What to Do With R.A. Dickey


To put it simply, R.A. Dickey is not pitching well. Including his most recent, horrendous outing against the Houston Astros, Dickey has posted a dismal 5.08 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, and 1.55 K/BB (as well as five losses) in 2011. This is all particularly troubling since the bearded hurler was so electric last season, and signed a two-year extension because of it.

The knuckleballer enjoyed a career-year in 2010, posting 11 wins with a 2.84 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 2.48 K/BB. Usually when a player sports his best numbers by a wide margin at age 35, it has fluke written all over it. But since it was the first season Dickey exclusively threw a knuckleball, many people weren’t as hasty with the “f-word.” However, many of those people–including myself–are eating some crow right about now. Given his complete lack of command and extreme hittability, fans are starting to wonder what the Mets should do with R.A. Dickey.

The good news is that the Mets only signed Dickey to a two-year, $7.8 million contract. So it’s not as if they owe fifty-plus million dollars to a complete question mark (i.e. Johan Santana). Also, despite his less-than-mediocre start to 2011, Dickey’s 0.2 WAR translates to $.9 million earned, which is already 40% of the salary he’s due to make this season ($2.25 million). Considering he was worth $11.4 million in 2010, the Mets aren’t exactly in the hole.

However, the most troubling aspect of Dickey’s 2011 season has been his knuckleball. According to FanGraphs, his knuckleball is worth a horrific -1.14 runs below average (the league-average is 0.00).  While most pitchers with multi-pitch arsenals can negate a negative pitch value with other, better pitches, Dickey is unfortunately a one-trick pony. For comparison sake, Dickey’s knuckler was worth a respectable 0.73 runs above average. As you can see, there is quite a large disparity between his two seasons as an exclusive knuckleball pitcher.

The combination of Dickey’s regression in control (from 2.2 BB/9 to 3.5 BB/9) as well as his inflated hittability (from 8.5 H/9 to 10.4 H/9) has obviously had an enormous affect on his overall production and performance. Granted, it’s been just eight starts, but in retrospect, it might have been a tad unfair to assume Dickey would duplicate his 2010 masterpiece. Since there have been very few knuckleballers in baseball history who have been successful for long periods of time (most recently, just Tim Wakefield), it’s very possible Mets fans are finally seeing the real R.A. Dickey.

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