Oct 28, 2014

The 2012 N.L.Cy Young Award Winner: R.A. Dickey (2010-2012)

Robert Alan "R. A." Dickey was born October 29, 1974 in Nashville, Tennessee. He majored in English Literature with 1 3.3 GPA at the University of Tennessee, before getting drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1996.

That year he was a member of the US Olympic baseball team that won a bronze medal at the summer games in Atlanta. Dickey was the winning pitcher in two of the games.

The Intelligent right hander was offered a contract over $800,000 until a doctor noticed his arm hanging in an odd way. An x-ray found a missing ulnar collateral ligament and the Rangers lowered their offer to $75,000.

Doctors said he shouldn’t be able to turn a door knob let alone, pitch in the major leagues. Upset & angry he found a spiritual enlightment and moved on. He began a minor league career that lasted straight 14 seasons where he pitched at least three games at the level every seasons.

Dickey made his MLB debut in Texas on April 22nd, 2001 finishing off an 11-2 win over the Oakland A's pitching one scoreless inning. He made four appearances & was sent down to AAA Oklahoma in early May. 

In 2002 he pitched 38 games making 13 starts going 9-8 for Buck Showalter's fourth place Rangers. The next year he pitched 25 games going 6-7 with limited success. He pitched just nine games the next year & was back in the minor leagues.

He eventually realized his forkball pitch which he called “the thing”, was actually a hard knuckle ball. He realized he needed to perfect the knuckler to stay in the major leagues.

In 2006 the Rangers gave him a shot to show off his new knuckleball, but he hadn't perfected it yet. He allowed six HRs in his first start of the season, tying fellow knuckle baller Tim Wakefield’s MLB record.

He pitched just the one game in Texas & then spent the entire year at AAA Oklahoma going 9-8. He was granted free agency at the end of the year & then signed with the Milwaukee Brewers to a minor league deal.

His new knuckle ball was successful as he went 12-6 with a 3.80 ERA at AAA Nashville, winning the Pacific Coast League’s Pitcher of the Year Award. He would get drafted away from the Brewers, as a Rule V pick by the Seattle Mariners. In 2008 in Seattle he went just 5-8 with a 5.21 ERA.

On August 17th he set an MLB record with four wild pitches in a single inning, during a game against the Minnesota Twins. In the inning he allowed two runs on a single, with two walks, a passed ball the four wild pitches & retired one batter.

The record tied a mark with Hall of Famers Walter Johnson & Phil Niekro. After one season with the Mariners he then signed on with the Minnesota Twins.

In 2010 he was signed by the New York Mets and began the season at AAA Buffalo. On April 29th he allowed a single to the first batter he faced then retired the next 27 batters in a row, for a one hitter. He was 4-2 with a 2.23 ERA by May when the Mets brought him up to their staff.

He made his debut against the Nationals earning no decision after pitching six innings allowing only two runs. Dickey then went on to win his first six decisions as his knuckleball surprised all N.L. hitters. He was 6-2 at the All Star break posting a 2.62 ERA.

On August 13th he pitched a one hit shutout at Citi Field against Cole Hammels & the Phillies. He pitched another complete game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in mid September for his 11th victory on the year.

He struggled the rest of the way taking losses in his last three decisions of the year, although he only allowed one run in seven innings against Milwaukee on September 27th.

He finished up 2010 with the best year of his career & as a pleasant surprise on a disappointing Mets team; he was 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA (7th best in the N.L.). He pitched in 27 games, posting 174 innings & striking out 104 batters while walking only 42. 

At the plate he was one of the leagues better hitting pitchers, batting .255 with two doubles & five RBIs.

He began the 2011 season, pitching in the third game of the season earning a win against the Florida Marlins allowing just one run in six innings. He then lost his next five decisions, finding himself 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA by mid May.

In early June he had some success, pitching into the 8th inning twice allowing one run against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field earning a win. But he then allowed three runs to the Pirates in Pittsburgh, taking a loss.

Dickey’s 2011 wasn’t going as successful as 2010, by mid August he was 5-11. He closed out that month, pitching seven shutout innings against the Florida Marlins in the second game of a double header, earning a win. He won his first two starts in September as well, highlighted by tossing seven shutout innings in Florida beating the Marlins 1-0 on September 7th. 

On September 24th Dickey earned no decision in a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies where he threw seven innings while allowing just a run.

He ended the year at 8-13 with a 3.28 ERA striking out 134 batters with 54 walks in 208 innings of work. On the mound he led all pitchers with 58 assists.

In 2012 Dickey started the second game of the Mets season beating the Atlanta Braves. He had a solid April going 3-1 then went on a roll from there. On May 6th he pitched eight solid innings, allowing just one run on four hits against the Arizona Diamondbacks for his fourth win.

He rolled through the month undefeated, finishing up May at 7-1. At the end of the month he was the N.L. Pitcher of the month with two outstanding performances that week. He struck out eleven Pirates in Pittsburgh on May 22nd, followed by a ten strikeout performance at Citi Field on May 27th against the San Diego Padres.

In June he would be even better, winning the Pitcher of the Month Award going 5-0 with a 0.94 ERA.

On June 7th Dickey pitched a complete game shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals, striking out nine Cardinals lowering his ERA to 2.69. On June 7th the Mets were 1.5 games behind the Washington Nationals, surprising everyone with their winning. But after losing two straight from the Nationals they were in jeopardy of a sweep. Dickey ended any chance of the Nats sweep by throwing 7.1 shutout innings earning win number nine.

On June 13th Dickey took the mound in Tampa Florida, he allowed a first inning single to B.J. Upton on a ball David Wright failed to play cleanly. No one thought about it, as Dickey went about his business.

He went on to retire the next the next twenty two batters until Elliot Johnson reached on an error in the ninth. In the inning there were two passed balls & a run scoring ground out. He finished the game with a one hit 9-1 victory, while striking out 12 batters.

He established a Mets record of 32.2 scoreless innings besting Jerry Koosman's old record from 1973. The Mets attempted to appeal the official scorer's decision on ruling Wright's play a hit, but MLB denied the appeal. 

 Dickey entered his next start, by having only allowed one earned run, with three walks & 50 strikeouts over his five previous starts.

On June 18th he went out & pitched another one hitter, this time a shutout, striking out a career high 13 Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field. He became the first NL Pitcher since 1944 to throw back to back one hitters. He had now won six straight starts, winning nine straight decisions, while becoming the first pitcher in the league to reach eleven victories.

Another amazing stat has Dickey being the only pitcher in MLB history to throw back to back one hitters & have over ten strikeouts in each of those games. In history only Nolan Ryan & Sandy Koufax have ever thrown one hitters in the same season.

He was named to the 2012 NL All Star team, but did not get the start which angered a lot of Mets fans as manager Tony Larussa went with San Francisco's Matt Cain. Dickey came in to pitch a scoreless 6th inning, allowing a base hit in the 8-0 National League win at Kansas City.

Quotes: Hall of Fame Pitcher and fellow knuckleballer Phil Niekro commented on Dickey's 2012 performance saying "I had a few streaks, but nothing like he’s going through.

I don’t know if any other knuckleballer has ever been on a hot streak like he has been. He is just dynamite right now." Mets manager Terry Collins also stated he never saw anything like the streak Dickey was on in June.

The Mets quickly faded away from the race after the break with a long losing streak, broken up by Dickey as he beat the first place Nationals on July 19th in Washington. 

In August he went 3-2 highlighted by two complete games, both against the Marlins. On August 9th at Citi Field he struck out ten Marlins becoming the first pitcher to toss four complete games on the year.

 On August 31st, he pitched a complete game shutout in Miami string out seven, becoming the first Mets pitcher since Al Leiter to win 17 games in a season. 

On September 5th he earned win #18 beating the Cardinals in St. Louis. He then lost his next two starts & it was looking doubtful he would reach twenty wins. But as usual he bore down winning #19 on September 22nd at Citi Field.

On September 27th he took the mound at Citi Field & pitched into the eighth inning, striking out 13 Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing three runs on eight hits. He earned the win becoming the first Mets pitcher since Frank Viola to win twenty games.

Dickey ended the year at 20-6 (second in the NL in wins) while leading the league in strike outs (230) starts (33) innings pitched(233) , batters faced (927) complete games (5) & shut outs (3).

His fielding was also excellent, posting a .933 fielding %, second in the league in assists (44)
In September Dickey who entered the last year of his contact- along with the clubs best hitter David Wright, said he would only sign an extended contract if the team aggressively perused Wright.

In December he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays along with Mike Nickeas, as the Mets decided to go with youth, getting Top prospects Travis d'Arnaud & Noah Syndergaad along with veteran John Buck.

In Toronto he debuted on Opening Day taking a loss to the Cleveland Indians, allowing four runs on five hits in six innings. He was 0-2 before earning his first win, which was a 3-2 victory at Kansas City where he pitched into the 7th inning. On April 18th, he shut out the Chicago White Sox for six innings, striking out seven batters for his second win.

On May 14th, he struck out ten Giants during an interleague game going six innings in a Blue Jays 9-6 win. On May 20th, he earned his fourth win pitching eight innings to beat the Tampa Rays 7-5.

The Blue Jays season did not go as expected, with injuries & lots of struggles. Dickeys year went up & down as he pretty much stayed at .500 all season. 

On June 5th, he had one of his best games with Toronto; pitching a one hit shut out into the 9th inning. He left the game with one out finishing up a two hit shut out win over the Giants in San Francisco. 

In July he got to the .500 mark (8-8) but then lost three straight & had to play catch-up once again. He did, finishing up the year winning four of five decisions, while going to the 8th inning three times. 


On September 22nd, he took a loss to the AL Eastern Champion Red Sox but struck out a season high 11 batters. He finished the year winning a Gold Glove & leading the AL in starts (33) going 14-13 (8th most wins in AL) with 174 strike outs 70 walks & a 4.27 ERA in 217 innings. He allowed 35 HRs which was second most in the AL.

In 2014 he was pretty much at .500 most of the year, earning wins followed by losing decisions. The Jays had a fine season, contending for a playoff spot into September, Dickey along with Mark Buehrle led the pitching staff.

From August 20th through the end of the year he went 4-0 pitching into at least the 6th inning every time, giving three seven inning outings as well. 

He ended the year at 14-13 with a 3.71 ERA and pitched 215 innings for the 4th straight year. He led all pitchers in hit by pitches (14) & served up 32 HRs (3rd most in the AL).

In 2015 the Blue Jays won the A.L. Eastern Division, with the help of AL Sluggers Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion & Jose Bautista, along with trade deadline acquisitions David Price & Troy Tulowitzki.  Dickey went 11-11 behid Buehrle, Marco Estrada & Drew Hitchinson. Dickey posted a 4.00 ERA & pitched over 200 innings (209) for the fifth straight year.  He struck out 123 batters & walked 61.
 
Personal: Off the field he is a born again Christian, married with four children. His favorite hobby is reading, he is notorious for having a stack of books in his locker at all times.

In 2012 he wrote a book of his own about the amazing journey of his life where he found success as well as God in his life. The book called Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest or Truth, Authenticity & the Perfect knuckleball.

The book was a huge success & inspiration to many, in a season where he personally found the most success of his own career.

His story has become an inspiration to many people. He has made rounds doing interviews in the baseball world, Christian publications, & television shows, including a stop by on David Letterman. Even Forbes magazine did an article on how C.E.O.'s can learn from Dickey's book to make a successful company.

In his 13 year career he has pitched in 338 games going 100-93 with a 3.98 ERA, 1212 strike outs & 533 walks in 1709 innings.

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