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With his 20th victory, the Mets' knuckleballer is poised to do something that's never been done.
He's almost done it.
R.A. Dickey has almost become the first knuckleballer to win a Cy Young Award. He's already become the first knuckleballer to win 20 games in the majors since Joe Niekro won 20 for the Astros in 1980.
It's been a close-run thing, all season. Throughout, Dickey's looked like a great candidate. But there have been other contenders, with Johnny Cueto and Gio Gonzalez enjoying brilliant second-half runs, and Craig Kimbrel doing things relief pitchers aren't supposed to do.
Consider, though ... Thursday afternoon, Dickey struck out 13 Pirates in 7⅔ innings to earn the victory. He will lead the National League in strikeouts this season, and he's currently tied with Gonzalez for the league lead with 20 wins. He's got a lower ERA and a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Gonzalez.
For some reason, the Mets haven't announced who's going to start against the Marlins next Tuesday, but Dickey is lined up to make his last start in that game. Gonzalez is slated for the same night, but he might be on a strict pitch count as the Nationals prepare for their first postseason series. Cueto starts Sunday against the Pirates, with a chance to record his 20th victory.
It's not difficult to imagine a Cy Young ballot containing three starting pitchers with exactly 20 innings apiece, and all with ERAs in the 2.70-3.00 range.
So what's a voter to do? Well, voters have historically given bonus points for strikeouts (which helps Dickey) and bonus points for pitching for a postseason team (which doesn't). If voters give bonus points for sentimental reasons, Dickey would score big. But there's little or not evidence that they do.
It looks like there's little that Gonzalez or Cueto can do to win the Cy Young Award, except pitch well in their last outing ... and hope that Dickey doesn't. Consider, though: Even if Dickey gives up six runs in six innings in his last start, he'll still finish the season with a 2.85 ERA, or almost exactly the same as Cueto's and Gonzalez's right now.
At this point in the season, it's difficult to move the ERA needle much, in either direction. Which is why Robert Allen Dickey, right now, is the favorite to win the award.