R.A. Dickey Wins NL Cy Young Award After 20-Win Season

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2012

New York Mets ace R.A. Dickey has been named the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, as announced on MLB Network:

Congrats to @radickey43 of the @mets for winning the NL Cy Young Award #CYYoung

— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) November 14, 2012

Dickey finished the season with a 20-6 record and 2.73 ERA, ranking second in both key categories, while leading the NL in strikeouts with 230. Also, since the Mets won just 74 games overall, he directly accounted for 27 percent of the team's wins.

Dickey credited the loyal New York fans for sticking with him down the stretch (via Mets Twitter feed):

.@radickey43: If it weren’t for the fans coming to the park to support me for my 19th & 20th Ws, I don’t think I would be here talking to u

— New York Mets (@Mets) November 14, 2012

He also gave a shout-out to all of the knuckleball-throwing pitchers across the nation (via David Lennon of Newsday):

Dickey on winning Cy Young award on behalf of knuckleballers: "This is a victory for all of us."

— David Lennon (@DPLennon) November 14, 2012

While most Cy Young contenders are trying to blow hitters away with their fastballs or lock them up with a devastating slider, the 38-year-old knuckleball sensation has mastered the art of getting batters out without those pitches.

Dickey threw knuckleballs 85 percent of the time throughout his award-winning season, with an average velocity of just over 77 mph. In an era where most elite pitchers can touch the upper 90s, that's an impressive feat. 

More important, the Cy Young honor is a testament to Dickey's work ethic. He was a typical pitcher when he broke into the major leagues, using a fastball and changeup to get hitters out, but it just didn't work for him.

Instead of accepting his fate as a fringe major-league pitcher, he reinvented himself using the knuckleball and now has the top individual pitching honor to show for it.

The biggest key to success for him was improving his strikeout rate. He struck out three more batters per nine innings this season than he did in 2011, and he was able to accomplish that while still maintaining terrific control on a pitch that's pretty unpredictable.

By decreasing the number of balls in play, it allowed him to get out of more jams and ensured he could be less reliant on his defense. The result was the best ERA of his career and some absolutely dominant stretches, including a scoreless streak of more than 40 innings.

Dickey overcame some tough competition to take home the award. He beat out Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez, Johnny Cueto and World Series champion Matt Cain, among starting pitchers. Closers Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman also received some attention.

In the end, voters opted to go with Dickey. And, given his combination of elite numbers and being downright unhittable at times, it's hard to argue with the decision.

It's been a long journey, but Dickey now has the hardware to prove he's one of the best pitchers in the game.