Even in his brief 2 appearances with the Mets, R.A. Dickey has shown something that many Mets pitchers have been unable to do successfully – defy pitch counts and pitch out of trouble. Maybe keeping him in the rotation will prove to be a great idea for various reasons.
R.A. Dickey is pitching to contact, and the balls that are being hit are mostly singles and balls that are being swung under, leading to a large amount of double plays and lazy fly balls. His ability, as he has said to throw knuckle balls at different speeds gives him the same advantage as someone who throws two different curve balls like Frankie Rodriguez – a batter has to keep guessing between 2 different speeds from the same pitch. What makes it even more difficult, is the butterfly movement on his knuckler, having to keep some hitters honest and swing at a pitch that they aren’t normally going to swing at.
Currently, there are 3 major league pitchers who throw the knuckle ball. Charlie Haegar of the Dodgers (who is also equipped with a 90 MPH fastball), Tim Wakefield (75 MPH Fastball, a curve around 69 MPH) and R.A. Dickey (86 MPH fastball). The lack of the pitch being thrown makes it that much more difficult for hitters to even prepare for it when they may only have to face them two to three times a year. This makes them extremely effective, when there pitches are moving – but the real downside is when a knuckle ball just doesn’t “dance”.
A flat knuckle ball is like a batting practice fastball, and a pitcher cannot always control the elements that will effect the pitch such as wind, humidity and even his own release of the pitch. Will R.A. Dickey be the staff savior? Probably not, but if he can pitch 6 to 7 innings, giving up 4 runs or so then he can give the Mets, pending a decent offensive showing a good chance to win every night.
R.A. Dickey may not be an ace, or even a solid 3 or 4. But an effective knuckle baller is ageless and has a rubber arm. When a staff needs innings, a guy like R.A. Dickey can be the guy who delivers.