Unlikely Success for Dickey

R.A. Dickey has never managed to go an entire season without at least some time spent in the Minor Leagues. Perhaps 2011 will break that streak because the Mets certainly have to be a little regretful of the 60.2 innings they had Dickey spend in Buffalo to begin 2010.

Dickey wasn’t much different in Triple-A this season then he has been in the past aside from a reduced BABIP and a higher ground ball rate. Then again, Dickey has always been better than the Triple-A level and this season was no different with Dickey accumulating in the range of about 1.5 WAR if we extended the formula to the Minor Leagues. Called up to the big leagues and inserted into the Mets rotation as of May 19. It wasn’t an auspicious beginning with four walks and two strikeouts in six innings, but things only got better from there. In the 120.1 innings since that first start, Dickey has recorded 83 strikeouts and just 27 walks and one hit batter.

What’s working for Dickey? Not surprisingly, it’s his knuckle ball. Never before has he committed to it so fervently, throwing it over 80% of the time and getting good results. And despite the increase in knuckle balls, Dickey has halved his walk rate from last season and kept his strikeouts level. He’s even manged to keep more batted balls on the ground. Also despite the heavy use of a knuckler, Dickey’s wild pitch and passed ball rate (just one per 240 pitches) is merely 59th amongst all pitchers with at least 1,000 pitches in 2010.

Coming into play today Dickey is sporting a sparkling 2.64 ERA but more importantly, his FIP is a solid 3.44 and his 3.68 xFIP points to a pitcher not succeeding through luck alone. And that is before you consider that Dickey might deserve a discount on his FIP due to his knuckleball. His 2.5 WAR to date exceeds his previous career best of 1.9 with the Rangers in 2003. That’s a significant bounce back from a really poor 2009 season spent mostly in the Twins’ bullpen.

Even though he has bounced around the league for the past ten seasons, Dickey has yet to accumulate enough service time to qualify as a Major League free agent and thus the Mets still retain arbitration rights to him. It’s always fun to take heed of players such as Dickey who have found some, perhaps fleeting, success after years of struggle. Will he be able to stick an entire season in a big league rotation next season?




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


22 Responses to “Unlikely Success for Dickey”

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  1. Mike says:

    Possible comeback player of the year?

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    • Basil Ganglia says:

      How can you comeback when you never arrived in the first place?

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      • Josh says:

        Tim Hudson is hands down Comeback Player of the Year.

        and, before you say well how can he win if he came back last year, he had to reach a certain amount of innings last year to be considered last year, therefore, he is eligible this year and will win beyond the shadow of a doubt.

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      • Nick says:

        To Josh. Ya heard of Aubrey Huff?

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  2. Everett says:

    Here’s hoping he can stick around. Baseball needs more knuckleballers.

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  3. The Ancient Mariner says:

    Two knuckleballs, actually. Looking at his pitches and the way he uses them is fascinating.

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  4. Bubba says:

    He’s been a pleasure to watch all season.

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  5. Kool says:

    He’s my favourite Met. However, Andres Torres still amazes me the most.

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  6. CBB says:

    definitely an awesome guy to watch pitch….hard not to cheer for him

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  7. Ben says:

    He has no UCL. It’s unlikely that he’s even able to throw a baseball at all.

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  8. theperfectgame says:

    The really sad thing (for the Mets, at least, not for Dickey) is that had they waited a mere 8 more days to call him up from AAA, they’d control him for 2 more years instead of 1. I suppose hindsight’s 20/20, but it would hardly shock me if the Mets’ Front Office had been completely oblivious to that fact.

    As a Mets fan and a Dickey fan, I hope they sign him to a sensible 2 year deal this winter, perhaps with a 3rd year option. It would give Dickey some nice financial security at an age when players who have never had that rarely get it. And it would be a low-risk move for the Mets, in that it would give them a quality pitcher at a bargain for 2-3 years if things go right and a contract they could fairly painlessly sweep under the rug if things go wrong.

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    • BlackOps says:

      “it would hardly shock me if the Mets’ Front Office had been completely oblivious to that fact.”

      For emphasis. I’m sure they had no clue.

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    • SchmidtXC says:

      Honestly with Dickey’s career track record at that point, I doubt any front office would have cared. They needed a starter, and Dickey was definitely the guy deserving the call up at that point. Saving a year of service time for a guy that has been non-tendered several times and hasn’t pitched in the majors since the last time it happened shouldn’t have been a consideration.

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      • theperfectgame says:

        Yeah, I can’t say I disagree with that.

        And if anyone in MLB was due for a service time issue to finally break his way, it’s Dickey. Heck, the guy wasn’t even out of options until this season. That’s bizarre for any 35-year-old, let alone a former 1st round draft pick.

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      • J.P. says:

        Hey, if anything, that is one year sooner Omar can offer him 3 years 36 million with a vesting option.

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    • Cidron says:

      Its ok, you just put them on to that fact.. Wait, no you didnt. Mets front office reading this site? That would be unlikely. Cant say the Mets are into the advanced stats and opinions offered up here :p

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  9. SteveM says:

    In fairness, I’m sure the Mets front office had no inkling that Dickey would preform anywhere near the level that he has. Nor has virtually anyone else for that matter.

    I am a huge fan of RA’s but he IS in his mid 30’s. I know knucleballers can often pitch well past this point, but it’s not like he will ever be a big name, high priced free agent in his late 30’s. For his sake, though, I wish he would be. Beyond being a quality pitcher, RA Dickey is a quality individual.

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    • Cidron says:

      Very very few knuckleballers “get it” early. They are usually older, more veteran pitchers who go to the knuckleball late in the career. Neikro, Candiotti, Wakefield.. none of them were remotely young when they adopted it as their main pitch. Dickey is profiling the same way.

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  10. vivalajeter says:

    It’s interesting to me how the Mets are portrayed here. They found a mid-30’s zero off of the scrap heap with virtually no history of success and he wound up having a fantastic season. If he did this in Seattle, Oakland, St Louis, Minnesota (etc…) it would be written how great of a move they made by signing this guy. But since it’s the Mets, instead of getting credit for finding him they are being portrayed poorly for not bringing him up soon enough, or (in the comments) for bringing him up 8 days too soon!

    Dickey was a nobody. There was absolutely no reason for anybody to expect any sort of success out of him this year. Given his age and history, should they really have brought him up in April? Should they really have waited 8 days in order to gain an extra year of service time? Absolutely not. They brought him up to make a handful of starts, and figured he’d be back in AAA thereafter. Thankfully for them, and for him, things have turned out better.

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    • theperfectgame says:

      “instead of getting credit…”

      I’d change that to “in addition to getting credit…” because he was indeed a great find, but other than that I agree with you.

      I didn’t mean to bring it up as a specific criticism, just as a “so close” observation. And as one of the other commenters mentioned, given Dickey’s age, it’s unlikely it will make thaaat much of a difference in the contract he signs. And if a couple extra bucks go Dickey’s way as a result I think most Met fans would be okay with that.

      However, the Mets are, in general, pretty lousy at roster management. My suggestion that they may have been completely unaware of Dickey’s service time has a lot more to do with that than it does to Dickey, specifically.

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  11. Ed Nelson says:

    I wonder if anyone from the Mets front office/MLB scouting staff actually went down to see Dickey pitch in Buffalo before he was called up, or did they simply say “Here’s a guy on a hot streak lets get him a spot start.”? If they had watched him pitch they might have noticed he’s the only pitcher to ever (as far as we know) throw a KB that fast (80mph), and that maybe he had a real chance at success.

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  12. PhD Brian says:

    I always have a soft spot for Knucklers. I am not sure why. Go DIckey!

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