R.A. Dickey is having the most dominant season in baseball, and is the rightful starter in the upcoming All-Star game.
In fact, if Matt Cain were to be elected the starting pitcher for the National League team, it would be the biggest injustice in baseball since Pablo Sandoval was elected to start at third base over MVP candidate and New York Mets star David Wright. Wright, who’s hitting .353 with 11 home runs and a career best OPS of 1.012, is beating The Panda in every major categorical outlet (.314/7 HRs/0.867).
Wright has 4.9 wins above the replacement player—the most out of anyone in baseball not named Joey Votto, while Sandoval has earned only 1.4—comparable with New York Mets rookie outfielder Kirk Nieuwnheis (1.3 WAR, did not make All-Star ballot).
Wright’s 59 RBI dwarf the 28 runs that Sandoval has driven in, and Wright even led Sandoval by 460,000 votes the Tuesday before the ballots closed.
Yet, Sandoval finished with 1.6 million more votes than Wright when the polls closed, ensuring that he would start at the hot corner when the National League takes on the American League in Kansas City.
The fans got that one wrong, and one San Francisco player will be starting in the spot of a New York player. Thankfully, there’s room for redemption. Not so quietly, New York Mets staff ace R.A. Dickey has been dazzling fans all season long and has yet to hear whether or not he will get the starting nod by manager Tony La Russa in the upcoming All-Star game.
His primary competition is San Francisco Giants wiz and workhorse Matt Cain, who highlighted his season with a perfect game on June 13th. While he has had an undeniably awesome season by anyone’s definition of the word ‘awesome’, La Russa has an opportunity that the general public does not: settling the score.
While position players are (often obsoletely) decided by a fan vote, pitching decisions rest in the hands of an all-knowing skipper.
Matt Cain, wearing a throwback New York Giants jersey, is the biggest competition to New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
When put under the responsibility of La Russa, the decision is given the thankful elimination of fan bias and is replaced with baseball facts.
Some facts off the bat: Dickey is baseball’s best 12-1 on the season, sports a flashy 2.40 ERA, has an impressive K/9 rate of 9.23, has a WHIP of 0.93 and virtually never allows a batter on base as evidenced by his two consecutive one-hitters.
Cain is 9-3, has a 2.63 ERA, has a K/9 of 8.83, a WHIP of 0.96, and most importantly, he has no cute nickname for Sandy Alderson to make fun of. He’s also no more impressive than Dickey in any major indicating statistic. As inspiring and dominant as his perfect game was, that was a single day in his history. Dickey, on the other hand, continues to make history with every pitch—namely, his knuckleball.
His knuckleball is revolutionizing the game of baseball day in and day out, with every outing of his on the mound. With three different versions of the pitch, including the fastest and most accurate knuckleball in history, it’s a new beast from anything ever seen in baseball.
Tim Wakefield, for instance, was the most recent knuckleball pitcher in baseball. Like Dickey, who has thrown the pitch 86.2 percent of the time on the mound this year, Wakefield heavily relied on the pitch and threw it 84.3 percent of the time he threw a pitch.
Unlike Dickey, however, his pitch was inaccurate and he walked 3.36 batters per game, compared to the 1.95 Dickey has recorded this season. Wakefield was also not a strikeout pitcher, and recorded only 6.01 K/9 in his career. This season, Dickey has recorded 9.23 K/9 and fans 26.6 percent of the batters that he faces. In his career, Wakefield struck out only 15.5 percent.
With Wakefield’s retirement, Dickey is the only remaining knuckleball pitcher active in the MLB.
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The most perplexing statistic in Dickey’s favor as a knuckleball pitcher is the speed of his pitch. Dickey has somehow managed to throw his knuckleball at an average speed of 77.0 MPH this season, whereas Wakefield’s career average was only 65.8 MPH for the pitch.
“Boy, I’ll tell you, he’s on fire,” said Hall of Famer knuckleball pitcher Phil Niekro on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio. “He is the talk of baseball right now. The talk of sports. I’ve never seen a knuckleballer that has pitched as well as he has. I certainly haven’t done that and I don’t know of any other knuckleball pitcher that I’ve seen has done that. Everybody in baseball is talking about this guy.”
To make matters even more impressive, Dickey is the only remaining knuckleballer active in baseball, and he’s doing all of this at 37 years old, coming out of an offseason in which he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in an effort to raise money for child sex trafficking and in which he published an extraordinarily well-written New York Times Best Seller that he co-wrote with Wayne Coffey, entitled Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball—a memoir about his life and troubled childhood in which he was molested in separate incidents as a child.
Dickey, as we’ve all realized, has also done all of this phenomenal work without an ultra collateral ligament, the primary elbow stabilizer and critical for the profession of, say, a professional pitcher in Major League Baseball.
“I just try to be in the moment with every pitch, » says Dickey in an L.A. Times article, who’s hoping to hear if he will be selected to start in the All-Star game.
“Dickey could certainly start the game,” La Russa explained in a Yahoo Sports article. “He’s got the credentials. But I look at the starter types of the five guys that were selected and each of those guys can make a claim, so as a manager, you have to keep your heart pure and do the best you can for the team over one individual. »
R.A. Dickey, who is in the midst of his most impressive season and is hoping to earn the All-Star starting spot.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Other names still in the running for the starting spot include Matt Cain, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw, and arguably, even Philadelphia Phillies starter Cole Hamels.
But which catcher would be able to handle the knuckle ball?
« With Dickey, I’ve given that a lot of thought, » La Russa added in a Wall Street Journal article by Brian Costa. « There is an issue about catching him and what spot to use him. His season has gotten everybody’s attention, including our staff’s, and we’re talking about the best way to just win the game with the personnel—and how we use Dickey will be a part of that. »
According to CSN writer Andrew Baggarly, he’s not the only one concerned. “Buster Posey got the number for Mets catcher Josh Thole from Andres Torres. Hasn’t called yet to get advice about catching knuckler.”
« I would have no problem starting him, » added former pitching star John Smoltz. “Dickey has dominated a stretch of baseball we haven’t seen in a long time. »
And now that Dickey’s story has become one of the most talked about in recent baseball memory, fans have begun to hamper on a new question: should Dickey’s life be turned into a movie? If so, the baseball star would also become a Hollywood star; for a man who understands culture as deeply as anyone in the game, acting as a cultural icon of his own.
If he were neglected for the start, it would violate the very fundamentals of what the All-Star game is about: showcasing the top talent and most compelling players in the game. That’s exactly what R.A. Dickey has become.
Tony La Russa will decide which starting pitcher to throw first for the National League in the upcoming All Star.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Of course, Dickey has had help from his self-titled “Jedi Council of Knuckle Ballers”, including Phil Niekro (318 career wins) and Charlie Hough.
After not making his first All-Star appearance until 37, after spending 14 years in the minors and after not getting his first full season in the MLB until he was 36 years old, we have some context to proven that Dickey is here to stay. Niekro retired at 48. Charlie Hough retired at 46.
The All-Star game is not a popularity contest when it comes to pitching. It’s a matter of who’s the best pitcher in the game at the time. That is, without a doubt, R.A. Dickey. So if we’re going to pretend that the All-Star game means something, then let’s actually do it and get the right pitcher on the mound.
If Mets fans had any say in it, they’ll be sure to try to keep it that way for years to come. With the book published this year, with the offseason feats of climbing a mountain and with all of his accomplishments on the field, this is the time for R.A. Dickey to shine in his new role—an All-Star.
If he doesn’t get the start, it would and should be a criminal offense.