R.A. Dickey #43 of the New York Mets pitches during the second inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on August 3, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Wednesday, R.A. Dickey is scheduled to start against the Cardinals in a game that's important for the Cardinals' postseason chances and important for Dickey's Cy Young candidacy.
It's an important game for the Cardinals, as they're fighting for one of the National League's wild-card playoff slots.
It's an important game for Mets starter R.A. Dickey, who's fighting for the National League's Cy Young Award.
As you know, Dickey is a knuckleball pitcher. As you might know, no knuckleball pitcher has ever won a Cy Young Award. Phil Niekro finished as high as second, in 1970. Phil's brother Joe also finished second once. So did Wilbur Wood. Tim Wakefield finished third, while Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm never got a single vote.
But never first. The Cy Young Awards have been around since the 1950s, but even before then I don't believe that a knuckleball pitcher was ever the consensus choice as the best pitcher in his league. Except maybe in 1917, Eddie Cicotte's greatest season. It's just not clear whether or not Cicotte should be classed a knuckleball pitcher in that season, as by then he was somewhat notorious for throwing a "shine ball" ... which he claimed didn't actually exist.
Whatever the case, a knuckleballer has never won the game's most prestigious award for pitchers.
Things could change, but right now Dickey is one of the two best candidates.
Bobby Dickey: 17-4, 2.63 ERA, 199 strikeouts
Johnny Cueto: 17-7, 2.58 ERA, 149 strikeouts
They've pitched almost exactly the same number of innings, given up almost exactly the same number of walks. So you might look at those numbers and assume Dickey is obviously the best, most deserving candidate.
The best, probably. But not necessarily the most deserving. Cueto's given up only 11 home runs all season, compared to Dickey's 17. Which isn't a huge difference ... until you consider their home ballparks. Then it looks pretty huge. Which is essentially why Cueto trumps Dickey in Wins Above Replacement. Whichever version of that metric you choose, Cueto actually (and surprisingly) has a significant lead over Dickey.
But the voters aren't going to pay much attention to Wins Above Replacement. They'll be primarily concerned with wins and losses and earned-run averages and strikeouts. Cueto will probably get a bit of extra credit for helping pitch his team into the postseason, but if Dickey finishes 20-5 or something, he's going to win the award.*
* Oh, unless Aroldis Chapman, Cueto's teammate, somehow sneaks to the top of the voting. Stranger things have happened, for sure.
Update: Dickey beat the Cardinals to gain his 18th victory, and his ERA essentially didn't change at all. So he's now taken a small (but clear) lead in the Cy Young sweepstakes.
Who's going to win the National League's Cy Young Award?
R.A. Dickey (360 votes)
Johnny Cueto (81 votes)
Aroldis Chapman (20 votes)
461 total votes