Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey hasn’t been all that bad this season, despite his current 4.72 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. While those numbers are drastically different from his 2.73 ERA and 1.05 WHIP from his 2012 NL Cy Young season, one needs to look a bit deeper into the statistics to see that Dickey is getting better.
In six of Dickey’s 17 starts, he has allowed five or more runs (he only did this five times in 33 starts in 2012). In three of his 17 starts, he has failed to go six innings (he only did this twice in 2012). If you take away his “not good” six starts, Dickey has a 2.18 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP over 74.1 innings, but how will he find consistency in the pitcher-unfriendly AL East?
Unfortunately, there aren’t really any relationships between how frequently or with what velocity Dickey is throwing his fastball and knuckleball and his success. When considering the teams that have gotten to him (Boston, Seattle, Baltimore twice, Atlanta, and the Chicago White Sox), four of the six games seem excusable, but Seattle and Chicago are pretty brutal. Considering that PitchF/X only shows that Dickey has thrown a changeup in eight starts and in three of those starts, Dickey has been shelled.
Perhaps Dickey is only going to thrive by being a two-pitch guy. Perhaps it is the nature of the beast when it comes to the inconsistency of the knuckleball itself. After all, how many knuckleballers have one Cy Young awards besides Dickey? That would be zero. In fact, Joe Niekro is the only other knuckleballer, besides Dickey, to win a Sporting News Pitcher of the Year award and Phil Niekro is the only knuckleballer to win 300 games in baseball history.
R.A. Dickey hasn’t lost anything. He still throws the hard knuckleball and he still shows glimpses of his dominance, more often than not. There will always be outings when the opposition sits on the knuckleball and it isn’t floating right. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dickey’s ERA is closer to 3.40 than 4.00 at the end of the season. He has shown the last few seasons that he can be consistent. Besides, he’s the king: