Jun 15, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) throws a pitch in the third inning of the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports.

R.A. Dickey: Is Inconsistent The New Overrated?


As I drifted across the blogosphere earlier today, I cam across an article at RantSports that caught my eye. The article at question written by Zach Morrison, as titled R.A. Dickey Is Toronto Blue Jays’ Most Overrated Player, implies that the Blue Jays ace is overrated.

Well, yeah.

Obviously, the Blue Jays did not get what they thought they were in regards to Dickey when they send Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, and Wilmer Becerra to the Mets in a deal that also included catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. That much is evidenced by Dickey’s unsightly 4.90 ERA, his 1.76 K/BB Ratio, or his lowly bWAR of 0.1.

However, maybe overrated is not quite the word we are truly looking for here. After all, we are talking about an 11-year veteran who seemingly re-invented himself as a knuckle-baller and has managed to finally find success over the last three seasons. That re-invention was culminated with a Cy Young winning season in 2012 where Dickey went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, a 4.26 K/BB ratio, and a bWAR of 5.8.

All while throwing the knuckle-ball.

That said, to cast Dickey as over-rated only works if you were holding onto unrealistic expectations in the first place.

No, I think “inconsistent” is the word we’re truly looking for here.

As we can see from the table below (provided by the good folks at Baseball-Reference), Dickey has had his share of solid starts, but they have been sandwiched by some wretched outings as well, five to be specific.

Rk Date Tm Opp Rslt Inngs Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA GSc WPA
1 Apr 2 TOR CLE L,1-4 GS-6 L(0-1) 6.0 5 4 3 4 4 1 4.50 48 -0.177
2 Apr 7 TOR BOS L,0-13 GS-5 L(0-2) 4.2 10 8 7 2 5 2 8.44 17 -0.394
3 Apr 13 TOR @ KCR W,3-2 GS-7 W(1-2) 6.1 5 1 1 2 4 0 5.82 61 0.331
4 Apr 18 TOR CHW W,3-1 GS-6 W(2-2) 6.0 2 0 0 1 7 0 4.30 74 0.334
5 Apr 23 TOR @ BAL L,3-4 GS-6 L(2-3) 6.0 6 4 4 5 4 0 4.66 43 -0.175
6 Apr 28 TOR @ NYY L,2-3 GS-7 L(2-4) 7.0 4 3 3 1 4 2 4.50 60 -0.149
May Tm Opp Rslt Inngs Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA GSc WPA
7 May 4 TOR SEA L,1-8 GS-6 L(2-5) 6.0 6 7 7 2 5 3 5.36 35 -0.275
8 May 9 TOR @ TBR L,4-5 GS-6 6.0 5 3 2 5 5 0 5.06 52 0.017
9 May 14 TOR SFG W,10-6 GS-6 W(3-5) 6.0 6 2 2 2 10 1 4.83 60 0.121
10 May 20 TOR TBR W,7-5 GS-8 W(4-5) 8.0 4 3 2 4 5 0 4.50 65 0.171
11 May 25 TOR BAL L,5-6 GS-7 L(4-6) 6.2 9 6 6 3 4 2 4.85 33 -0.328
12 May 30 TOR @ ATL L,3-11 GS-6 L(4-7) 6.0 11 6 6 1 2 1 5.18 27 -0.474
June Tm Opp Rslt Inngs Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA GSc WPA
13 Jun 5 TOR @ SFG W,4-0 GS-9 W(5-7) 8.1 2 0 0 2 5 0 4.66 82 0.275
14 Jun 10 TOR @ CHW L,6-10 GS-5 L(5-8) 5.0 10 7 7 1 0 2 5.11 18 -0.549
15 Jun 15 TOR @ TEX W,6-1 GS-6 W(6-8) 5.2 7 1 1 3 3 0 4.90 51 0.179
TOR 93.2 92 55 51 38 67 14 4.90
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/20/2013.

So that said, 1/3rd of Dickey’s starts have been really difficult to endure. During those five starts, Dickey has been touched up for 33 earned runs over 28.1 innings pitched (10.48 ERA for those doing the math at home. In the other ten outings, he’s been much more himself, surrendering 18 earned runs over 65.1 innings pitched (a 2.48 ERA).

Of course, it is also worth noting that for more than half his starts this season, Dickey has provided a negative WPA (Win Probability Added), which is likely more indicative as to why he sits on a 6-8 record this season.

Another thing to look at are his home and away splits. Obviously, Dickey was in line for market adjustment, moving to the launching pad of Rogers Centre (let alone a healthy portion of the American League East) after pitching in spacious Citi Field for three seasons. Once again, we notice an inconsistency.

I Split W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
Home 3 4 5.61 7 43.1 42 30 27 9 18 40 1.385 8.3 2.22
Away 3 4 4.29 8 50.1 50 25 24 5 20 27 1.391 4.8 1.35
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/20/2013.

At first glance, Dickey would seemingly be doing much better on the road than at home, as his ERA is nearly a run and a half higher in Toronto than in other ballparks. However, a closer look at that shows that while Dickey has been a victim of the home run ball at Rogers Centre, his other peripheral stats would seem to indicate he pitchers better at home. His strike-out rates are higher (21.3% to 12.4%), his Batting Average Against (.247 to .258) is lower and his xFIP (3.88 to 5.33) is significantly lower.

Again, you have to ask if the problem isn’t that Dickey is overrated, but if we expected too much. We are talking about a man asked to be the staff ace at a deal well below market value for one.

Obviously, the Mets knew when to sell high and did so. The Blue Jays took the deal with intention of taking a (possibly misguided) shot at a championship. No one can be faulted in that approach at all.

So no, I don’t think R.A. Dickey is overrated. Much like his knuckle-ball, I do not know which way the pitch will float from day to day.

I just have to temper my expectations and hope for the best.

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  • http://jaysjournal.com/ Michael Wray

    To paraphrase Jay-Z… who has an answer for every hater:

    “He from the favourite to the most hated but would you rather be underpaid or overrated?”

  • Andrew van Laar

    Good article. O never really realized that other than his 5 bad starts he has been pretty lights out on average.