RA Dickey and his gut punching Home Runs

There’s no question RA Dickey has been a disappointment this year. His 4.90 FIP, decrease in strike outs and increase in walks have led to a really poor season for the Blue Jay knuckleballer.

Really, the only bright spot is that he, along with Mark Buerhle, are the only two starters to not miss time. Though, with the way he’s played, that might not be a bright spot.

What concerns me the most is the number of home runs he’s given up. Brian Dozier’s three-run shot against him on Saturday was the 19th he’s given up this year. The last three years he’s given up 24, 18, and 13 home runs respectively.

He also seems to give up homers that just punch fans right in the gut. Saturday’s home run effectively ended the game. Imagine he manages to get out of the inning scoreless. Seven innings, three runs and the offence has a legit chance to come back only down 3-0. Looks good. And it also looks like Dickey is continuing to return to form. Instead, he leaves after seven, down 6-0, with a line that looks pretty bad.

Two starts ago he gave up three home runs. The first, a second inning JJ Hardy solo shot, with two out cut an early Jays lead in half. Get the first two out and you’re into the bottom of the order, you don’t expect to give up runs that inning. The second long ball was even worse: a three-run shot by Lou Gehrig Chris Davis that put the O’s ahead and increased their chances of wnning by 36 per cent. The third, a seventh-inning leadoff shot by eighth batter Ryan Flaherty, just to twist the knife.

Against Chicago in June, a nine-pitch battle with Adam Dunn ended with a homer. That sucked but wasn’t nearly as gut punching as his later battle with the guy who doesn’t like baseball. A three-run shot in the fourth increased the White Sox’s chances of winning by 33 per cent.

There were some other anecdotal examples, just check out the Baseball Reference HR log for the Dickster. It’s tough to really say anything about it, giving up home runs are rarely a good thing. But it seems like Dickey always throws that one pitch that leaves the fan base groaning. I’ve watched most of his starts and there’s been games where he looks good, and all of a sudden it’s all gone.

It could be life with a knuckleballer. I fully expect his strike out and walk numbers to improve. In fact his walk rate has been steadily improving. What I’m worried about are the home runs. In spacious Citi Field maybe a lot of those flat knucklers stayed in the park and went for an out. In many AL East parks, that’s not the case. Could the combination of the DH, smaller parks and an overall better power hitting league be causing the increased home runs?

Dickey’s going to have to figure out how to limit the home runs if he wants to get back to his 2010-2012 form.

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