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.
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.
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.