When the Toronto Blue Jays first traded for R.A. Dickey, he was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle to bring a championship to Toronto. It was a puzzle the club hadn’t been able to solve for a very long time. But, after a blockbuster deal with Miami, the Mets agreed to part with their Cy Young Award winner. It was a deal that was supposed to bring a winner. It did not.
He didn’t live up to his 2012 numbers at all. Ever since then, Dickey has been a bit of a lightening rod for frustration. But, this season, folks seem to be more content with the 40 year old knuckleballer. Is this because he is actually performing better? Or, is it because the team is winning and our hopes don’t rest on his shoulders?
When he first came to the club, folks were quite taken with the soft spoken, intellectually inclined hurler. His press conferences were shared and eaten up by media and fans alike. He was certainly an interest piece. His story of being drafted and then having to reinvent himself after discovering he was missing a ligament in his elbow was well documented. Everyone was taken by him. And, why not? He’s an interesting personality who had just won the National League’s award as the best pitcher. But, it didn’t last long.
Toronto Blue Jays
In 2013, Dickey finished (according to Fangraphs.com) with a 14-13 record and an ERA of 4.21. His FIP was 4.58. He was giving up nearly 3 walks per 9 innings or at a rate of 7.5%. It was the same season where the club finished 74-88 and dead last in the AL East. Dickey was seen as a disappointment. Now, that season also saw frustration with Brandon Morrow, Josh Johnson and others. Yet, Dickey seemed to take a huge amount of criticism.
In 2014, his season was just as disappointing in the results it yielded for the team. Again, he finished with a 14-13 record with an ERA of 3.71. His FIP finished at 4.32, which is a bit better than his previous year. His strikeout totals were better at 7.22/9 (7.09 in 2013) but his walks were higher (3.09/9). This time, the club finished with a winning record (83-79) but it was only good for 3rd place. Yet again, the Blue Jays missed the playoffs.
This year, folks seem to be much more content with the efforts of Dickey. But, is he having a better year? Well, one could analyze this to the nth degree, but if we look at the stats above, we see something interesting: 10-10 record, 4.01 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 2.77 BB/9, 5.53 K/9. One could make the argument that his 2015 year is right on par with what we’ve seen in previous years. His FIP is identical to 2013. His BB rate is just a shade under with a % that is only 0.1% lower. And, his strike out rate is lower this year: 14.8% in 2015 and 18.8% in 2013. It is worth mentioning that his groundball rate of 43.1% is the highest we’ve seen from him in Toronto.
So, without going crosseyed by diving too deeply into percentages and statistics, you could say that he is having a similar year to his 2013 and 2014 campaigns. Yet, these days, folks are raving about the job he is doing. And, they should be. His second half of 2015 has been great! He’s got a 2.68 ERA. He’s only given up 22 runs in 74 innings or work. Batters are hitting just .234. And, in a game where statistics tend to balance out over the course of a year, Dickey should end up right where he has for the past few seasons.
Really, the only difference is that this year, the Blue Jays are winning. They are 20 games above .500 heading into play Wednesday night. With the cast of characters this club boasts, there is no pressure on Dickey. There is no expectation of dominance. It is not clear if there ever was that pressure. But, it certainly felt like it when you think about how much disappointment there was surrounding the 40 year old.
Which leads to the question for the room: Is the Blue Jays fan base more content with Dickey’s performance this year because the team is winning?