2011 Season in Review: R.A. Dickey

By Unknown author

The New York Mets went 77-85 in 2011. As suggested by the sub-par record, there were a fair share of ups and downs throughout the season. “2011 Season in Review,” which will be an ongoing series, will analyze every single Mets player who picked up a ball or glove in 2011, for better or worse. This particular “2011 Season in Review” will take a look at starting pitcher, R.A. Dickey.

2010 was a breakout season for R.A. Dickey.  After years of bouncing around from team to team, Dickey finally found consistency in New York, thanks to his knuckleball.  The righty went 11-9 in 2010, with a 2.84 ERA (3.75 xFIP, 3.92 SIERA), 1.187 WHIP and 2.48 K/BB in 174.1 innings, leading to an fWAR of 2.8.  The following offseason, Dickey inked a two year contract worth $7.8 million with a $5 million option for 2013.  Could R.A. duplicate his success in 2011?

Dickey’s 2011 season wasn’t quite as strong as 2010, but he still was one of the most consistent members of the team’s pitching staff-quite a feat considering the knuckleball is typically an unpredictable pitch.  While not a dominant pitcher (his K/9 this past season was 5.8), Dickey always gave the Mets innings, averaging over six and one-third innings per start.  Unfortunately for R.A. he never got a lot of run support, with the offense averaging just 3.8 runs per game when Dickey took the mound.

The one rough patch Dickey encountered in 2011 was at the beginning of the season.  Over his first nine outings (including one relief appearance), Dickey allowed 29 earned runs on 64 hits and 18 walks in 51.1 innings, striking out 28.  Teams seemed to have “figured out” the knuckleball and batters were stringing together hits, often taking the ball back up the middle.

However, after a solid performance against the Yankees on May 20th (6 IP, ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 6 K), Dickey’s season began to fall in line.  For the remainder of the season, including this game, Dickey tossed 157.1 innings, allowing 47 earned runs on 138 hits and 36 walks, punching out 106 batters while seeing his ERA plummet.  On the season, Dickey finished with an 8-13 record, posting a 3.28 ERA (3.95 xFIP, 4.02 SIERA), 1.227 WHIP and 2.48 K/BB, accumulating an fWAR of 2.5.

Can Dickey sustain his success in 2012?  The fact that he’s pitched well in back-to-back seasons bodes well for the Mets, since knuckleballers, and pitchers in general, can fluctuate wildly from year to year.  Dickey has helped himself by not walking a lot of batters, sporing a BB/9 of 2.3 since joining the Amazins, and keeping the ball on the ground posting ground ball rate in 2011 of 50.8% (it was even better in 2010-55.1%).  He also has kept the ball in the yard, posting a 0.7 HR/9 rate over the past two years.  Dickey’s BABIP is has been on the lower side-.276 in 2010 and .278 in 2011-so whether number regresses in 2012 will have a lot to do with his success.

So far, the Mets have gotten a lot of value out of Dickey.  He’s given the team quality innings and typically kept them in games; in 60 starts as Met, Dickey has allowed six runs or more just five times, while never surrendering more than seven runs.  He won’t strike out a lot of batters, but he has the ability to limit the number of base runners and can pitch his way out of trouble by generating ground ball double plays.  Another strong season from Dickey should ensure that his 2013 option is picked up and that he remain in Queens even longer.