R.A. Dickey Goes For 20 in Final Home Game of 2012

By Matt Musico

One of the few constants throughout this season for the Mets has been knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. When he was busy cruising through the first half to the tune of his 12-1 record, 2.40 ERA, and 0.93 WHIP, most analysts felt that once he was done enjoying his first-ever All-Star game appearance, he wouldn’t be keep performing at that obscene level. Well, they were right, but throughout a time when the offense has basically disappeared, he’s still been able to amass a 7-5 record, 2.97 ERA, and 1.17 WHIP to keep himself in the conversation for NL Cy Young.

There will be plenty of debate as to whether he should be winning the Cy Young award come November. Going into his 32nd start of the season, Dickey may be looking up to Gio Gonzalez in the wins department, who just registered his 20th victory over the weekend, but he leads the league in innings pitched (220), strikeouts (209), and ERA (2.66). Also, his 1.o4 WHIP is second in the NL to Clayton Kershaw‘s 1.02 mark.

Sep 22, 2012; Flushing, NY,USA; New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) reacts to his out during the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PREWIRE

How has he had such tremendous success this season, with the most unpredictable pitch in the history of the game? He’s shown amazing control with it, sporting a 2.13 BB/9IP ratio, which is the lowest it’s been in his MLB career. Meanwhile, his K/9IP has increased drastically to 8.55, by far the highest it’s ever been. A great way to gauge the effectiveness of the pitch is to look at how often opponents are swinging at it, compared to putting it in play.

Last season, opposing hitters swung at Dickey’s pitches out of the strike zone 29% of the time, while putting the ball in play at a rate of 74.9%; pitches thrown in the strike zone were swung at a 65.1% rate, and were put in play 83.4% of the time. Overall, they swung at 48.2% of the pitches thrown by Dickey. In 2012, each of these ratios have changed drastically, all in the favor of the knuckleballer. Swings out of the strike zone increased to 34%, while contact has dropped to 68%. Swings in the strike zone increased slightly to 66.4%, but contact decreased big time to 78.9%. Also, his swinging strike percentage rose from 7.8% to 12% from ’11 to ’12. In essence, the knuckleball is dancing like it’s never danced before.

That’s quite a bit of numbers and percentages thrown at you, but it’s clear to see exactly why Dickey has experienced so much success this season. With this being his fifth year of being a full-time knuckleballer, he’s just entering his prime, even though he’s 37 years old. As Dickey has said on many occasions, he’s only 27 in knuckleball years. Although this pitch can be highly volatile and unpredictable, he’s shown that with the right amount of concentration and confidence in it, there can be some sort of consistency with it.

Either way, Thursday will be a an exciting afternoon at Citi Field, despite it being the end of a what has become a disappointing season. There have been few things to cheer about lately, yet Dickey’s pursuit of 20 wins and a Cy Young has given fans a reason to watch games on TV and come to the ballpark when he takes the mound. Why else would Collins move his weekend start up a day to give him an additional start in front of the home crowd? After watching this team suffer, watching Dickey possibly reach a milestone is the perfect way to finish the home schedule. Who else has a better chance of ending things on a high note in Flushing but their most consistent pitcher all season, Mr. Robert Allen Dickey? No one.