Apparently every three weeks or so I post to defend the Blue Jays’ knuckleballer.
Looking back on my last defence, it kind of sucked. I’m hoping this one is better. Because while I don’t think he’ll ever be the Cy Young calibre pitcher many expected, I think he’s actually done alright, all things considered.
For one, he and Mark Buehrle are the only starters to actually make all their starts. That, in the scope of the 2013 Jays season, is an absolute bloody miracle. So, yay for that, or something.
Second, though, and possibly more important, is the fact that since June 1, he’s been pretty decent. Since his first start in June, the Dickster has put up an ERA of 3.75, struck out 6.9 per nine innings and most importantly, walked 2.43 per nine.
The homeruns are still an issue, down slightly from 1.45 in the first two months to 1.32 hr/9 since, but the walks are the big thing. From the start of the season until June 1 he was walking 3.86 per nine innings. And as mentioned, since that time he’s walking 2.43 per nine.
I think a lot of it had to do with the injury, there were reports he was dealing with back and neck injuries early on and whenever you’re tight in those areas you’re going to lose command. There was often the talk about the loss of velocity, and while it was a problem, to me the lack of command was always a bigger problem. You can have a successful knuckleball at 65 mph. Sure, the 77-80 mph knuckler adds a dimension that turns him into an upper echelon pitcher. But the walks were what was ultimately holding him back.
I think everyone accepted that homeruns were going to be an issue. And while it’s been worse than I expected, I think there is still room for some improvement. I believe it was on one of the telecasts recently that Dickey said he’s realized the high knuckler needs to be used sparingly in the AL East, with all the small parks. If he learns how to pitch in the AL East, as it appears he might be, that along with the improved command should lead to better things in 2014.
Finally, I think John Gibbons is also learning how to use the pitcher, namely to have a relatively quick hook. You can look at it any way you want, towards the end of the game things can get dicey. Throughout the season it’s felt like there’s always that one gut punch at the end of the game that just ruins what would have otherwise been a fine outing, and the stats bear that out.
Innings 7-9 batters have an OPS of .877 against him, including a .566 slugging percentage. Those numbers a .721 and .409 before the seventh, respectively.
Each time batters get up against Dickey in a game their numbers escalate, to a .791 OPS the third time up, as opposed to a .705 in the first go around.
Pitches 76-100 see batters hitting a robust .897 of Dickey.
When he’s on, he’s on. If the knuckler’s really fluttering sure let him go. But when he’s just got his normal stuff I think Gibbons should, and is beginning to, just focus on getting him through the order three times and going to the pen.
The heat on Dickey from the fan base and media seems to have calmed down a bit. Everyone seems to accept he’s an ok number three. I think there’s more there. I think he’s got what it takes to be a really solid number three or even an above average to good number two. But keeping the walks down is going to be the key.