Was there a more surprising 2010 performance than R.A. Dickey’s?  Signed as a minor league free agent, he didn’t open the year in the Mets rotation.  By year’s end, however, he had entrenched himself as their most dependable starter.

In knuckleball years, he’s considered a young pup at 35 years old; Dickey is still honing his craft.  Remember, while he was terrible in prior Major League stints, it wasn’t until around 2006 that he made the transition to knuckleball pitcher.  Yes, he continued to have problems, but he was still learning.  He was still developing the pitch as his own.

This year, it all came together for him.  Joining the Mets rotation in late May, he posted the following line:

11 Wins
173.1 Innings
2.86 ERA
1.19 WHIP
103 Strikeouts (5.35 K/9)
41 Walks (2.13 BB/9)
.283 BABIP

Aren’t knuckleballers supposed to struggle with their control?  Dickey walked seven batters in his first two starts as a Met (four in one and three in the other).  Over his final 24 starts he walked more than two batters just twice (again, never more than four).


That just goes against everything we know about knuckleball pitchers, isn’t it?  Maybe it’s the fact that he throws a harder knuckler, allowing him to control it a little bit more.  Interestingly enough, Tim Wakefield posted a BB/9 of 2.2 this season (entering his final start) and hasn’t been higher than 3.47 since 2001 (he posted a 3.90 that year).

Maybe this whole notion of control problems for knuckleball pitchers is ill conceived.

Still, the number is awfully impressive no matter what the type of pitcher he is.  Is it repeatable?  His minor league career mark is at 2.89 and his Major League mark (prior to 2010) was 3.60.  That certainly takes some lean years into account, so while there may be a slight regression there is certainly reason to believe that he can continue to control the strike zone.

Couple that with a believable BABIP, and you are looking at a pitcher who should continue to post a usable WHIP.

The strand rate, also believable at 77.2 percent, helps lead us to believe that the ERA is repeatable.

Of course, he posted a career-low fly ball rate (27.8 percent) and a career-high groundball rate (55.3 percent), which certainly helped him post strong numbers, especially given the ballpark he pitched in.  At Citi Field he posted a 2.02 ERA over 80.1 innings (on the road he still had a respectable 3.58 ERA over 93.0 innings).


This is where a little discretion needs to be factored in.  Do we believe that he has gotten to the point where he has mastered the knuckleball, making these peripheral numbers believable?  It’s impossible to answer, but there certainly is reason to believe that he’s going to regress, at least a little bit.

That’s not to say that he’s going to post a 4.00+ ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but I don’t think it would be a stretch to expect an ERA more in the 3.25-3.50 range and WHIP in the 1.25 range.

Couple that with a lack of strikeouts and you are looking at a pitcher to fill out your fantasy rotation, not one to anchor it in 2011.

What are your thoughts on Dickey?  Is his 2010 to be believed or do you see a regression coming?

Make sure to check out our 2011 projections:


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