Blue Jays stranding R.A. Dickey as he finds groove

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Blue Jays fans have long seen R.A. Dickey as an easy target for their frustrations, and understandably so. After coming over from the New York Mets for a package of prospects that we’d all like to forget, the aging knuckler has not materialized into the “ace” that the Blue Jays still lack. Expectations have worked against him, but after a dreadful start to 2015, Dickey is finding a groove.

Dickey was strong again on Saturday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays, allowing just one run on four hits over six innings pitched. His strikeout and walk totals are still far from spectacular, but finally, he has returned to a reliable innings-eater towards the bottom of the rotation. Unfortunately, he’s not getting an ounce of help.

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On Saturday it was the bullpen that undermined Dickey, with Aaron Loup and Ryan Tepera both surrendering solo shots after the starter left with a 2-1 lead. More often than not, though, Dickey has fallen victim to a non-existent level of run support. This has left him with a 3-10 record that would be much closer to .500 if he were provided with even average offense. Drew Hutchison laughs at Dickey’s situation, surely.

In his six starts over the past month, Dickey has failed to record six full innings just once. That outing on July 4th in Detroit was also the only time over this stretch that he has allowed more than three earned runs  or eight hits. These obviously aren’t Cy Young stats that I’m throwing at you, but for the Blue Jays, they’re enough. At least, they should be.

From run support to BABIP and beyond, we spend the early months of a season calmly reassuring ourselves that baseball will “balance out”. It always has. Dickey’s quality outings continue to go wasted, however, regardless of how strongly luck and chance factor in.

A fast-rising pitch count and gruelling heat led to Dickey’s outing being cut short after six innings on Saturday, but going forward, I see no reason for John Gibbons to yank a strong R.A. Dickey until he reaches a sweet spot in the bullpen. With the unavailability of Bo Schultz in this most recent start, the gap was too much for Loup and Tepera to successfully bridge. Next time, perhaps Gibbons lets Dickey to the job himself. Again, if he remains sharp.

This isn’t the season-changing news that Blue Jays fans are clamouring for, but even the presence of an average Dickey will eliminate one more thing that could go wrong. Adding to this rotation as the deadline nears is as much about moving out the weakest current starter as it is about improving the top end. With Dickey on a modest roll, the bottom end of the rotation should become relatively productive.

Next: Blue Jays set to improve or regress in second half

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