After an amazing start to his season, R.A. Dickey has become nearly as pedestrian a pitcher as anyone else.
As Jonathan Tjarks of SB Nation pointed out nearly one month ago, entering that nationally televised contest on ESPN against the New York Yankees, Dickey had gone 53 innings without giving up a home run, 46 innings without allowing an earned run to score and 32 innings without yielding any extra base hit.
Seems like such a long time ago, doesn't it?
In that Sunday, June 24th game, he was tagged for five earned runs on five hits, including Nick Swisher's three-run homer. He also walked three to go along with his three strikeouts.
Since then, Dickey has been, well, pedestrian at best. Though he rebounded in his next start, on June 29th, when he handily defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to become the first 12-game winning pitcher in the big leagues, he has subsequently appeared more and more like the career journeyman he used to be prior to his rejuvenation with the Mets two years ago, rather than the Cy Young Award winner rabid Mets fans have been clamoring for.
On July 5th, he earned a no decision against the Philadelphia Phillies when he gave up five runs on 11 hits over seven innings. On July 14th, he gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings against the Atlanta Braves. And, team player that he is, Dickey even threw an inning in relief two days ago, on Saturday, July 21st, so the Mets didn't have to use their overtaxed bullpen; unfortunately, he also gave up a two-run homer.
Even in his one-inning appearance in this year's All-Star Game, he was less than stellar; though he struck out slugger Mark Trumbo, he gave up a single to Mike Trout and plunked Paul Konerko before inducing Miguel Cabrera to hit into an inning-ending double play.
The author of a critically acclaimed memoir that dealt head on with being the victim of sexual abuse growing up, Dickey, who captivated the country earlier this season as he threw back-to-back one-hitters against the Tampa Bay Rays and then the Baltimore Orioles, was arguably the feel good story of the year. (And, if I may be so bold as to plug a fellow author, Joseph Bottom explores the relationship between sports and faith in his recently released E-book on the Dickey phenomenon, "The Summer of 43.")
Dickey finally picked up his 13th victory of the season last Thursday against the Washington Nationals, when he scattered 10 hits and only gave up four earned runs in 7 1/3 innings. In earning the victory, Dickey bested fellow National League All-Star Game pitcher Gio Gonzalez.
If anyone could have even remotely predicted Dickey's success this year based on his past record, I'd love to meet that individual. That's why it's not that surprising that he's fallen off the way he has. For nearly two months, Dickey was lights out. Now, he's just human.
Who do you think will win the Cy Young Award in the National League this year?
It happens to the best of 'em. Even to Hall of Famers like George Thomas Seaver.
Dickey's 2012 is eerily reminiscent of "Tom Terrific's" 1970 season, when the player dubbed "The Franchise" compiled a won-loss record of 17-6 by mid-August. Seaver was so dominant a pitcher that year that he started the All-Star Game for the N.L. It was also the year that Seaver set a major league record by striking out the final 10 batters of the game in a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres at Shea Stadium.
Nonetheless, he finished with a record of only 18-12 that season.
Dickey's coming back to earth was perhaps inevitable. That is not meant to diminish his amazing accomplishments this season. For all anyone knows, Dickey could still be lights out in his remaining 13 starts.
We'll see which Dickey shows up beginning tomorrow night at Citi Field, when he takes the hill against the Nats in a pitching rematch against Gonzalez.