One of the more impressive, and successful pieces brought-in during the Omar Minaya era, has signed a two-year deal with the New York Mets. R.A. Dickey, a converted knuckleball pitcher, avoided arbitration this week by signing a 2 year, $7.5 million contract with additional incentives and a third year option.
Dickey endured an up-and-down (mostly down) career before joining the Mets in 2010. The right-handed pitcher was selected with the 18th Overall pick in the 1996 draft by the Texas Rangers, but never quite lived up to the expectations of a first round draft choice. After consecutive underwhelming seasons in the minors, Dickey finally got the call at age 26 to pitch for the Rangers in 2001. He didn’t get a “full” cup of coffee, however, until 2003, when he posted a 5.09 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 9 Wins, and a 2.47 K/BB in 116.6 IP. Despite the relatively solid season, Dickey couldn’t build on it, which lead to trips to the bullpen, minors, and other franchises.
The frustrated pitcher decided that if he didn’t adopt a new approach, he’d have to call it a career–thus, the knuckleball. While Dickey started developing the knuckleball in his early 30′s, he didn’t use it exclusively until Spring Training for the Mets in 2010. Since R.A. was a former fastball pitcher, his knuckleball has an unusually faster speed than past knuckleballers–like Time Wakefield, for instance. In fact, Dickey’s knuckleball is a full 10 mph faster than Wakefield’s.
At age 35, Dickey posted–by far–his most successful season in 2010, all thanks to the spinless pitch. The newfound knuckballer pitched to the tune of 2.84 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 2.48 K/BB, and 11 Wins in 174.3 IP. Even though it’s natural to assume Dickey’s 2010 season was a fluke, he actually might be one of those unique cases who continues to succeed. When evaluating Dickey, one has to almost throw-out his past statistics since his knuckleball era started just last season. His amazing 2.2 BB/9 IP also illustrates his ability to control the knuckleball, a skill many short-lived knuckleballers have lacked in the past. On the surface, giving a two-year extension to a now 36 year-old appears to have “bad idea” written all over it, but knuckleballers tend to stick around for longer that regular pitchers (for instance, Tim Wakefield is 43 and Phil Niekro was 48 when he retired). Having Dickey in the fold gives the Mets a solid option every fifth day–an asset they will need come 2011.
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