R.A. Dickey has had an unbelievable season for the New York Mets. He has a 12-1 record, which is the best in baseball. His 2.40 ERA is third best in the National League. He has 123 strikeouts, which is second in baseball behind Justin Verlander, who has had one more start than Dickey.
Dickey has been the best pitcher in the National League by far, and if the season ended today, he would win the NL Cy Young Award.
Yet he is not a lock to be the starter for the All-Star Game, and he probably shouldn't be.
Dickey's great play has been due to his crazy knuckleball, which he throws with uncanny accuracy. He throws it as fast as the low 80s, which is unusually fast for a knuckleball. But the knuckleball is going to be what keeps him from getting the start. There are two reasons for that.
The first reason is that the starting catcher for the National League is San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey. Posey is playing well in his third season in the Majors, batting .295 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI.
With that being said, Posey is only in his third year, but he has only played in a little over two of them because of a horrifically broken ankle. Posey has looked like he has lost a little bit of his mobility due to the injury.
Posey has never had to catch a knuckleball pitcher. By all accounts, each knuckleball is different, and each guy throws it differently. With home field advantage up for grabs in the All-Star Game, having an inexperienced, slightly less mobile catcher trying to catch the toughest pitch in baseball without having had to do it before is a risk that manager Tony La Russa probably isn’t going to take.
Veteran catcher Yadier Molina is Posey’s backup for the game. Molina is the Cardinals' catcher, who was there with La Russa for several years and two World Series titles. La Russa would have much more faith in Molina’s ability to catch for Dickey, which would make it seem that someone else would start with Posey, and then La Russa could bring in Dickey and Molina in the third or fourth inning.
The second reason is that Dickey could and would be much more effective if he were to pitch in between two hard throwing pitchers. Despite the fact that Dickey throws a fairly fast knuckleball, it is still significantly slower than some of the other pitchers on the roster.
If Dickey is throwing his knuckleball in the low 80s, and some of the other pitchers are throwing their fastball in the mid 90s, it is going to be nearly impossible for the American League hitters to adjust to the change of pace.
If Dickey started, they would only have to make that adjustment once. If La Russa went with a fastball pitcher like Matt Cain (who would then get to pitch to his battery mate Posey,) then Dickey, then another fastball pitcher like Stephen Strasburg, the hitters would have to make the adjustment twice.
In all honesty, Dickey deserves to have the start. He knows that and La Russa knows that.
They both also know that that might not be the best strategy to use.
Look for Dickey to be the second pitcher in the All-Star Game, not the starter.