Back in mid-May when R.A. Dickey made his debut with the Mets, many fans didn’t know what to expect. Those who had heard of Dickey probably didn’t expect much, considering they were likely aware of the knuckleballer and his career ERA of 5.43.

With his unconventional style, Dickey has ended up turning the heads of Mets fans and baseball fans alike, as a part of the new look New York Mets rotation.

Following the Mets June 23 5-0 win over the Detroit Tigers, R.A. Dickey strutted some of his most dominant stuff in eight shutout innings and has undoubtedly garnered even more attention.

Dickey is producing big time numbers right now, but for an unorthodox pitcher who has never faced this kind of spotlight, questions will arise over his durability. In all honesty, how much longer will he be able to produce like this?

Following his conversion to the knuckleball, 2006 scouting reports were all over his back for inconsistent arm action and decaying movement throughout his starts. But over the last five years, he seems to have worked on it, and now it’s paying off. He has had a lot of time to put himself together and has worked out the serious kinks in his game.

Dickey’s numbers thus far in 2010 are unprecedented and record setting. Nobody could have expected the lighter throwing, 35 year-old knuckleball pitcher to go 6-0 in his first seven starts as a Met, while setting the franchise record for most wins without a loss upon joining the club.

His consistency start by start has been some of the best in the rotation. Six of his first seven starts have been good for quality starts. He’s struck out seven or more batters in a start three times and has put together a 2.33 ERA.

The 35 strikeouts he has amassed thus far are very uncharacteristic for a pitcher of his stature. His success can easily be attributed to his signature pitch, and his ability to mix it with some offspeed stuff and a fastball. His knuckleball, in the majority of his starts, has exhibited confounding movement that he has rarely shown off throughout his career.

His control and command have even been alarming, having walked only 14 in his first seven starts, good for a 1.29 WHIP. His pitching numbers have all been very impressive for his unpredictable style of pitching.

As erratic as knuckleball pitchers are, there is now way of knowing how deep into the season Dickey will continue to blow away oppositions. Luckily for him, the National League has lost touch with the knuckleball in general.

The NL hasn’t seen a legitimate knuckleballer on a regular basis since Dennis Springer for the Marlins in 1999, a season in which he tossed three complete games, two of them shutouts. Springer statistically had a mediocre season otherwise, but the bottom line is that the NL hasn’t had much experience against the unorthodox style of pitching.

We could see Dickey continue to take full-on advantage of a crowd of unprepared lineups that aren’t used to dealing with the movement that he is capable of. Looking back on Springer, he had his ups and downs in 1999, and Dickey probably has a rocky road ahead of him, especially when he is thrust into high pressure situations against division rivals like the Braves and Phillies.

Of course, he could even turn out to be no more than the 2010 version of Aaron Small, the right-hander that went 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA for the Yankees in 2005. But it is too early to worry about whether or not Dickey’s 2010 is a mirage or not. 

If Dickey can retain his movement on a start by start basis, his consistency could be present throughout the year. It does seem like a matter of time before he gets lit up and tagged with his first loss, but confusing opposing lineups has been effective thus far.

It is simply that because so few knuckleballers have success in the Majors, there will be concern over Dickey for the long haul, but for now the Mets must ride him while he’s hot.

All things considered, Dickey seems to have come a long way since his conversion to a knuckleballer in 2005, a transition that now seems to be complete. His reliability has definitely come out of the blue, but the problems that plagued his arm in the past just aren’t evident at the moment.

For Mets fans, and general baseball fans, it is tough to not root for a character like R.A. Dickey. He has the opportunity to continue with these dominant pitching performances, and if he proceeds to keep his cool in a very demanding Mets atmosphere, he’ll continue to be a fixture in this rotation with more favorable results ahead of him.

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