As promised, the Braves are indeed trying to move quickly to shore up their rotation. Today they announced the signing of veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
Things are moving fast for the Atlanta Braves – and they are indeed going down the path as set forth by John Coppolella.
This is interesting for the Braves, but argues for a deeper look at the numbers involved – both those on his contract (not yet revealed) and those on the back of Dickey’s baseball card.
42-year-old Robert Allen Dickey has been there and done that as a pitcher. He was drafted by the Rangers in 1996. Debuted in the majors in 2001. Played for the Rangers, Mariners, Twins, Mets, and Blue Jays over 15 years… though missing 2002 and 2007 (AAA) along the way.
Once he joined the Mets, he blossomed: in 2010 and 2011, he was very good: 2.7 and 2.5 fWAR respectively. But in 2012, a 2.73 ERA and 5.0 fWAR with a strikeout boost earned him a Cy Young award.
He has not been able to duplicate that success in the American League, though it’s clear that the AL East is not an easy division to pitch in.
With the Blue Jays, he’s averaged roughly a 4.00 ERA. In 2016, though, Dickey’s walk rate increased a bit (from 2.56 per 9 innings to 3.34) while his homer rate jumped by over 40% (to 1.49 per 9 innings).
Defense Could Be Key
You might point to R.A. Dickey’s FIP numbers and expect the worst (it was just over 5.00 last season), but it isn’t surprising that a knuckleballer would have a high FIP. Strikeouts are something of a luxury for them and the goal is to pitch to weak contact.
The Blue Jays had generally excellent defense, particularly with Gold Glove-level center fielder Kevin Pillar roamed their fake grass. Troy Tulowitski had 10 himself with the other infielders holding their own.
The Braves didn’t do as well defensively except at 1B and CF. That will need to improve to support Dickey better.
Of course, nothing defends homers, and the 42-year-old right hander gave up a bunch in 2016 – it’s not unusual to see roughly one per start (+/-) sail out of the yard on him during each game, though that also speaks to the AL East a bit.
Innings…. More Innings.
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In the past 6 years, Dickey has thrown 30+ starts in all of them… with 200+ innings in all but 2016 (169.2 innings). So whatever you think about Dickey as a pitcher, there will be two overriding reasons that the Braves now have him:
- Generally keeps you in ball games
- Generally pitches into the 7th inning
It’s a 1 year deal with an option for 2018, and all jokes aside… and there are a bunch… this is exactly the kind of back-end-of-the-rotation support that the Atlanta Braves will need.
But I can’t let this go without this tweet from our friend and colleague here at TomahawkTake, Josh Brown… who captured what I was thinking:
Congratulation, R.A., and welcome to Braves Country.