“And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain…” Yes folks, we’ve come to our final day of our Year in Review series on Rising Apple. I’ll give you half a shake to figure out which two players we have saved for last…as if you even needed that long. Let’s start with a potential Cy Young winner.
How He Did on the Mound
After an offseason in which he reached the summit of a major mountain and the bestseller list, R.A. Dickey reached the peak of major pitching categories in the National League. He led the league in strikeouts (230), innings pitched (233.2), complete games (5), and shutouts (3). He also led the league in the still-unofficial quality starts category, with 27 of his 33 starts earning the QS distinction (his QS% of 82 percent was also tops). He finished second in wins (20) and ERA (2.73), and third in WHIP (1.053). His 20-6 record gave him just the sixth 20-win season in New York Mets history. In June he threw consecutive one-hitters against two of the best teams in the American League East (Tampa Bay, Baltimore), putting a face on a month in which he would end up 5-0 with a 0.93 ERA. He was selected to the first All-Star Game of his career as a 37-year-old and became the “people’s pitcher” when he was passed over for the starting nod. And he did all this thanks to a knuckleball style that no one had ever seen before: hot knucklers, slow knucklers, knucklers that climbed on rocks (or at least to the top of the strike zone). Simply put, the man was R.A. Dickey-lous (excuse the often-used pun), and although he’s got some stiff competition from Clayton Kershaw and Gio Gonzalez, he may cap his best baseball year ever with the award named for one of the best pitchers ever.
Areas to Improve Upon
The only sore thumb in Dickey’s otherwise sterling record is home runs allowed. R.A. served up 24 long balls in 2012, just outside of top ten in the league. This is understandable: while a good knuckleball is darn near impossible to hit, a bad knuckleball can be hit by anyone. Every pitcher throws a bad pitch every once in a while; the trouble is that Dickey’s bad ones are basically batting practice tosses for major league hitters. The only thing I can say to R.A. is don’t let that number increase in 2013 and the good will continue to outweigh the bad.
Projected Role in 2013
Should Dickey stay with the team, he will start 2013 in uncharted waters: Opening Day starter and definitive ace of the staff. And knowing that the knuckleball gives new life to older pitchers, there’s a chance Dickey becomes a cornerstone of the rotation for five more years.
Contract Status and Trade Rumors
If you’re a Mets fan you probably already know the numbers: R.A. just completed a two-year, $7.8 million contract, and will have $5 million coming his way if the team exercises his one-year option. Sandy Alderson is expected to meet with Dickey’s handlers and discuss a contract extension. Dickey is reported to pursue a three-year, $40 million deal, similar to the deal Oliver Perez signed before the 2009 campaign (clearly the Mets would be getting a better pitcher for the price). The Mets are weary of the wear on Dickey’s body (he does throw a harder knuckler than anyone ever has, after all), and are expected to start at two years with an option for a third, as well as lot less money. The two most likely scenarios are as follows: one, Dickey signs the extension and everyone goes home happy. Two, the two sides are unable to meet during the offseason, and Dickey is traded before Spring Training, likely bringing a few top-level prospects back to New York.
While Mets fans may cringe at the very thought, I must assume the role of calm flight attendant and ask you not to panic. It’s early. It’s very early. The plane hasn’t even left the tarmac yet, people! We’re still in the middle of the World Series and the Cy Young Award hasn’t been handed out yet. There are months left to get a deal done before we should start talking seriously about Dickey being moved. And for those of you worried because the two sides are “so far apart,” that’s how contract negotiations work! One side bids high, the other bids low, and they come together in the end. The Mets are such a dysfunctional franchise that perhaps we’ve all forgotten that severe animosity between the two sides is not the norm. In all likelihood, R.A. wants to stay loyal to the team that gave him his big break, and the Mets want to keep one of their most popular players on roster till the end of his career. So don’t dig too deeply into these early reports; the odds are still in favor of an extended R.A. Dickey starting the 2013 season as the New York Mets’ Opening Day starter.
Rising Apple’s Year in Review series concludes this afternoon when Sam Maxwell critique’s David Wright’s season that was. After that, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t…aw heck, you can stick around! We’ve still got plenty more stuff for you to read.