Blue Jays: Putting a bow on the R.A. Dickey era in Toronto

Brendan Panikkar
May 7, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (19) pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
May 7, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (19) pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
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The era of R.A. Dickey in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform came to an end in the off-season when he signed with the Atlanta Braves. The Blue Jays likely never had any plans to bring Dickey back as Francisco Liriano would just slot into Dickey’s spot. The Braves came to Toronto the past few days and at least to me, it was the finishing touches on R.A. Dickey’s tenure as a Toronto Blue Jay.

The story amongst Blue Jays fans is still talked about to this day. R.A. Dickey was moved for who is now known as “Thor”, Noah SyndergaardTravis d’Arnaud was the blue chip prospect going to the New York Mets at the time, but he has not lived up to his prospect hype due to a plethora of injuries.

The R.A. Dickey trade leaves a sour taste in many of the fanbase’s mouths, especially with how Syndergaard has developed. The other pieces in the deal included John Buck and Wuilmer Beccera to the Mets. Dickey came along with Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole.

I want to take a trip down memory road and talk about the 4 seasons R.A. Dickey spent in Toronto.

2013 – 14-13, 224.2 IP, 4.21 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 18.8 K%, 7.5 BB% (2nd half – 3.56 ERA)

I personally have no regrets with the Dickey trade. It came on the heels of the famous Miami Marlins trade that added Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to a rotation that already included Brandon MorrowRicky Romero, and J.A. Happ. The signing of Melky Cabrera also happened before the Dickey trade. The move to added Dickey solidified a rotation that was supposed to help bring the Blue Jays back to the post-season. Besides, who doesn’t want to add a Cy Young award winner to a rotation? It was a gamble the Blue Jays had to take.

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Unfortunately for the knuckleballer and the Blue Jays, the heightened expectations for Dickey himself and the 2013 team were not even close to being met. The Blue Jays finished the season 74-88. Dickey finished the season with a 1.7 fWAR, a big drop since the 5.0 from 2012.

The unmet expectations for Dickey brought some irrational anger towards R.A. It certainly wasn’t all on Dickey for the 2013 flop. It was everyone. Injuries and poor performances from many contributed to the downfall of that team. Perhaps they just weren’t that good from the start.

2014 – 14-13, 215.2 IP, 3.71 ERA, 4.32 FIP, 18.9 K%, 8.1 BB% (2nd half – 3.57 ERA)

The 2014 season was an interesting one for the Blue Jays to say the least. They went through quite a few changes in the off-season to retool following the disappointing 2013 season. Dickey started Opening Day for the 2nd straight season, one which brought better results for him.

The reason the 2014 season was so interesting in my mind was the fact that the Blue Jays actually held first place in the AL East until shortly after Canada Day. They still held a wildcard spot until early August, but shortly dropped out for good.

One thing that remained consistent through the 2014 season was Dickey. Looking at strictly ERA, the 2014 season was his best ERA in his 4 seasons as a Blue Jay. He yet again logged 200.0+ innings and took every turn through the rotation.

2015 – 11-11, 214.1 IP, 3.91 ERA, 4.48 FIP, 14.3 K%, 6.9 BB% (2nd half – 2.80 ERA)

What a season this was for the Blue Jays and R.A. Dickey. Some more retooling after the 2014 season earned the Blue Jays their first division title since 1993. Obviously, the story of the season was the MVP season from Josh Donaldson combined with the deadline that saw the Blue Jays land Troy Tulowitzki and David Price and others.

Everything came together for the Blue Jays and Dickey in the 2nd half of 2015. The Blue Jays hovered around .500 at the deadline and absolutely took off post trade deadline. The 2nd half saw the Blue Jays go 43-28, which was a torrid pace and allowed for them to capture the AL East crown.

For Dickey, it was by far his best stretch as a Blue Jay. He threw to a 2.80 ERA in the season’s second half and even started 2 playoff games. One playoff game was 4.2 solid innings in Game 4 against the Texas Rangers and an absolute dud in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals.

2016 – 10-15, 169.2 IP, 4.46 ERA, 5.03 FIP, 17.3 K%, 8.7 BB% (2nd half – 5.60 ERA)

The 2016 season saw the Blue Jays return to the ALCS for a 2nd straight season, but it also spelt the beginning of the end for Dickey in Toronto. At the trade deadline, the Blue Jays added Francisco Liriano, which made for a 6 man rotation for a while. However, come September, Dickey found himself in the Blue Jays bullpen, and his last ever appearance for the Blue Jays came in an extra inning affair against the Seattle Mariners where he took the loss.

Dickey’s 2016 season was his worst statistically during his Blue Jays tenure. He had a so-so first half of the season, but as you can see above, his ERA was nearly 6.00 in the 2nd half. However, Dickey still took every turn through until he went to the bullpen and provided some stability to the rotation.

The last we saw of R.A. Dickey was off of the playoff roster. He was not on the 2016 playoff roster, but got to watch from the dugout.

The End of an era

Through all the irrational R.A. Dickey hate and unfulfilled expectations in 2013 and 2014, I quite enjoyed Dickey’s tenure in Toronto. When you look back at the 2013 and 2014 season with all the injuries, where would the Blue Jays have been without Dickey taking his turn every 5 days? A lot worse off.

Sep 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) and Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ (33) walk towards the dugout during batting practice before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) and Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ (33) walk towards the dugout during batting practice before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

In 2015 Dickey was instrumental to the Blue Jays’ push to the AL East crown. Dickey was dominant in the season’s 2nd half to the 2.80 ERA. He also played a big part in the Blue Jays coming back from 0-2 down in the 2015 ALDS. If not for Dickey’s strong 4.2 innings in Texas, the iconic Jose Bautista bat flip may not have ever happened.

People can look back at the fact Dickey did not throw like an ace and be upset with him. Simply put, he wasn’t going to replicate his 2012 season. He wasn’t and that was fine. Did the Blue Jays expect more? Absolutely. But he still provided ample value to the 2013 team.

Was R.A. Dickey frustrating? Sure. The knuckleball is a fickle pitch. Some days Dickey looked unhittable. Others, he looked like he couldn’t get anybody out, but that is simply the nature of the knuckleball. People who didn’t understand that didn’t like Dickey. People who understood that, understood Dickey’s value.

Mad that it cost Noah Syndergaard to get Dickey? Don’t be. Syndergaard wasn’t even the top prospect in that trade, it was Travis d’Arnaud. Syndergaard didn’t develop his off-speed stuff until he got to the Mets. He may never have developed into “Thor” if he remained a Blue Jay, though there’s no denying his raw talent. That’s a risk you take when you move prospects, and in hindsight it looked bad. But at the time of the deal, everyone whined about how it was d’Arnaud they were trading.

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Did the R.A. Dickey trade serve it’s purpose? Yes. 100%. The Blue Jays finally got back to the post-season and that was what Dickey was brought here for, which was to help get back to the playoffs. He played a big part in that in 2015.

Thanks for the memories, R.A. Dickey!

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