Last night’s rain out means that today could be R.A. Dickey‘s final start of the 2011 season. In what has been a disappointing year, Dickey has once again been one of the more consistent players on the field. Although he got off to a rough start and suffered a torn plantar fascia, the knuckleballer has seemed to prove that last year was no fluke.
At the beginning of the season, however, it seemed as if Dickey had regressed from his surprise 2010 campaign. After a great first start of the year in Florida (6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K), Dickey struggled over his next eight outings (one of which was in relief), allowing 29 earned runs on 59 hits and 15 walks with only 21 strikeouts over 45.1 innings. He then turned in a solid outing against the Yankees at the Stadium before tearing his plantar fascia in the following start against the Cubs. Oddly enough, since that time, Dickey has been great.
In the 21 starts (141.2 innings) Dickey has made since suffering the injury, he owns a 2.86 ERA, 1.125 WHIP and a 2.97 K/BB. During that time, he’s also gone only fewer than five innings just twice and pitched at least seven innings a total of thirteen times. This string of solid starts has pushed Dickey’s cumulative stats closer to where they were in 2010; R.A. now owns a 3.35 ERA (3.95 xFIP, 3.87 SIERA), 1.250 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 5.8 K/9 and 2.45 K/BB. When comparing to his 2010 line (2.84 ERA [3.75 x FIP, 3.92 SIERA], 1.187 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, 5.4 K/9 and 2.48 K/BB), most of the stats are very similar, with the only major difference being his ERA (although his xFIP and SIERA are very close from year to year, indicating that the lower ERA in 2010 may have been a little lucky).
Dickey’s success, and his ability to make adjustments after his less than stellar start to the season, bodes well for the Mets over the next couple of seasons. Not only do the Mets have the knuckleballer under contract for 2012 at the reasonable sum of $4.75 million (including the portion of his bonus allocated to 2012), but the team also holds a $5 million option for 2013. Knuckleball pitchers can be inconsistent, but if Dickey puts together a strong 2012 season, it would be foolish not to pickup his option for 2013 (as a comparison, Mike Pelfrey will likely earn at least $5 million next season through arbitration, and he has never put together back-to-back solid seasons).
Those are the tangibles, but Dickey brings a lot of intangibles to the table as well. On the field, he is competitive and nobody ever questions his work ethic or desire to win. And while pitching through his injury isn’t exactly like Willis R walking onto the court in the NBA finals, but it was pretty gutsy and has helped embellish Dickey’s folk hero status among Mets fans. Off the field, he has done just as much to endure himself to fans and enhance his reputation as an interesting character and all-around good guy. He showed up to Spring Training via bicyle, is in the process of writing an autobiography and he plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for charity. Dickey even helped create his own shirt with The7Line, depicting himself as Darth Dickey. What more can the man do.
Dickey’s success in 2010 was a surprise, and his continued success in 2011 was probably a surprise to some. However, going into 2012, Dickey will be expected to bring the same consistency that he has exhibited for the great portion of 2011. While not an ace, Dickey can bring stability to the rotation and serve as an elder statesman of sorts to the pitching staff.
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