R.A. Dickey is riding a wave of momentum into this week's MLB All-Star Game.
During the first half of this season, Dickey has exceeded expectations, leading the team in wins, innings pitched, WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and strikeouts.
His stats and dominating pitching have cast him as a potential winner of the Cy Young award, however he is not the outright favorite.
He has to compete with pitchers like Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain to name just a few.
In order to become the Cy Young winner, Dickey needs to work on the following:
It's common knowledge that knuckle ballers experience less wear and tear due to the slower velocities of the pitch.
Dickey can extend himself into later innings more so than the rest of the Mets starting rotation because he experiences less fatigue; since he has been so unhittable this season, this equates to more strikeouts and continued dominance.
Also, the more innings Dickey pitches means that manager Terry Collins will have to rely less and less on the shaky Mets bullpen.
Given the perplexing flight of the knuckleball, batters find it hard to find a rhythm despite facing Dickey multiple times per game.
This sounds obvious but it still needs to be said: Dickey needs to keep his strikeouts up while keeping his walks down.
This hasn't been a major concern for Dickey; in the month of June he started six games, had 55 strikeouts and issued only eight walks.
Cy Young winners are always near the top of the league in strikeouts. Pitchers need the stats to be considered, and so far, Dickey has done well.
If Dickey continues at the same pace after the All-Star game, he will have 246 strikeouts and only 52 walks.
His stats show that he has fine control of the knuckleball, especially his low number of base on balls.
This means he has great control and throws more pitches for strikes while his WHIP decreases as well.
The less baserunners Dickey has to deal with, the greater likelihood of him having a stupendous year and winning the Cy Young.
This is related to the strikeouts and the base on balls; Dickey's control of an seemingly uncontrollable pitch is what separates him from the other Cy Young candidates.
Having displayed such good control of his pitch, Dickey needs to work on expanding his strike zone to become even more effective on the mound.
He is able to aim the knuckleball and throw it faster than some of his knuckling predecessors. Working all of the zone leads to more swinging misses and more outs.
Dickey is good at disrupting batters' rhythms and making them uncomfortable when they step into the box.
By expanding the strike zone, he can capitalize on this even more and amass more strikeouts.