is the difference in defense between the Mets and Rays. From 2010-2011 the Rays had 96.9 UZR, the third best in the majors over that span. The Mets, on the other hand, had -75 UZR, the fourth worst in the majors. In those two years especially, Dickey pitched to a lot of contact; since we’re judging just on ERA we’d expect to see Dickey take a big hit because of his team’s crappy defense.

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      • bstar says:

        B-Ref attempts to quantify a team’s defensive contribution to ERA with RA9defense. A positive number implies a good defense and the numbers suggest how many runs/9 a defense saved/cost a pitcher.

        RA Dickey ’10 +0.17 David Price ’10 +0.31
        RA Dickey ’11 -0.39 David Price ’11 +0.48
        RA Dickey ’12 -0.24 David Price ’12 +0.07

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    • suicide squeeze says:

      It’s not a straw man when he has a tweet of someone suggesting that RA Dickey isn’t worth JP Arencibia.

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    • jim says:

      dave avoids WAR in this article because if he uses (any of the variants of) WAR to evaluate dickey, people will come into the comments and crucify him for it. and then here you are!

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    • Jaker says:

      WAR uses FIP. Can’t use FIP to evaluate knuckleballers as Dave pointed out. Hence, WAR is unreliable.

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    • jpg says:

      Try reading the article:

      “We’re using ERA- for Dickey because knuckleballers have a long exhibited history of being an exception to FIP, by the way.”

      fWAR is FIP based, for those who are uninformed. That apparently includes you. Hilarious.

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      • Sparkles Peterson says:

        Can’t you actually apply FIP to knuckleballers with an adjustment for the lower BABIP? Knucklers seem to cluster around a .270 BABIP over time, around .030 (10%) better than non-knucklers. I’m not entirely sure of the exact corresponding FIP adjustment, but I’m pretty sure it would still land Dickey right in the same company as ERA-.

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      • sgs says:

        But ERA is unreliable for non-knuckleballers.

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      • CaR says:

        Perhaps the need to exclude Knuckleballers from analysis like FIP based stuff is precisely the reason why its so flawed to begin with. I understand the desire to normalize performance by eliminating fielding, but it is simply not that easy. Pitchers have by far the most input in determining vector and velocity of balls in play, claiming otherwise is foolish and if I am not mistaken, the basis of FIP to begin with. Nothing is absolute, but there is far more credit (good and bad) that needs to be assigned to the fella throwing the pitch as to its ultimate outcome.

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      • CaR says:

        Furthermore, pitchers who have sublime command and deception can effectively ‘steer’ balls in play to some extent, depending on game situations. For example, runner on first, pitcher gets ahead, low and away slider, weak ground ball to the SS. Doesn’t always happen, but it is by design. Not a random event. Not entirely in the pitchers control, but his input is vastly under-represented in SABR circles.

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      • Antonio bananas says:

        Why not use tERA for everyone when evaluating what actually happened? FIP is predictive of future performance because generally, high k, low BB, low hr/9 is sustainable because it isn’t reliant on defense. tERA seems like the best measurement of actual performance over both FIP and ERA.

        Dickey is not a one year wonder, any stat over the last 3 years basically says that. Predicting his future is hard. Will no wind in the dome make his ball move less because the motionless seams won’t randomly catch something? Will it make it move more? As he ages and his arm speed slows, will his knuckleball stay as elite?

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  5. Nick says:

    And yes I’m well aware of the knucklers/DIPS stuff, I was hoping this post would base it’s argument on that tbh.

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  6. Steve K says:

    David Price is also 10 years younger than Dickey.

    We should not pretend that at age 38, his chances of him sustaining an injury or suffering some sort of age related performance issue are the same as a younger pitcher. I believe that is where you find the largest source of skepticism about his performance.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • chuckb says:

      again…unrelated to the one-year wonder argument.

      His age is a reason for legitimate concern but history has also shown that knuckleballers can sustain their careers much longer in many cases than non-knuckleballers can. Even still, those people calling Dickey a “one-year wonder” are making the argument that he was only successful last year. That’s not related to his age.

      +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Steve K says:

        People are referring to his performance IN association to a extension! Don’t take one sentence out of the whole discussion.

        Lets also stop referring to him as a knuckleball pitcher that throws the same as every other knuckleball pitcher before him. He throws a pitch at 70 mph, vs Tim Wakefield who was throwing at 50 mph. No one knows what type of wear and tear that has on the body, so there is no guarantee that he would will pitch till he is 45.

        If you want to compare him to Tim Wakefield, his last good season was in 2005, when he was “38″. After that point he was at best an average pitcher and the last 2 years he was just awful. Throwing your hands in the air and saying “knuckleballer”, does not mean they are guaranteed a career into their 40′s.

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      • Marty says:

        Fine, but Dave has used the “knuckleballers don’t age the same as regular pitchers” argument a lot as well. The fact is, the sample size of knucklers probably isn’t large to really know one way or the other.

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      • Tom says:

        Yes you can… but that would require effort.

        It would either change the multipliers in from of

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    • Pogue009 says:

      Nobody not even Zach Lee’s mom thinks Zach Lee + Dee Gordon is worth a year of Price. I would however bet that the IP of 38yo Knuckleballers is as similar to those of 37yo Knuckleballers as those of 28 and 29 year old standard pitchers

      -5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Deelron says:

      And if David Price was in the same bargaining position I doubt anyone would bat an eye if they were offering 1.5 times what Dickey is asking for, it’s appears already discounted.

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  7. chuckb says:

    Fine. Dickey’s just a 3-year wonder then. Happy?

    +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Pat G says:

    I’ve been a mets fan my entire life… if we don’t give him the 2/26 contract that he’s asking for im liable to break something and change allegiances

    +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Dune Muffin says:

    Dave is omitting one very significant piece of evidence: his K/9 jumped from an average of 5.58 in 2010-2011 to 8.86, a huge difference. And if people are valuing him less than David Price, it’s because he’s 38 years old, missing a ligament in his elbow, and has no true comps—not because he’s a knuckleballer or was “nothing” from 2010-2011.

    +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jpg says:

      I don’t think he really omitted it. For people like you, me and most of the others who read this site regularly, it’s inferred that Dickey’s breakout was attributed to a spike in K/9. Plus he put K/BB in the chart he used.

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      • Dune Muffin says:

        Whether or not it’s inferred, I think it should be made a little more explicit. Price’s peripherals were basically the same in 2011 as they were in 2012, while Dickey’s K/9 took a huge jump. Which seems like a guy more likely to regress to you: a young power pitcher who has posted lower BB/9 two years in a row, and has a breakout season to show for it, or a 38-year-old knuckleballer posting the best K/9 of any knuckleballer in history?

        +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivalajeter says:

        Dune, his K/9 took a huge jump when he started throwing the hard knuckleball. It perfectly coincided with a change in his approach. Maybe he’ll regress as people see the hard knuckleball a little more, but it’s not like the K/9 spike was completely random.

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      • Mac says:

        Inferred? You have to be kidding. This article is entitled the myth of one great year, and yet there’s a key huge difference between this year and 2010-2011. And I don’t say this to take away from Cameron’s main point. Dickey has a three year track record now of good or better. But the dominant 2012 Dickey comes from that huge spike in K/9 while otherwise remaining a very similar pitcher. So yes, only one truly great year.

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      • ValueArb says:

        The article is about the myth of the “one good year”. Your point is that Dickey has had one “great year” preceded by two very good years.

        Who cares if Dickey can’t repeat 2012? If he repeats 2010-2011 he’s worth a lot more than 2/$20M, at the price WAR is going to be going for in 2014 (my guess, $5.5-6M) he’d be worth somewhere close to $40M in those years.

        The dumbest part of the Mets approach is that if they can’t get a deal with him this off season, they will be FORCED to offer Dickey $13M-$15M in a one year deal for 2014 or they will lose him with no compensation.

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    • Pogue009 says:

      well the piece they did on Dickey using his “Fast” knuckleball more led to that spike.

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  10. Ari N says:

    Lets give the Mets some credit for knowing the score. They may not actually be treating Dickey like a one-year wonder because they actually believe it, but rather as a negotiating ploy. Of course, this says a lot about the Mets penny-pinching tendencies, but let’s not act like their front office doesn’t know what it is doing here.

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    • acerimusdux says:

      Come on, the Mets paid Oliver Perez more than what Dickey will cost. It’s not generally safe to assume they know the score.

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    • ValueArb says:

      According to bWAR (which I think is more accurate for a knuckleballer), Dickey was worth 6.5 WAR in 2010-2011. That level of production in 2014-2015 will be worth a great deal more than the $20M they are reportedly offering, more likely $35M+.

      Of course Dickey may regress, but he’s likely to regress from 2012′s 6 WAR season and still be as good as he was in 2010-2011 for a few years. And since his last 2 years WAR is underestimated given he pitched in front of awful defenses, he will declining from a higher level than bWAR or fWAR can currently estimate.

      Even if you take a hard line and say Dickey is likely to be only a league average pitcher in 2013-1014, given the massive new amounts of TV money coming in, it’s likely that he will be worth around $24M for those two years.

      And the Mets are lowballing Dickey so hard it’s going to be easy for him just wait to become a FA next year. But unless he collapses in 2013, the Mets are going to be forced to make a one year qualifying offer at the league average salary (probably $14M) or lose RA for nothing!

      So how is it the Mets know what they are doing?

      They refuse to offer Dickey even a league average starter salary for 2013-2014, but we both know they’ll be out in the FA market desperately overpaying for a starter in a year or two anyways.

      They’ll be caught with their pants down next offseason unless they trade him now.

      They’ve already trashed him to the media, making it even harder to get him to accept a discount.

      And then they take a significant risk doing all of this. If the power knuckler he finally perfected in 2012 turns out to establish a new plateau of ability for him, even at his age teams are going to line up to offer him 2 year/$45M or even 3 year/$60M and the compensation the Mets get won’t be a fraction of the value of having Dickey anchor the rotation and eat innings at a high rate with a 140 ERA+. Or worse, they trade him and all of the upside value accrues to the trade partner.

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  11. Toasty says:

    I know it’s already been said, but thank you!

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  12. Phoenixscienter says:

    This article is laughable. There is a reason Dickey isn’t valued like a true ace in the market by baseball executives and scouts alike, and to think he deserves either an ace-level contract or an ace-level return in prospects is foolhardy at best.

    I agree he deserves what he’s asking for for a 2 year contract. I disagree that Dickey ought to bring back some fabulous package of top prospects.

    -44 Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Aaron says:

    If you’re the Dodgers and can get Dickey for Zach Lee and Dee Gordon and then extend him for 2/26, don’t you do that in a heartbeat? Lee’s ceiling is probably what Dickey is now, and if you can get 3 years of Dickey, isn’t that worth it? Maybe that isn’t a realistic trade, and we don’t know if Dickey would agree to the same extension if he was traded (but even if he asked for more, it’s not like the Dodgers can’t afford it), but that’s what one of the tweets that was cited said.

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  14. Hurtlockertwo says:

    It looks like the Mets only paid Dickey about $7.5 mill for the last three years of work. He is not a one year wonder, but most assuredly a three year bargain

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  15. JEH says:

    I agree Dickey has been very good the last three years. I also think that Dickey is likely to be a very good pitcher (and a very good bargain) in 2013 though I would guess the distribution of his “possible performance level” for 2013 is wider than Prices’. And much wider for 2014 and 2015.

    From the Mets’ perspective, the question to ask is: if they keep Dickey at $5M next year how good of a season would he need to have that they would not be able to sign him to a 2 year/$20M extension for his age 39 and 40 seasons at that point? It would be one heckuva a season. The Mets have little incentive to extend the contract.

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    • acerimusdux says:

      If he had his worst season with the Mets he’d still get 2/20 on the market. If he has another season like either 2010 or 2012, he’d get quite a bit more. I would look at the 2 year extension the Yankees gave a 41-year old Randy Johnson for $32M as an example. That covered his age 42 & 43 seasons. Dickey’s will cover 39 & 40.

      Funny thing is, the Mets haven’t even offered enough that they would be entitled to free agent compensation if he became a free agent. You have to offer at least the average annual salary of the top 125 free agents. That’s $13.3M a year this year.

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      • JEH says:

        The $13.3M is the average of the top 125 player salaries for 2012.

        Dickey was 13th in WAR among pitchers (roughly 45th overall) in 2012 (61st among pitchers in 2011 and 52nd among pitchers in 2010 . . . in both of those seasons he was comfortably outside the top 125 overall). Betting on him to be among the top 125 players for 2013 seems like a slightly worse than even bet to me . . . but the Mets have to bet on his performance for 2014 and 2015 and there just aren’t a lot of good reasons to bet 2014 Dickey + 2015 Dickey will total more than 3.5 WAR.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        JEH, who cares what his WAR is? As mentioned several times here, that’s not the way to measure a knuckleball pitcher. His skillset allows a better-than-average BABIP, but WAR acts like that’s a fluke.

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      • ValueArb says:

        Obviously Dickey was one of the best pitchers in baseball the last 3 years. 12 bWAR (which undervalues knucklers less than FIP based fWAR) is an average of 4 WAR a year, double the average starter. If you don’t believe this, just try to convince yourself that producing a 2.95 ERA in front of a lousy defense over 616 innings the last 3 years is any where close to average.

        And you can’t even comprehend the most important point. It doesn’t matter what Dickey does in 2013, he’s a FA unless the Mets make a one year qualifying offer. This year required $13.3M based on the league average salary, next year that number is almost certain to be higher, maybe $14M. If Dickey sucks, ok, great for the Mets, they can decline to make the qualifying offer and let him walk. But if Dickey puts up a year like any of the last 3, the Mets are FORCED to make that offer or they get nothing. Yet they are only offering $20M/2 years now when they know it’s very likely they will have to offer $14M/1 year in 11 months.

        And if they lose Dickey, replacing him in the FA market with a decent pitcher is going to cost a minimum of $15M per year, and in a few years, the Anibel Sanchezes are going to get $20M a year as teams get that gusher of new TV money.

        The Mets are so dumb, they can’t plan further ahead than lunch.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        I can’t help but laugh at ValueArb’s comments. The Mets are seemingly trading him for the best Catching prospect in baseball, and a very good pitching prospect, yet they’re so dumb?

        You’re also acting like the Mets are offering $20/2 and are unwilling to bump up that offer. There’s no reason to believe that. If this trade falls apart, nobody else gives them comparable prospects, etc, then the Mets will still be able to sign him at $26/2 (or somewhere in the middle). You say they can’t plan further ahead than lunch, but it seems to me like that exactly what they’re doing. They’re exploring all trade routes (which is the smart approach) before signing him.

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      • acerimusdux says:

        Obviously, Dickey was a top 125 player in baseball in all 3 years, and a top 50 player in two of those three years. And Dave above ably points out what he was for the 3-years combined.

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  16. jwise224 says:

    I love the posts that use twitter convos as a topic starter!

    Seriously, I say we go to MLB Network and pitch Dave.0 – a show where Dave Cameron (or his minions) scan the internet for ridiculously flawed baseball tweets and he destroys them with factual evidence.

    I’d watch…

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    • Heather says:

      FanSince09 does much the same thing on twitter. His twitter account was recently profiled by The Slate. (And no, I don’t know the guy, just find him amusing.)

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    • Mike says:

      And then we can play a drinking game that you have to take a shot every time Dave blinks. Odds are you would be really sober at the end of the show.

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  17. Heather says:

    What I really love is the Mets desiring to pay him like Joe Blanton, but demanding a trade package as if they were sitting on a young, cost controlled, Felix Hernandez.cognitive dissonance much?

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  18. jpg says:

    My Mets are gonna bungle this to absolutely nobody’s surprise. Dave hit it on the head. It would one thing if he was seeking a market rate deal, but he’s giving them a massive hometown discount. Even if 2012 was a fluke and he regressed back to his 2010-2011 level, he’d still be a bargain. Just pay the guy already.

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  19. jdm says:

    Is it possible the Mets are just lowballing him in hopes he signs an undervalued extension which greatly increases his value in the trade market. The Mets most likely won’t be all that competitive until Wheeler and Harvey completely figure it out and the Mets are still recovering financially from the Madoff scam. I see it as they are either trying to get prospects back or merely make him a qualifying offer at years end and receive a supplemental draft pick.

    You got to think at Dickey’s age he’s looking for more than 1 year at $12.5-13M given his success and his abdominal injury and other teams out there are willing to commit more money to him which would guarantee the Mets a supplemental pick. Jamie Moyer pitched till he was nearly 50 with his average FB velocity less than 79MPH while producing positive WAR and Dickey is a knuckleballer pitcher which has proven to put less stress on the shoulder and elbow which enables knuckleballers to last as long as their success allows them to stay in the league. Wakefield lasted till he was 45 and Niekro till he was 48 while both producing positive WAR and I see no reason why Dickey should prove any different. I just think including the fact that Wilpon used lots of leverage to purchase the remaining portion of the Mets from his former partner Doubleday, and then he proceeded to fund the construction of Citifield with leverage, and then factor in the funds that Picard recovered from Wilpon for the Madoff scandal, I think the Mets are content to either deal Dickey or receive compensation while they let their young nucleus develop around David Wright.

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  20. Jack says:

    If I had a dollar for every time Dave wrote the word “overly” I bet I could afford to buy the Dodgers.

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  21. Jack says:

    Seriously, is there even such a thing as being “excessively” reasonable? Doesn’t “reasonable” imply that whatever you’re referring to isn’t excessive since it’s, fair/appropriate/sensible…

    I’ll wait for Dave’s sheep to call me out on nitpicking, but, seriously, “overly” shows up in damn near every post of his. I can not be the only FG reader that’s noticed this.

    Just lazy writing.

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  22. JS7 says:

    In 2006 Dickey had a 26.85 FIP and an ERA of 18.90

    One year myth?

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    • zbelair says:

      I am going to assume that this was a sarcastic comment, but in the off chance it was not I hope you realize that the “26.85 FIP and an ERA of 18.90″ is pretty useless when you consider Dickey threw a grand total of 3.1 innings that year in one start. Pretty sure FIP and ERA are not reliable in this sample size to argue anything about his talents…

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  23. Bill says:

    Just a thought, but they snag could be over other things than money. The Mets could be overly concerned about Dickey’s mountaineering exploits, for all we know he’s on Mt. Everest as we speak, overly enjoying himself.

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  24. wmevans says:

    I suspect the Mets know full well they could accept Dickey’s demands (2/26 extension) tomorrow and walk away with a fantastic bargain. I think the Mets are assuming that Dickey’s demands won’t change based on the course of negotiations, so Mets have no reason to rush this until they’re certain they can’t get a better deal on the trade market. In other words, they assume the 2/26 offer will not go away no matter what happens this offseason, so they can exhaust all other options.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      This is my line of thought as well. I’d have to think that their favorite scenario would be to trade him for elite prospects (I doubt they’d admit that publically). Their second favorite scenario would be to sign him to an extension. But the problem is, if they give in to his reasonable demands and sign him to a 2/26 extension, they no longer have the option of trading him this off-season. There’s no harm in waiting a month, unless they think he’ll get pissed off and refuse to sign the extension. Since there’s little chance he’d actually get pissed off and refuse to sign, why not spend a few more weeks trying to score some top prospects?

      If their only options were to let him go or give him 2/26, I have a hard time believing they wouldn’t shell out that money for him.

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      • Jon says:

        Yeah, this is how it looks like things have gone the past few weeks. $6 million over two years is pocket change, even post-Madoff, and even assuming some kind of age/knuckleball/mountaineering/beard/whatever discount. Sandy is probably trying to extract as much value from other teams as he can, waiting for other pitchers to sign, and then letting the buyers put in calls to Flushing. In the meantime, they keep the gap on an extension close in case they decide the trade market doesn’t offer enough.

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    • ValueArb says:

      If that was true, you’d think they’d put a clamp on the Wilpons mutt of a son to stop trashing RA to the press, so the goodwill that helped RA decide to offer such a generous discount will still exist when the Mets need it.

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  25. jpg says:

    Posting an article with no substance is lazy writing.

    Comparing guys because B-Ref lists them as comparable is lazy writing.

    Comparing two guys just because they throw with the same hand or have similarly colored skin is lazy writing.

    Comparing every guy who comes out of nowhere and hits a bunch of home runs to Brady Anderson is lazy writing.

    Complaining about how frequently Dave chooses to use the word “overt” is petty. Complaining that Dave used a bit of paradox when he said “excessively reasonable”is also petty. It doesn’t take one of Dave’s sheep to point this out.

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  26. Eric R says:

    When looking at Price v RAD as two guys who were similar for the last three years and produced little to nothing otherwise-

    The former produced little as a 22-23 year old and barely had 100 minor league innings before making his Major League debut.

    The latter produced little over the course of 13 Major and Minor League seasons and put things together [via a new pitch] at age 35.

    Is this not a case where we’d like to also consider the circumstances?

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  27. hernandez17 says:

    I’m trying to understand why declining to extend a pitcher beyond his age 38 season is a bad baseball decision. Why are we comparing Dickey’s potential salary with Guthrie and Blanton when they were free agents and he isn’t? Those salaries were driven up by an open market, whatever extension Dickey gets wouldn’t be. Why would you do anything *but* lowball a 38-year-old pitcher who is already under contract? I’m not getting this argument. Teams don’t dish out big contracts because it’s the “fair” thing to do, they do it because the market forces them to do it. The Mets don’t have that pressure right now.

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    • Near says:

      The Mets believe they have the pieces assembled for a championship team, and need to clear payroll to make the future necessary acquisitions to supplement that team. It’s similar formula to the 2006 Mets, but built around pitching (Harvey, Wheeler) instead of offense (Wright, Reyes).

      While Dickey has been excellent for them, it’s clear the organization has hedged its future on the success of Wheeler and Harvey. If they really believe Dickey is an ace pitcher, the Mets can’t compromise their future financial flexibility by signing him long term while Johan Santana is still being paid. From how they’ve been shopping him, I don’t think the Mets believe he’s an ace. Either they buy the narrative that the NL East was particularly impotent in 2012, or that his fast knuckle has too many uncertainties around how it’ll age to guarantee a big contract.

      It’s a shame, because Dickey is a wonderful human being and he’s being very generous in offering a hometown discount. I don’t think they appreciate the value of what they have.

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    • ValueArb says:

      You don’t “lowball” a guy with a 2 year $20M offer when his $26M/2 year offer to you is already a substantial discount, especially when you will be forced to pay him $13M -$14M for 2014 alone in a qualifying offer to keep him if you don’t get a deal done now.

      The Mets are dumb if they don’t realize they don’t have much margin for error on this, and back themselves into a corner for next offseason.

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      • Jon says:

        Sure you do. And then you sign him at $26/2 (or $24/2, or whatever the compromise is) after you’ve explored the trade market. The Mets have a lot of needs, and SP surplus, and they have a tough, tough road to the playoffs in 2013. The front office would be lazy not to try and deal him at max value when they can.

        Dickey is a Cy Young winner making $5m for a one-year commitment. Those are the only material numbers until a definitive announcement is made one way or the other (trade, extension, neither) — talk of $20m vs. $26m is just noise.

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    • RichW says:

      Teams dish out big contracts to non-FA all the time for inexplicable reasons. Avoiding negative perceptions far outweighs “market forces”.

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  28. Anthony says:

    Didn’t you already pretty much write this exact article already? I don’t think Dickey is a fluke, but knuckleballers in general are much harder to predict than regular pitchers. We have evidence that Knuckleballers tend to age better than normal pitchers, but Dickey throws a different kind of knuckleball, that has more juice on it…how will that effect him in his 38th year? WHO KNOWS. I wouldn’t call him a one year wonder by any means, still doesn’t mean I trust him more than David Price or any other top starter for that matter.

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  29. Devon says:

    So, do the Mets realize that Dickey has been their best starter from 2010-2012, by a wide margin?

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  30. Rippers says:

    Tim Wakefield is better.

    -11 Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. Bip says:

    38 years old. Not to say he hasn’t been good, or that he doesn’t deserve money, but Price and Dickey were both free agents right now, Price would get more money and more years, and for good reason. Dickey may be a knuckleballer, and anyone who says he’s a one year wonder isn’t looking, but how is it strange that a 38 pitcher isn’t getting a lot of money?

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    • ValueArb says:

      Dickey Ages 35-37 616 IP 129 ERA+
      Big Unit Ages 40-42 676 IP 119 ERA+

      Randy Johnson got 2 years $26M at age 43, but given salaries have increased about 26% would be about $33M today. The Mets are offering Dickey 2 years $20M.

      So yes, it’s strange that a 37 year old coming off a 140 ERA+ Cy Young season is getting offered 40% less than a 42 year old with a herniated disc coming off a 90 ERA+ season.

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  32. Dogfish pride, bro says:

    No chance of Tommy John surgery must be worth a couple of bucks.

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  33. That Guy says:

    You have to squint really hard to see how David Price 2010-2012 = R.A. Dickey 2010-2012, and especially to equate how they compare as “one year wonders”.

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    • That Guy says:

      Oops. Meant to add – I love R.A., his story and his production and Mets fans are right to want him to pitch for them for the next 2-3 years, but let’s be honest – he’s the outliers of outliers. There’s no honest comp for him. He’s a knuckleballer. He’s not even traditional in his knuckleball. He has no UCL. He wasn’t even serviceable at the major league level until he turned 35.

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    • ValueArb says:

      He’s an outlier who has been one of the most valuable starting pitchers in baseball the last 3 years and his trend is showing substantial improvement.

      So let’s offer him substantially less than what league average MLB starters will be offered as free agents on 2 year deals in 2014, despite the fact that we’ll have to pay him nearly 70% of that for a single season next year on a qualifying offer.

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  34. Dave says:

    Haggling with the Cy Young winner over 6 million dollars. It’s almost like they’re trying to make their fans hate them. I’m getting close.

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  35. Johnny A. says:

    Have to wonder what he’s done to accomplish this phenomenal late-30s surge. Must be working out very hard. Seems it’s been several years since we saw guys getting better with age like this. Nice to see it once more

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  36. Brian says:

    In this vein, Greinke has an ERA- in the neighborhood of 95 over the past 3 years, yet he got the Dodgers to cough up almost $150 mil. The Mets would do well to give him the 2 yrs/$26 mil he’s asking for and run.

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  37. Fatbot says:

    Dickey on his knuckleball following a loss to the Yankees in June:

    “I was going to live and die with my girl. She’s been nice so far. It happens. As controllable as the knuckleball has been for me, it’s still a very violent, very fickle pitch. And she did not cooperate.”

    And this is the problem with Dickey. He’s a great feel good story with an amazing three-year run, but at any unpredictable time the pitch can beat the man (or men, if you include the poor catcher) trying to master it. If you don’t get this & why Dickey describes it as “she”, you’ve probably never been married.

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    • ValueArb says:

      Yes, it’s so unpredictable that only 9 starters in all of baseball threw more than 500 innings the last 3 years with a lower ERA than Dickey’s 2.95 over 616 innings.

      Was it predictable that 72 of 82 starters with at least 70 starts the last 3 years had a higher ERA than Dickey in his 91starts, despite the vast majority pitching in front of better defenses?

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  38. flatjacket1 says:

    Over the next 3 years, who will likely accumulate more fWAR? Dickey or Price? Likely Price IMO. There is a reason why a lot of GM’s aren’t happy with the Mets asking price who themselves wouldn’t even may 13M/year for their Cy Young. Heck, even look at Dickey himself. He is trying to pressure the teams into handing him an extension, making comments like “If you let this all play out, I’ll walk”. I don’t think he’s very confident he will do that well either.

    Obviously he has some questions, and you can’t even guarantee 9+ fWAR over the next 3 years like you can with most Cy Young’s. I’m not saying Dickey is bad or that I wouldn’t like him on my team (Blue Jays) but I’m saying giving up d’Arnaud or Gose + JPA is an overpay. Dickey is a great pitcher, but he’s not worth 8 years of d’Arnaud (add in the extension money that RA would cost) or 14 years of JPA + Gose (do the same).

    If Dickey was under control for 2 more seasons through Arbitration, I’d give up either package for him too. You are essentially looking at a guy who is a 1 year rental, who is asking for an extension after a season that he can’t top, so in my mind it’s even worse than a 1 year rental as this season he will almost certainly put up worse numbers and would of been worth less in FA. So you are overpaying a FA for 2 years which you know he can’t really be extended after either, so you lose the talent. No keeping him for 2 years then flipping him, your talking about trading for a guy for 3 years then he retires or regresses to the point where he isn’t worth what you need to pay him.

    Basically, if Dickey was:
    a) Controllable for the next 3 seasons;
    b) Not overpaid (which he will be);
    c) Not a knuckle baller;
    d) Was a knuckle baller but was a few years younger (even like 35);
    e) Not coming off a season where his value was highest it will eve be;
    I’d get him in a heartbeat for maybe even a larger package than d’Arnaud or JPA + Gose. But then again everybody would.

    All I’m saying is there is a reason 29 GM’s haven’t done a Dickey trade.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      Flatjack,

      That’s silly analysis, using fWAR as your basis for valuing a knuckleball pitcher. If you were valuing Jose Reyes, would you regress his performance based on a league average stolen base %? If you’re valuing Barry Bonds, would you regress his performance based on a league average walk rate? If not, then why would you regress Dickey’s performance based on a league average BABIP?

      According to his alleged contract demands, he’s controllable for 3 years @ about $30MM. If you think that’s overpaid compared to his peers, then you’re out of your mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does a better job at preventing runs than Greinke next year. He won’t have a better fWAR, but he’ll keep more runs off the board.

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      • flatjacket1 says:

        fWAR might be a bad stat to use, but you have to pretty much double it to get equal value as d’Arnaud’s median projection (let’s say 2 fWAR a year, .300 OBP/.30 SLG + average defense) = like 16-20 fWAR.

        I don’t think that’s an overpay as much as d’Arnaud + 30M to get him. If you calculate to surplus value of d’Arnaud (2 fWAR a year off normal defense and below league average bat, 120 G), you are looking at close to 60M/3 years for Dickey, the 38 year old knuckleballer. I’m sorry, but you’d be insane to do that.

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    • paqza says:

      RA Dickey would probably kick ass as a Blue Jay, especially considering their domed stadium and all the games he’d start in Tampa Bay. He’s commented that it is much easier for him to pitch in that type of environment, and he came very close to pitching a perfect game last year against the Rays in 2012.

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      • flatjacket1 says:

        He would, no denying that. It’s just not worth d’Arnaud and the money. If it was one or the other I’d say go for it. We are paying for not only market value, but also in prospects? That’s double charging.

        It’s equally as stupid as if the Jays just traded d’Arnaud for Grienke. Grienke is better, great pitcher, etc. but still its the cost. Why not sign Grienke then trade d’Arnaud to somebody else in a package?

        It just doesn’t make sense.

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    • Zigs says:

      If you look at Dickey’s game log last year, he was rather unimpressive playoff/near playoff teams after he had faced them once. He did really well against poor teams. Dickey has some value, but it definitely is not ace value.

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      • ValueArb says:

        Dickey 2012 vs. Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, & Washington Nationals.

        7 IP per start at a 3.16 ERA with 5 complete games and 3 shutouts in 15 starts.

        Yea, he sucked. My guess is none of those teams had good offenses either, LOL.

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  39. Kiss my Go Nats says:

    I hope the Mets continue to screw this one up!!!! Although it would be awesome to see Dickey as a Nat, we may already have the best rotation in baseball. As a result, I am hoping he ends up a Royal or (a near miracle) a Pirate! Those two franchises need more reasons for the fans to come to the park.

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    • flatjacket1 says:

      Doesn’t it worry anybody else that a front office full of professionals who do this for a living are trying so hard to trade him because they feel their Cy Young isn’t worth 13M/year?

      I smell a rat.

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  40. chief00 says:

    I wonder what the M’s think? A rotation including Felix, Dickey, and Brandon Morrow would be intriguing now. It’s too bad that Dickey and Morrow were miscast as relievers. Add some offense, Adam Jones, Doug Fister and…

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  41. Marsupial Jones says:

    Maybe its just me but comparing Dickey to Price because they both had similar stats over the past three years seems like a horribly flawed comparison. Price was a 25-28 year old who was just starting out his career and progressing as expected. Dickey was a 35 year old who had pretty much been left for dead after a spotty as best career.

    If you cant see how one of those things is far less surprising, and therefore more trustworthy, than the other than I dont know what to tell you.

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      Knuckball pitchers have an observable history of lasting well into their late 30s. Phil Niekro, Tim Wakefield, Joe Niekro lasted into his 40s, Charlie Hough…

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      • That Guy says:

        Okay, but who else has started their mlb career (excepting 2003 in Dickey’s case) at 35. It’s one thing to have an observable history through one’s 30′s – it’s something entirely else to have one start when their 30′s are essentially over.

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  42. andy says:

    why did this article get posted again?

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  43. marlins12 says:

    Weird. This article was written four days ago, yet it now says it was written today.

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  44. Dan says:

    there are not a lot of pitchers Dickey’s age that have maintained a great level of performance, even amongst knuckleballers.

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  45. I just don’t understand the way these teams operate. This seems to be a constant trend but if the Mets don’t think Dickey is worth a two year extension for $26 million, then how can they think he is worth top catching prospect in the game? That’s nonsense.

    2 years for $26 million is nothing for a pitcher as good as him. It’s basically paying him as if he’s almost an average player. What they offered him (18-20 million over two years) is certainly a salary for an average player. Now I don’t think R. A. Dickey is average, but it’s clear the Mets do. An average player isn’t worth D’Arnaud.

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    • marlins12 says:

      Maybe the Mets would just prefer to trade assets for a 38-year-old pitcher because they don’t feel like they can contend now whereas the Blue Jays value him as such because they’re ready to win now.

      Not every team deals with the same situation.

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      • marlins12 says:

        *get assets*
        sorry.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Then why offer him two years for twenty million at all? That basically lets the rest of the league think they don’t think he’s a very valuable player, especially after they re-signed David Wright.

        If the Mets aren’t willing to pay Dickey what he’s worth? ie. If he’s going to walk after this year from them, how can they possibly expect to get such a valuable asset from another team? (Which is not to say it won’t happen.) Just that it doesn’t make that much sense to me.

        If I’m any team, knowing even the limited amount of information I do, I’m calling the Mets bluff. (A good front office doesn’t show it has such a hard-on to move any player. It limits their expected value of return.) Arencibia’s basically a league average catcher over the course of 162 games. If the Mets want a catcher, and I’m the Jays, I let them build a deal around him and prospects.

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  46. channelclemente says:

    I remember years ago when Joe Niekro was positioned between J.R. Richards and Joaquin Andujar in the Astros rotation, he seemed to make whomever followed him that much better. It seemed to ‘unscrew’ the head of a hitter in a series to face a knuckle ball pitcher and fastball pitcher sequentially in a rotation.

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  47. smkuchta says:

    I am sure it has been elsewhere in the multitude of comments but comparing Price’s Age 24-26 years and Dickey’s 35-37 years makes no sense.

    First of all Price’s 3 years were better. Look at the WAR differences. Look at the fact that Price did it in the AL East while Dickey did it in the NL East.

    Second it is not unusual for young pitchers to have some ups and downs as Price did in the 2nd year though he was still pretty good

    Third Price’s ascension is seen as a natural evolution into the ace he’s been predicted to become whereas Dickey has had more of a Jose Bautista/Edwin Encarnacion evolution where you aren’t quite sure if he’s now an Ace like he was last year or if he’s more just a solid 2/3 like the previous two seasons.

    That being said as a blue jays fan I would love to see him come to TO but worry that the price is awfully high for a guy with one GREAT season and limited upside.

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    • RichW says:

      If Dickey is part of a WS win or two in the next three seasons it doesn’t matter at all. This is an all-in move by the Blue Jays trying to leverage a unique opportunity where the Red Sox and Yankees are relatively weak. Rogers has money and appear willing to spend it to win.

      If they win, the inevitable rebuild will be accepted as the price. If it blows up AA is gone and a new GM will sift through the wreckage. Either way it’s refreshing to see someone with balls putting their actions ahead of their words. I’m happy to go along for the ride.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Antonio bananas says:

      Did you use fWAR? Right there is a problem. Second, fuck the AL east. It’s not THAT much better than the NL East. Looking at stats that are normalized for leagues.

      If Dickey is my team’s 2/3 guy as he was in 2010-2011, that’s amazing. Who’s my top 2? Verlander and Cain?

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  48. channelclemente says:

    Great article, Dave. Is there any data on inter rotation synergy with a knuckle baller sandwiched in a rotation. I seem to remember a lot of discussion back in the day about Joe Niekros increased effectiveness sandwiched between Richards and Anduhar on the 1978 or ’79 Astros.

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    • Antonio bananas says:

      Why? I mean, it’s not like you could throw a team off by putting him in the middle of the rotation. No team has a knuckles so regardless of who they faced the day before, it’s gonna seem weird. This isn’t like bringing in a soft tossing GB guy after your flame thrower to keep timing off.

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  49. Matt Mosher says:

    A win/win for both teams. Good luck Jays….what a team.

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  50. TheGrandSlamwich says:

    One thing I think should be considered is that signing Dickey to an extension, without a no-trade clause, could actually increase his trade value? I haven’t read anything about Dickey requiring one in an extension. 2/$26 seems like a good deal for a pitcher of his caliber to most people here it seems, so it seems that it would also be a bonus for any team looking to trade for him and the Mets could possibly get even more in return.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      If they signed him to the extension, I’d have to think that he’s start the season with the Mets. It would be incredibly poor form to get him to sign this deal, then immediately trade him.

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      • Antonio bananas says:

        Unless you, iunno, talked to him about it and said. “We want to trade you. You’re a great pitcher but let’s face it, we aren’t making the playoffs. The blue jays are going for it, they could have something special and want you to be a part of it. It’ll be easier to trade you if you are inked for a few more years. Name your price.”

        Seems win/win/win to me.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Antonio, that scenario is bananas. Why would they sign him to a deal ahead of time and tell him he’s going to be traded to a specific team, when they can just give the Jays a 3-day window to sign him after the trade? That’s how it’s done in baseball. Teams don’t sign and trade.

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  51. RichW says:

    @flatjacket1said
    Why not sign Grienke then trade d’Arnaud to somebody else in a package?
    It just doesn’t make sense.

    Because Greinke would not sign with Toronto. Why do so many people (on the radio all night) persist with the delusion that Greinke was signable by Toronto? I believe that Greinke was one of quite a few players who had a one-team (Blue Jays) no-trade clause in their contract.

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  52. Antonio bananas says:

    Why don’t we write the $/WAR as a percent of payroll rather than an absolute value? Seems pretty stupid to try to normalize everything else we do except that when dollars/war needs to be normalized as much as ball park effects on home runs and league effects on ERA. 5M/WAR is great for some teams, insanely costly for others. If we had like 3%/WAR it’d make a lot more sense, to me anyways.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  53. dinoroy says:

    what is the key fact to win the game

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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