A Season of Ups and Downs for R.A. Dickey

Courtesy of Yahoo/USA Today

One okay start, one bad start. A string of good starts, a string of bad starts. A couple of good starts, a couple of really, really bad starts. A good start, a bad start, a good start, a bad start, a phenomenal start.

If there’s one thing that’s been consistent about R.A. Dickey this season, it’s that he’s been consistently inconsistent.

It really has been a Jekyll and Hyde act; as one day Dickey looks like his 2012 self, and the next, it looks like he’s throwing batting practice to the competition. One game he’s hot, the next he’s cold … which is very apparent in his win/loss splits. 


in Wins 7 0 1.09 7 49.1 28 7 6 1 15 40 0.872 7.3 2.67
in Losses 0 8 8.18 8 47.1 61 45 43 13 19 28 1.690 5.3 1.47
in No Dec. 0 0 6.00 2 12.0 12 9 8 3 7 10 1.583 7.5 1.43

Including yesterday’s complete game shutout, R.A. Dickey has only really had four great starts on the season. Some have been okay, but the bulk of them have been for a lack of a better word … horrible.

Dickey has surrendered six or more earned runs in six of his 17 starts to date. Meanwhile, he’s only pitched into the eighth on three occasions. At this point last season, R.A. Dickey had gone seven innings or more eight times.

I realize comparing his Cy Young Award-winning season and 2013 is like apples and oranges, but is it fair to say that his 2013 season has been somewhat of a disappointment? Obviously a Cy Young Award season is a tough act to follow, but most expected him to be much better than this.

Believe it or not, R.A. Dickey threw the first complete game by a Blue Jays starting pitcher in over a year. Not since June 6th 2012, when Brandon Morrow went the distance … oddly enough, also on a two-hit complete game shutout. 

The part that has bothered me the most is the revolving door of excuses. When Dickey struggled in the early part of the season, first it was attributed to a sore back. Then once he strung together a couple of good starts, Dickey declared he was healthy again. And when things started to go south for a second time, that’s when the bad back excuse crept up again.

There’s no question there’s a lot of pride on the line here for R.A. Dickey. The Blue Jays seemingly moved heaven and earth to bring him to Toronto, and he wants to prove to the organization (and the fans) that he was worth it.

In doing so, that means he’s probably going to pitch through a nagging injury if the training staff allows it and that they deem it doesn’t warrant a DL stint.

While I respect that R.A. Dickey wants to play through the pain, I think it’s doing a disservice to this team if he’s not completely healthy. This isn’t like Josh Johnson playing with a blister on his finger; the knuckleball is a much different animal.

The knuckleball strikes me as the type of pitch where everything needs to be on point. Nothing can be out of sync, otherwise it throws the whole thing off. So if a nagging back injury is affecting the velocity of his knuckleball, that would be a contributing factor as to why Dickey has struggled thus far.


If R.A. Dickey isn’t performing at 100% with his knuckleball, the ill effects are much more apparent than the average fastball. As we’ve seen already this season, a few miles per hour decrease on Dickey’s knuckleball has lead to some disastrous results.

According to this fantastic piece by Dave Cameron at FanGraphs, Dickey’s knuckleball velocity reached 76.7 MPH in yesterday’s start; the fastest it’s been since Opening Day. It’s not quite at the 77.2 MPH average from last year, but it has been trending upwards his last four starts.

That’s why the Blue Jays are in somewhat of a tricky situation with R.A. Dickey, and to some effect, Melky Cabrera as well. If both of these guys are hurt, do the Blue Jays put them on the disabled list, or do they play through the injuries?

Obviously, losing a starter of Dickey’s calibre for a couple of weeks would be tough for the Blue Jays, but what would they rather have; 30 plus starts of a mediocre R.A. Dickey, or 25 or so starts of a really really good R.A. Dickey?

There’s no absolute guarantee that some time on the DL would guarantee a 2012-like resurgence for Dickey, but it couldn’t hurt, right? I’m no doctor, but wouldn’t you think if he continues to play through his back pain,  things could actually get worse before they get better?

With the All-Star break on the horizon, that will give R.A. Dickey some much-needed recuperation time. Because the R.A. Dickey I remember is much closer to this (yesterday’s strikeout of Evan Longoria… than this (a tape measure shot by Adam Dunn). 


Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.