By now, you’ve probably heard about the dominant stretch R.A. Dickey has put together over his last few starts. He’s thrown back-to-back 1 hitters, and here’s his stat line from those two games combined: 18 IP, 1 R (unearned), 2 H, 2 BB, 25 K. In particular, look at that K/BB ratio. From a knuckleballer! Now how about his last 6 starts?: 48.2 IP, 21 H, 2 R (1 ER), 5 BB, 63 K, 3 complete games.
As a Twins fan, it may be a bit bittersweet to see this from Dickey, because he was actually a Twin the year prior to joining the New York Mets. But, if you do a little fact-checking, you’ll see that the Twins actually had the dominant Dickey for part of his single season in Minnesota.
Back when the Twins chose to release Dickey, he left with a 4.62 ERA, .286 batting average allowed, and a below-average 5.88 K/9 and 4.20 BB/9. However, I found that Dickey had a string of great outings for the Twins, and the rest of his season was quite poor. Back in Nov. 2009, I wrote about this and found that from May 1 to July 1, Dickey had the following line*: 33.2 IP, 1.34 ERA, 27 H, 11 BB, 24 K. For the remainder of the season, this is what he had: 29.2 IP, 8.49 ERA, 49 H, 19 BB, 18 K
* In my 2009 blog post, it appears as though I credited Dickey with an additional inning, so this is why my numbers now and then do not match up for IP and ERA.
While the numbers aren’t quite the same as what Dickey is doing now in New York, it does illustrate that for a time, he seemed to have figured out the knuckleball, and that for several months, Twins fans were treated to a similar R.A. Dickey as what Mets fans (and baseball fans in general) are seeing now.
I will have to correct something I said in my post from a couple years ago, though. I had originally said that I thought in order for Dickey to have more success, he’d have to throw the knuckler slower. Well, I guess I was wrong, as Dickey’s gone and thrown his knuckler at whatever speed he chooses. He’s averaging about 77 MPH on it (about 2 MPH harder than when he was with the Twins), but he can dial it up to 81 and will throw it in the 60s as well. In that is likely what has aided his success. While he’s throwing nearly 90% knuckleballs and 10% fastballs, his ability to change speeds with the knuckler makes it seem like he’s actually a 4-pitch pitcher.*
* Plus, I recall Dickey often throwing a knuckler that moved like a slider with the Twins, and there are some people on FanGraphs that claim that he’s learned how to throw a knuckleball that “rises,” or perhaps more accurately, doesn’t drop as much as a spinless ball normally would.
I’m not bitter that Dickey’s enjoyed this level of success after leaving the Twins. Honestly, with only being good for half a season, releasing him seemed like a solid decision. I’m just content to just sit back and watch Dickey keep floating his butterfly ball past hitters.