The veteran right-hander has seen ups and downs at every juncture of his life, but it's safe to assume he's never seen a peak this high.
The Mets knuckleballer has found himself as a pitcher while throwing what some consider a gimmick pitch, and he's throwing it better than he ever has this year. Dickey has been relatively unhittable all season, and in his last two starts, he's been virtually unhittable.
With a strikeout of Chris Davis to end a Mets win on Monday night, Dickey became the first pitcher since Dave Stieb in 1988 to throw one-hitters in consecutive starts. It's the exclamation point on what has been an incredible run for Dickey.
After moving up and down between the minors and the bigs for much of his career, Dickey finally caught on with the Mets in 2010. He was pretty good, too, in 2010 and was just as good in '11. This season, however, Dickey has taken his game to another level.
With Monday's win, he is now 11-1 on the season to go along with a 2.00 ERA. He has 103 strikeouts against just 21 walks, a stat that is almost unfathomable considering the unpredictability of the knuckleball. If you want to attempt to put that in perspective, consider that fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield never had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 2.63 while Dickey is averaging five strikeouts for every walk this season.
Wakefield is the obvious comparison for Dickey. They will be connected in baseball history forever, as part of the ever-shrinking fraternity of knuckleballers. So, if you want some more perspective about how good Dickey has been, why not look at arguably Wakefield's most dominant stretch of his career.
In 1995, Wakefield finished third in Cy Young voting, behind the strength of a 16-8 record and a sub-3 ERA. He was especially incredible in one nine-start stretch between July 4 and Aug. 13.
Nine starts, 9-0, 1.68 ERA, 69 2/3 innings pitched, 44 strikeouts, 21 walks, eight home runs.
Not bad at all. Dickey's Monday night gem capped off a nine-start stretch of his own, and the numbers are eye-popping.
Nine starts, 8-0, 0.92 ERA, 68 2/3 innings pitched, 75 strikeouts, 11 walks, one home run.
Clearly, Dickey is doing something, especially as a knuckleballer, that we don't see every year.
Pigeonholing Dickey's success with the notion that he is "just a knuckleballer," however, is unfair to what he's done this season thus far. Dickey has been simply fantastic, no matter what pitch he features. His stats are right there with the all of the best pitchers in baseball.
Dickey now leads the majors in wins, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts (tied with Justin Verlander) and complete games (also tied with Verlander).
The All-Star Game is less than a month away. Barring injury, Dickey will be there. In fact, he's made a strong enough case, through the middle of June at least, that he should get the ball for the National League as the starter.
Dickey's performance this season has one man who knows him pretty well comparing the historic performance to some of the greats of the game.
"When you think about the Koufaxes and Seavers, and those guys, with the greats to the greats, you know with 97 mph fastballs and great curveballs, and the Goodens and the Verlanders, this guy is amazing with that pitch," Mets manager Terry Collins said following Monday's game.
The obvious question, though, is how long it can last. How long can Dickey continue to baffle hitters with that "gimmick" pitch, a pitch that he'll throw anywhere from 65 to 82 mph?
At this point, who knows? It could come crashing down in a heartbeat in his next start. A knuckleballer is only as good as his previous start, with the unpredictability of the hurler's success matched only by the unpredictability of the pitch he throws.
All knuckleballers know that, but even so, Dickey is doing things that are making guys who mastered the pitch before him stop and stare in awe.
"I might have had a couple, three starts when I got results like R.A.'s getting, but there's usually an ugly one that comes around," knuckleballing legend Phil Niekro told MLB.com. "It's like he's getting better with each game. It's amazing what he's doing. Not many conventional pitchers go on runs like his."
It's impossible to say how long this can last. If Dickey's life and career have taught us anything, it's that things can change in an instance — for better or worse.
Until that next change comes, however, there is simply no denying that R.A. Dickey is one of the best pitchers in baseball right now.
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