Dickey Dickey Dickey Can't You See - Back to Back One-Hitters
I'm convinced that R.A. Dickey is a wizard. I mean, how else can you explain his mid-to-late 30's ascent from obscurity to baseball immortality? And don't give me that Buck Showalter knuckleball crap... this guy is a wizard. Hollywood wouldn't buy his story because it's too far fetched; 35 years old and on the brink of giving up, Dickey, a career +5 ERA major leaguer (a +4 ERA minor leaguer), finds a magical pitch at the end of rainbow that saves his career, eventually landing him in serious Cy Young consideration.
It can't be that easy, can it?
Quite frankly, it is. Like most knuckleballers, he doesn't throw hard, nor does he boast a wide array of pitches. He throws two pitches - a dancing knuckleball and a fastball. He throws his knuckleball almost 85% of the time (average velocity in the mid 70's) and compliments that with a low 80's fastball (not blazing but faster than most knuckleballers). But the singular thing that has allowed Dickey to dominate this season in a way that no knuckleballer ever has is that he has been able to throw strikes consistently. Knuckleballers typically struggle with wild pitches and passed balls; it wasn't uncommon for Tim Wakefield and Charlie Hough to tally 10-15 wild pitches and hit 10-15 batsmen in a season while handcuffing their catchers with double digit passed balls (Jim Sundberg and Doug Mirabelli both led their respective leagues in passed balls while acting as the primary catchers for Hough and Wakefield, respectively. Sundberg won a gold glove in two of those seasons and Mirabelli amassed 29 passed balls over the course of two seasons while catching less than 1/3 of the Red Sox games). All of those extra bases add up to runs but Dickey has avoided that fate so far in 2012 by maintaining control over the uncontrollable knuckleball... it's wizardry, man. So far, Dickey has zero wild pitches, 2 hit batsmen and 9 passed balls... manageable numbers.
Throwing back to back one-hitters is as impressive as almost any feat in baseball. In fact, it has only been done seven times in baseball history. The last guy to throw back to back one-hitters was Blue Jays ace Dave Stieb and his tremendous mullet in 1988 (both starts were no-hit bids that were broken up with two outs in the ninth... ouch). Prior to that, Sam McDowell did it in 1966; neither of those pitchers earned a single Cy Young vote in the year they accomplished the feat. It would be cool to see Dickey make it onto a few Cy ballots in 2012... I'll take that a step further -- I hope that Dickey wins the Cy Young in 2012 and his success leads to a in-flux of middle aged knuckleballers... call it the Dickey effect. Maybe it's just me holding out hope that one day the Phillies will discover me playing in my church softball league. Or maybe it's the fact that Dickey's story is too good to be true and too incredible not to watch. I love the power pitcher as much as the next guy but there's just something special about a slow-tosser making a hulk-ish slugger look foolish. There's something special about what Dickey has done so far and I, for one, hope it continues.