R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets celebrates after pitching a complete game one hitter against the Baltimore Orioles at CitiField in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. R.A. Dickey pitches a second consecutive one hitter, striking out a career-high 13 batters, as the Mets defeated the Orioles 4-0. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
15 Total Updates since June 13, 2012
11 months ago Article 13 comments
Even after R.A. Dickey ran into some problems Sunday night, he's still all plenty of people want to talk about. And there's a reason for that -- R.A. Dickey couldn't be more of a universal fan favorite.
11 months ago Article 17 comments
Just when you think you've seen everything, along comes R.A. Dickey, whose 80-mile-an-hour knuckleballs are probably the first in the game's long history.
11 months ago Update 0 comments
You know who's a fantastic pitcher? R.A. Dickey. So we should talk about him a lot, because it's more fun to talk about fantastic players than it is to talk about terrible players. I mean, when you're talking about terrible players, everything's so negative. It can be comical, but with fantastic players, we're reminded that these are the best talents in the universe. That we know of.
Anyway, I'm a sucker for PITCHf/x analysis, so we turn to PITCHf/x genius Dan Brooks at Baseball Prospectus. He was curious to see how much Dickey varies his knuckleball speed and movement depending on the count. He could compare Dickey only to Tim Wakefield, since it's not like we have a giant sample of knuckleballer data from recent years, but his findings are of interest. Click through and see neat graphs! And also see the words that I've copied below.
According to the man himself, R.A. Dickey varies the speed on his knuckleball according to the situation. But how much, and in what way? Is this a common feature of knuckleballers, or relatively unique to Dickey?
You can see that both pitchers actually varied the speed of their knuckleballs by the count, with more speed variability when the count was more pitcher friendly (such as on 0-2 or 1-2) than when the count was hitter friendly (such as on 3-1 or 3-0). But, you can also see that R.A. Dickey is varying the speed of his knuckleball over a much bigger range, with mph variability of ~4.5, whereas Tim Wakefield’s variability was closer to ~3mph.
Wakefield’s function is actually noisier than Dickey’s, and the trend is less clear. Still, there’s evidence that Wakefield too got more knuckleball movement when he could chance it.
What have we learned? Well, knuckleballs are not totally out of the pitcher’s control. When pitchers are ahead in counts, the knuckleball has both greater movement variability and greater speed variability— and more variability means it’s harder to hit.
So simple, so interesting. Even when a pitcher says something like "I vary my speed and movement more when I'm ahead in the count," it's great to see such statements confirmed by data. Helps to drive the significance home.
11 months ago Article 1 comment
R.A. Dickey and his hard knuckleball is making us all rethink what makes a the perfect pitcher.
11 months ago Update 5 comments
Monday night, R.A. Dickey pitched his second straight one-hitter.
Monday night, R.A. Dickey struck out 13 Baltimore Orioles.
Afterward, some of those Orioles weren't willing to give Dickey all the credit. As Newsday's Tom Pedulla reports, some of them thought Dickey had some help from plate-umpire Eric Cooper. And they weren't real shy about it:
"There were some questionable calls," said centerfielder and cleanup hitter Adam Jones after he came up empty in three at-bats. "It's human error."
Rightfielder Chris Davis thought he and Dickey were only partly responsible for his 0-for-4 futility with three strikeouts.
"When you go up there looking for a ball in the strike zone and you are not getting it . . . ," he said.
Asked to complete the thought, the Orioles' No. 3 hitter declined. But he also said of some of the 81 strikes called during Dickey's 114-pitch evening, "This is our job. This is our living. When it affects the outcome, it's tough."
Shortstop J.J. Hardy , who batted just ahead of Davis and took the same 0-for-4 collar with one strikeout, all but clamped his hand onto his wallet when asked to comment.
"I can't say what I want to say," he said. "What I want to say, I get fined."
Buck Showalter wasn't having the best time of his life, either. Near the end, I thought he might pop out of the dugout and get ejected when Cooper rang up J.J. Hardy. Afterward, though, he didn't say enough to get fined. There was this, though: "I think they were a little frustrated by the liberalness of some of the pitches."
Also, they were frustrated by the movement of the pitches. And by their inability to hit the pitches.
We can actually look at these things now. Via Brooks Baseball.net, we've got every pitch plotted against a strike zone. And while it does seem that Dickey got seven or eight called strikes on pitches that were actually just outside the zone, it also seems that Orioles pitchers got almost exactly the same number of questionable called strikes.
Dickey's second one-hitter probably wasn't the result of human error any more than the first one was. Or the four outstanding performances before that.
11 months ago Update 0 comments
In all the kerfuffle about the Mets’ R.A. Dickey throwing his second consecutive one-hitter, you might have missed this little tidbit:
With all the great pitchers in past and recent history -- men like Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver, Pedro Martinez and others who both allowed few runs and struck out many hitters -- no one has ever done what Dickey has over his last five starts.
Dickey now leads the National League in wins, winning percentage, ERA, complete games, shutouts, strikeouts and WHIP. He’s the logical choice for NL All-Star Game starter, and now the leading candidate for the Cy Young Award. Raise your hand if you had him on your preseason list for that. Yeah, me either.
Dickey is doing this at what would normally be considered a pretty advanced age -- he’ll be 38 in October -- but top knuckleballers have typically pitched effectively well into their 40s.
11 months ago Article 15 comments
R.A. Dickey used to be a not-very-good knuckleball pitcher. Now he is a very good knuckleball pitcher. Unsurprisingly, his improvement can be traced by looking at the results of pitched knuckleballs.
11 months ago Commentary 0 commentsContinue
11 months ago Update 2 comments
In case you missed it, R.A. Dickey is now the biggest story in professional sports. Or will be, if the NBA playoffs ever end and Dickey makes one more great start. That will happen, when you throw consecutive one-hitters and establish yourself as the most dominant performer in your game. From David Schoenfield (via ESPN.com):
But Dickey has gone to another level, becoming the first pitcher to allow no earned runs and strike out at least eight batters in five consecutive starts. He joined Stieb as one of 10 pitchers since 1900 to allow one hits or fewer in consecutive starts. Over his last six starts, Dickey is 6-0 with a 0.18 ERA (one earned in 48 2/3 innings), 63 strikeouts, five walks and a .131 average allowed.
It just goes on from there. Before his last couple of starts, it made perfect sense to compare Dickey's hot stretch to those of other knuckleball pitchers. Well, he's now transcended such comparisons. Now he's obviously pitched better over his last six or seven starts than any knuckleballer's ever pitched over six or seven starts.
Now we get to start comparing his run to the best stretches, period.
11 months ago Update 2 comments
It turns out that R.A. Dickey didn't spend all of his magic on his first one-hitter of June. The Mets' prize knuckleballer added a second consecutive one-hitter on Monday night in a 5-0 shutout of the Orioles.
Dickey conceded a single to Wilson Betemit in the top of the fifth, snapping a string of 13 consecutive hitless innings dating back to his one-hitter against the Rays on June 13, and two walks, but struck out 13 Orioles, establishing a new career high. The Mets gave him four runs of support in the sixth inning — Dickey scored one of them — and another in the eighth.
Dickey's consecutive one-hitters are the first in MLB history since Dave Steib accomplished the feat in 1988. The last National League pitcher to throw back-to-back one-hitters was Mort Cooper in 1943.
In his last two starts, Dickey has given up two hits, two walks, and one unearned run, while fanning 24 batters, and he has lowered his ERA from 2.44 to 2.00.
11 months ago Update 2 comments
On Wednesday night, R.A. Dickey continued his magical run of knuckler-dancing nonsense, throwing a complete-game one-hitter against the Rays. That one hit? An ambiguous one:
Could have been an error. The Mets argued that it should have been an error. So they appealed. It was worth a shot. It's not like the Mets are running out of challenge flags.
But, as expected, the appeal was denied.
It would have been an amazing, spectacular firestorm of debate and controversy if MLB had changed the official scorer's ruling. But it also would have been quite silly. It's easy to argue either side of the error/hit controversy, which means there was no chance it was going to be overturned.
Dickey's scoreless streak -- 32⅔ innings and counting -- is still intact, though.
11 months ago Update 11 comments
Wednesday night, R.A. Dickey threw a one-hitter against the Rays (but not a shutout, because of an unearned run in the ninth inning). Tampa Bay's lone safety came in the first inning, when B.J. Upton hit a high-hopping grounder toward third base.
Here, you can see for yourself what happened. Don't feel like you have to watch too closely the first time; we've got this thing running in an infinity loop ...
That was ruled a base hit by the official scorer. There would not be another.
To which a reasonable person might reasonably ask, appeal on what grounds, exactly?
Upton's ball took a high hop. David Wright is a well-trained baseball third baseman. If he thought he could catch the ball with his glove and still have time for an Upton-retiring throw, he would have used his glove. But instead he went for the bare-handed grab, because he figured that was his only chance to throw out Upton.
He didn't snag the baseball. Very few third basemen would have.
This wasn't even close to an error.
It's a shame, because Dickey's incredible five-start run would have been even more incredible if he'd thrown his first no-hitter, and the Mets' second no-hitter, and the Mets' second no-hitter in the last couple of weeks.
But that wasn't an error, and an appeal would look awfully greedy. Because that first Mets no-hitter a couple of weeks ago? It shouldn't have been a no-hitter, because Carlos Beltran's foul ball shouldn't have been a foul ball.
Be careful, Mets. Lest you anger the Baseball Gods.
11 months ago Article 12 commentsContinue
11 months ago Article 5 commentsContinue