Can the New York Mets Rely On R.A. Dickey for 2011?

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Can the New York Mets Rely On R.A. Dickey for 2011?
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

I'm not going to lie.  I mercilessly mocked the New York Mets for signing R.A. Dickey in the offseason.  To be honest, I was frustrated.  Other teams were out signing pitchers like John Lackey (Red Sox), or trading for others such as Cliff Lee (Mariners), and I was stuck having to deal with the Mets settling for a 35-year-old knuckleballer who had never seen any extended success in the major leagues. 

Hell, he wasn't even supposed to be on the Mets 25-man roster, which got me even more ticked off.  Why are we trying to support our Binghamton/Buffalo starting rotations, when our major league rotation is in this type of shape?

Well, Dickey's 2010 performance has shut me, and likely lots of other ignoramuses similar to myself, right up.  He's gone 8-5, with an outstanding 2.43 ERA.  Hitters have rarely, if ever, looked comfortable against Dickey's knuckleball, which he mixes in with a fastball.  FanGraphs.com has Dickey throwing his knuckleball 83.7 percent of the time, with his fastball coming just 16.3 percent of the time he throws a pitch. Dickey's got a good thing going with his knuckler, he knows it, and he's taking advantage of it.

Bad knuckleballs stay flat.  Good knuckleballs dance, and that's what Dickey's has done for a majority of the season. Hitters have frequently taken uncertain swings at these pitches, resulting in either softly hit balls, or swings and misses.

Dickey is arbitration eligible for 2011, which let's be honest, is what needs to be the Mets' priority right now. 

Should the Mets bring R.A. Dickey back?

I think the answer is quite obvious: of course.  But the extent of what you can actually expect out of Dickey needs to be evaluated. 

Yes, he has eaten up innings, allowed very few runs, and been the Mets' most consistent starting pitcher this season.  That said, you can't expect too much from a pitcher who has never won more than nine games in a season.  Jerry Manuel can't put him near the top of the rotation and expect him to get into the double digits in the win column, and Omar Minaya can't tell Manuel he needs to.   

Hopefully, the Mets can go out this offseason and steal a pitcher like Cliff Lee from the free agent market, so they can put Dickey in a less pressured slot in the rotation, such as the fourth or the fifth slot. 

If they can't land another ace, they'd still be wise to go after a mid-level starter such as Ted Lilly or Vicente Padilla so they can still slot Dickey down low in the rotation. 

Hopefully, the Mets found something really special in Dickey.  Being a knuckleballer, his arm endures much less stress than a normal pitcher, so not only is he a strong candidate to go deep into games on a consistent basis, he's a strong candidate to pitch into his 40's, considering his knuckleball keeps hitters on their toes. 

Dickey has definitely been a nice piece for the Mets in 2010, and he has the potential to be in 2011.  But don't be fooled, he can not be counted on as an X-factor.  If the Mets are going into next season relying on players such as R.A. Dickey to lead them to the promised land, don't expect results much different from 2009 or this year.

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