Breaking Down RA Dickey’s Velocity & Strikeouts

Most people know RA Dickey won the 2012 NL Cy Young award for the New York Mets last season but most forget he was also one of the more consistent starting pitchers in baseball for the past three seasons. 

Let’s examine that today and see if he can sustain his success in the AL East.

R.A. Dickey IP ERA xFIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 HR/FB BABIP WAR
2010 174.1 2.84 3.75 5.37 2.17 0.67 8.5% .276 2.8
2011 208.2 3.28 3.95 5.78 2.33 0.78 8.3% .275 2.5
2012 233.2 2.73 3.27 8.86 2.08 0.92 11.3% .275 4.6

 As you can see Dickey has been a model of consistency three years running.  His K/9 definitely spiked in 2012 and is the only red flag I see in terms of possible regression.  Bill James projects 226 IPs in 2013 and a 6.05 K/9 as well as a 3.76 FIP – for the New York Mets in the NL East.

There has been a lot of talk that his increased strikeout rate is directly related to him starting to throw the knuckleball with more velocity.  Let’s check that out in terms of percentage of time the pitch was thrown and velocity in brackets (MPH).

RA Dickey Knuckleball Fastball Changeup
2010 83.8% (75.9) 16.2% (83.9) n/a
2011 75.3% (76.1) 22.4% (84.4) 2.3% (74.8)
2012 85.4% (77.1) 14.0% (83.4) 0.6% (75.3)

 So the average velocity of the knuckleball has steadily increased over the past three years.  I am not sure any data exists that can state with any certainty that one MPH increase in a knuckleball velocity is worth X amount of runs but he has thrown it a tad harder.  Is one MPH enough to justify such a massive increase in strikeouts (over 3 more strikeouts per 9 innings)?

Dickey relies heavily on his knuckleball and why not the pitch was worth 0.96 runs per 100 pitches thrown while his fastball was worth 1.56 runs.  The fastball is worth so much due hitters being completely thrown off given the propensity of Dickey to throw his knuckleball over 80% of the time.

Let’s see if we can pick up any red flags in his plate discipline stats:

RA Dickey O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% F-Strike% SwStrk%
2010 29.4 66.0 48.8 69.8 86.8 82.0 59.3 8.4
2011 29.0 65.1 48.2 74.9 86.8 83.4 63.1 7.8
2012 34.0 66.4 50.6 68.2 78.9 75.4 62.2 12.2

 A huge increase in swinging strike percentage (4.4% better) certainly helped with the strikeout rates and overall contact against Dickey was way down, whether in the zone or otherwise.  Overall Dickey managed to miss a lot more bats in 2012, hopefully for the Blue Jays sake he can keep this gravy train rolling.

Moving to a home park like Rogers Centre which is definitely a better hitters park than Citi Field in New York won’t help and the offensive lineups he will face will also be slightly better in the AL East.  If he returns to his career norms in terms of contact percentages there is no doubt he will regress next season.  This will be something to keep an eye on going forward.

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38 Responses to “Breaking Down RA Dickey’s Velocity & Strikeouts”


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  31. 32 Wes Kepstro December 16, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Good insights. Is it repeatable? Doubtful, but at 80% of his 2012 form, he makes the rotation dangerous.

    Anyways, TOR’s defense is better than NY’s, which works in RAD’s favour. Essentially, he did what he did over the last three seasons with a poor fielding team. A better-fielding Jays team should help to even out some of the disparity between the AL East/NL East, and the park factor. In that vein, I’d like Rajai to become a $3MM pinch runner/cheerleader. Tell him to leave his glove in Connecticut…

    • 33 @ALEastbound December 17, 2012 at 10:41 am

      Agreed, plus Dickey won’t be paid like a Cy Young winner, just a solid #2 starter. The rotation is setting up very nicely and also diverse. Morrow/Johnson offer the power fastball/slider combo, Dickey the nasty knuckler while Romero and Buerhle attack in a different manner as southpaws.


  1. 1 douglas pitassi Trackback on September 23, 2014 at 8:56 am
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