Fantasy Baseball 2013 Regression Risk: How Far Will R.A. Dickey Fall?

Eric StashinSenior Writer IFebruary 3, 2013

TORONTO, CANADA - JANUARY 8: R.A. Dickey #43 of the Toronto Blue Jays answers questions from the media as he is introduced at a press conference at Rogers Centre on January 8, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Calling R.A. Dickey’s 2012 campaign magical may be an understatement. Even though the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner has pitched well ever since donning a New York Mets uniforms, no one could’ve predicted this type of season:

  • 20 wins
  • 233.2 innings
  • 2.73 ERA
  • 1.05 WHIP
  • 230 strikeouts (8.86 K/9)
  • 54 walks (2.08 BB/9)
  • .275 BABIP
  • 80.0% strand rate

Let us remember that this is a knuckleballer putting up these types of ridiculous numbers. That fact makes Dickey's control stick out like a sore thumb, but it may actually be the most believable number he posted in ’12. Just look at what he has done over the past three years:

  • 2010 – 2.17 (BB/9)
  • 2011 – 2.33
  • 2012 – 2.08

Yes, moving to the AL East is probably going to cause a slight regression, but there is no reason to think he is suddenly going to walk the ballpark. He is not your typical knuckleball pitcher in that regard, as we have now seen it for three years running.

What helps him is his ability to change speeds on his knuckleball. Last season he averaged 77.1 mph on the pitch (as opposed to 76.1 the year before). Just as a comparison, from 2002 to 2011, Tim Wakefield averaged 65.5 mph on his knuckleball and never more than 67.9.

We can’t compare Dickey to knuckleballers of the past, because he simply isn’t the same breed.

Does that mean we should believe his elevated strikeout rate?

It’s not like he was throwing the pitch that much slower in the past, yet in his first two seasons with the Mets he posted strikeout-per-nine rates of 5.37 and 5.78. Couple that with the move to the American League, where he will no longer get to face the pitcher, and there is definitely reason to think he will regress.

That said, pitching half his games inside a dome, where the elements are controlled, should definitely help with his consistency. A lot of his struggles in 2012 (as few as they were), came due to the elements and not being able to get a feel for his pitch. That should not be a problem for at least half his starts in 2013.

We can’t expect any pitcher to win 20 games every season, as the statistic is flukey on its own (even though you would think the Blue Jays would offer more opportunity than the Mets did). We also can’t expect him to match last year’s strand rate, nor his BABIP (given his 19.8 percent line-drive rate). Throw in the strikeout regression and seeing a falloff is a near given.

That’s not to say that he isn’t going to be a top-20 starting pitcher, but we need to be realistic in our assessment (think sub-3.50 ERA and sub-1.15 WHIP). Don’t draft the 38-year old expecting him to duplicate last season, because it is highly unlikely to happen.

Draft him on his likely 2013 production and nothing more.

What are your thoughts on Dickey? How close do you think he comes to 2012? Is he a pitcher you are going to target or avoid?