Time to continue the analysis of the Mets 2011 rotation with a discussion on one of my personal favorites: RA Dickey.
Dickey’s story is a good one. He came up as a conventional pitcher with the Rangers in 2001 (remember this!). With mediocre numbers, he converted completely to knuckle balling in 2005. He bounced around between the Brewers, Mariners, and Twins, until finally he landed with the Mets when he signed a $600K minor league deal with the potential for $150K in incentives.
RA Dickey a conventional pitcher? Believe it or not he was at one point. He was on the 1996 US Olympic team that won bronze, and was subsequently drafted in the first round by the Texas Rangers. He was close to signing when a Rangers doctor noticed something awkward about his arm in a picture of the US Olympic team. Closer observation revealed the Dickey DID NOT HAVE an Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his elbow. That’s right folks, Dickey was born without the ligament that is replaced in Tommy John surgery. This knowledge really derailed Dickey’s career as a fireballer. Afraid to injure his arm, he didn’t throw hard and developed a weird pitch the Rangers called ‘The Thing’. He didn’t tell them it was a Knuckle Ball. With no success with his reduced velocity conventional pitches, he converted to knuckle-balling full time.
Well, now that I’ve rambled about his story enough, let us take a look at his stats. Dickey pitched to a 2.84 ERA in 2010. That number is superb, elite even, but it’s also near impossible to maintain. His regression may not be too extreme though, as his FIP sits at 3.65 and his xFIP at 3.88. Granted, that’s a full run worse, but the Mets defense shouldn’t be too much worse in 2010 aside from 2B (assuming Murph starts, but that’s another post). His K/9 is a mediocre 5.39, but that’s to be expected from a knuckle-baller. Also to be expected is a high BB/9 and a lot of wild pitches, but Dickey doesn’t have that. His BB/9 is an excellent 2.17, and he has only 11 wild pitches and 4 hit batters in 174.1 innings.
To really analyze Dickey, I think we have to go beyond the stats. Dickey has never pitched this many innings exclusively as a starter (aside from one relief appearance). Between the Majors and Minors, Dickey threw over 230 innings in 2010. Because of this, it’s hard to compare his BABIP and other stats to his career norms, and some level of personal intuition has to come into play. Bill James at FanGraphs has him regressing all the way to a 4.44 ERA. I personally, don’t agree with that projection. But I’m also not foolish enough to believe he’ll maintain his 2.84 ERA. My guess is that Dickey’s ERA will be in the mid to low 3’s with similar K and BB rates. I think that Dickey has really broken out, and that he can be a consistently decent starter.
Next up, the overpaid and oft injured Johan Santana.