The writing has been on the wall for some time now for R.A. Dickey, but after Wednesday’s loss in relief — which can’t be pinned on the veteran knuckler himself — it seems likely that Dickey has pitched his last meaningful innings with the Toronto Blue Jays
Francisco Liriano‘s addition at the trade deadline did the most to push R.A. Dickey off the playoff roster, especially with the rest of the pitching rotation playing so well around him. The Blue Jays’ short-term rotation plans in New York don’t feature Dickey.
This will leave Dickey (169.2 IP) well short of the 200 inning plateau, but riding a fifth starter with a 4.46 ERA through a season — a lower ERA than Marcus Stroman — is a luxury that many teams would enjoy.
Look no further than the Baltimore Orioles, who have been neck-and-neck with the Blue Jays in the American League East all season long. They’ve rolled out starters like Ubaldo Jimenez, Yovani Gallardo, Tyler Wilson, and Mike Wright, none of whom have an ERA below 5.30 and all of whom have started at least a dozen ball games.
One primary tiebreaker between Dickey and Liriano when it comes to deciding the playoff roster is their ability to be valuable in a role other than starting. Liriano has the potential, at least, to come in and face left-handed hitters with the ability to produce strikeouts. On the right day, Liriano could be a very effective arm to bridge the gap between a poor start and the back end of Toronto’s bullpen.
Dickey, on the other hand, has been the Blue Jays’ most homer-prone starter, another reason that having him pitch against a Baltimore or Boston down the stretch is not sensible. He’s also introduced a few balls to the backstop and hasn’t worked enough in-game with Russell Martin, so bringing him in from the bullpen for anything other than a blowout is introducing far too many variables.
That’s fine. R.A. Dickey did what he was supposed to do in 2016, and that’s enough.
One situation where Dickey could see another start before the end of the regular season is if the Blue Jays are locked into a wild card game as the home or away team on the final day of the season. Toronto is one game clear of the Orioles and two games clear of the Tigers and Astros in the wild card race entering play on Thursday.
In this situation, there would be no value in Toronto adding innings to their playoff arms. There would lie the opportunity for Dickey, who could be called upon to chew through innings on the final day.