2010 Analysis: R.A. Dickey

What is there to say? R.A. Dickey was the Mets’ MVP – “no question”, as Jerry Manuel might say. Without Dickey’s 11 wins and 175 IP, the Mets are battling the Washington Nationals to stay out of the NL East cellar, rather than staying neck-and-neck with the third-place Marlins.

Dickey’s season was so magical it seemed to have been scripted; surely, the Disney execs are working on a movie based on it right now. The million-dollar question is, naturally, can he do it again? Or, will he run out of hair tonic?

2011 Projection

On the one hand, the performance came out of nowhere, and was a complete transgression from what Dickey has done in his other seven seasons in MLB. On the other hand, he’s only been throwing the knuckler since 2005 – a pitch that takes a long, long time to perfect. It can be argued that Dickey has finally “figured out” the pitch, and may ACTUALLY GET BETTER as a result. A cursory look at his minor-league and MLB stats suggest there is something supporting that theory – particularly his walk rates, which have reduced by one-half. Indeed, R.A.’s ability to stay around the plate was remarkable for a knuckleball pitcher – or ANY pitcher, for that matter. Dickey walked only 2.2 batters per 9 innings in 2010, a full walk below the NL average. Compare that to HOF knuckleballer Phil Niekro’s career average of 3.0, or Tim Wakefield’s 3.4.

Dickey’s success is of course directly tied to the knuckleball – a pitch whose course changes rapidly depending on the air currents. Which way the wind will blow in 2011 and beyond for R.A. and his knuckler is anyone’s guess. With Johan Santana likely out for the year, the Mets have no choice but to bet that the winds don’t change for Dickey. Let’s hope this feel-good story never ends.


Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Mike October 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm
    I believe it is Ron Neyer over at ESPN (leader of your blog network, I think) who talked about how there has always been a good knuckle ball pitcher every season since the 40s. Most years dominated by one guy on a long string of success, with the occasional year where no big name knuckler (Wakefield, Niekro) was good. The question becomes is Dickey the next great one to string together many consecutive years of service or was he just one of those one year wonders. I believe he thought Dickey was going to be good for a while.

    I could be wrong about who wrote that, and I cannot find it anywhere.

    • Rob October 26, 2010 at 4:33 pm
      You are correct. Rob Neyer did a terrific sweet spot blog that reviewed the string of knuckleballers and how Dickey promises to be the next great one. Hope for Mets fans….
  2. wohjr October 26, 2010 at 5:19 pm
    2 yrs/$9 mil?
  3. CatchDog October 28, 2010 at 8:26 am
    Great post, Joe. Couldn’t agree more with your analysis and conclusion. RAD with his spiffy 2.84 ERA could very well be our opening day pitcher in 2011. I’d buy a ticket to that game…