R.A. Dickey came to the Toronto Blue Jays amid a ton of fan fare prior to the 2013 season. After all, the Blue Jays were “all in” and Dickey was the centerpiece acquisition of an incredibly active winter for Toronto, so expectations were bound to run high.
Well, high expectations are often tough to meet, and the Blue Jays found that out the hard way, stumbling out of the gate and finishing in last place in the American League East. Like the rest of the team, R.A. Dickey struggled as well, finishing the year with a 14-13 record and a 4.24 ERA. Fans clung to those struggles, immediately scrutizing the trade that brought Dickey to Toronto and sent highly regarded prospects Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud to the New York Mets, both pieces that could have been important to the 2014 Blue Jays team.
However, while it may be easy to say that if we had the choice again, this trade could be revisited. However, there are no do-overs in baseball. An out is an out. You take your seat on the bench until it is your time to come back to the plate and swing again.
For R.A. Dickey, he gets another turn at bat, so to speak, in 2014. The only question is which Dickey the Blue Jays will see this season.
We all know that Dickey struggled in the first half of the season. Whether it was a muscle issue in his upper back and neck or it was caused by pitching with the roof open in Toronto, the results prior to the All-Star game were not pretty. In 128.2 innings prior to the break, Dickey amassed a 4.69 ERA, a 6.44 K/9, a 3.29 BB/9, and a xFIP of 4.51. That lead to an 8-10 record in his 20 starts.
However, Dickey the short break did him well, as he came back after the All-Star break a much better pitcher. In 14 second half starts, Dickey went 6-3 with a 3.56 ERA, a 7.97 K/9 ratio, a 2.25 BB/9, and a 3.86 xFIP. The drastic improvement was perhaps due to relief in the aforementioned muscle issue in his back, but his control was sharper, his knuckle bit more, and Dickey was a much better pitcher overall.
So again, which Dickey will show up in 2014? Hopefully the answer to that question is a healthy R.A. Dickey. No lingering pain, no reasons to fall behind the eight-ball.
In terms of a productive Dickey, the key there is to find a way to limit the big hit, i.e. the home run ball. R.A. Dickey surrendered a career-high 35 home runs last season, at a clip of 12.7% HR/FB. That number also reduced in the second half, falling from 20 in 116.1 innings before the break to 15 in 96 innings afterwards. Not a big jump, but an improvement. That said, Rogers Centre isn’t going to do much to help keep the ball in the park for Dickey, so he’ll have to find a way to adjust there, or find a way to limit the damage when he gives them up.
Regardless, 2014 will be a big year for R.A. Dickey. The year when the real value of his deal comes to bear fruit, or becomes known as a major mistake.