R.A. Dick-ulous

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays

I don’t want to steal too much from Dave Cameron’s excellent look at R.A. Dickey and his knuckleball velocity over at FanGraphs… um… except for this chart:


That, as you’ve probably figured out by now, is Dickey’s knuckleball velocity by start this year. And, as you can see– and as is Cameron’s point– it crept over 76 mph for the first time since Dickey left his fantastic mid-April outing in Kansas City with back trouble. This seems to portend well for the pitcher’s health and the possibility of a turnaround actually coming to fruition, for whatever little a single game’s worth of knuckleball velocity data is worth.

I’ll steal one other thing from Cameron’s piece, but only in order to take slight exception to it:

Dickey’s hard knuckleball is one of his distinguishing features as a pitcher, and he hasn’t really had it for most of 2013. Today, he had it, and he threw a complete game shutout. His first few starts of the year, he had it, and he was awful.

Maybe I’m trying too hard to see the glass as half full, but… was he???

Unquestionably he wasn’t awful in the Kansas City start, pitching 6.1 innings of five-hit ball, and holding the Royals to just a single run. (Of course, he dazzled in the following start, against the White Sox, in which his velocity was considerably lower, relatively, so maybe none of this means a damn thing).

But was he “awful” in the opener and against Boston?

OK, against Boston, yes. He was. Horrific, actually. But really that was just a disgusting first inning of batting practice, after which he was… kind of OK? Apart from a home run and a double from Will Middlebrooks, and a Jose Iglesias double. And a Jacoby Ellsbury single.

The opener, though, I still believe was undone largely by catching. Dickey’s knuckleball was dancing– though he did give up three earned and four total runs in six innings– and J.P. Arencibia had a hell of a time handling it, with passed balls directly contributing to a pair of second inning runs. Or… y’know… at least one. The unearned one.

So… maybe it’s just a semantic quibble. I don’t think Dickey was awful in those first couple of starts, and he certainly wasn’t yesterday, with his velocity back up closer to where it needs to be. So… that’s good, right? Hopeful? I think so.

Of course, if he’s going to keep throwing pitches that move like this (via @LookoutLanding), who the hell even needs velocity?

Comments (30)

  1. Interesting how his start in SF was quite low on the velocity but he did well. Junior Varsity Giants of course.

    • He threw a bunch of super slow knuckles that game. One was even classified as an eaphus, that probably suppressed that average.

  2. For what it’s worth, it was the Chicago start he left early with back trouble. He was visibly annoyed when Gibby gave him the hook in Kansas City.

  3. The movement on that pitch is sick. I could watch that all day.

    • The movement of Josh Thole’s glove is also very fun to watch.

    • What is so beautiful about it is that it makes an amazing hitter in Longoria look absolutely overmatched. I loved the Longoria tweet too. I know it’s cheesy but that made me respect him even more as a player and as a person, who can pay a compliment to an opposing player after losing.

  4. important investigation requested:
    based on Zubes dickeyface images, I think Dickey is giving away the speed of his pitch: tongue down… slow, tongue to the side… fast.

    or not

  5. Take a look a the comments in the Fan Graphs post. Average vKN isn’t really the greatest measure for Dickey because he purposefully throws at different velocities. He throws his super slow knuckleball a few less times and the avg. vKN goes up. He was sitting at 76-78 with the knuckleball and didn’t top 80 with it (like he was doing last year). I think Cameron might be reaching a bit with the velocity.

    • Very good point

    • Yeah. This makes sense to me.

      A few less slow knucklers would bring the average up even without the fast ones. You almost have to group pitches by speed to get an accurate analysis.

      What was the average velocity last year out of curiosity?

  6. not sure it is possible to watch this GIF less than 20 times .. Longoria swing and misses by 18 inches! … and Thole has his glove up in one place just before the ball arrives only to have to move it at the last second after the ball took a detour … thank goodness for the invention of first basemen gloves!

  7. I don’t agree when people channel their inner Wilner.

    “If you remove the part where he was terrible, he wasn’t really that bad”.

    He was awful in that Boston game. Who cares, it happens to everybody.

    • Wahhh!!!

      It would be one thing if he was terrible throughout the game, or even had a rough stretch in the middle, but it’s relevant, I think, when he clearly didn’t have his stuff in the first inning, then found it.

      • Wasn’t that the game where he chipped a mail and threw a lot of “fastballs”?

        Just throw the whe result out then.

  8. What about the whole indoor vs outdoor variable? Yesterday he was indoors and did pretty well

  9. Is anyone concerned about the fact the JBau wants back to 3rd and is slumping but remains at 2 spot?

  10. Judging by Thole’s reaction to that single pitch, catching a Dickey start must be some stressful shit

  11. Why is Thole wearing Felix Potvin’s old mask?

  12. Good Christ…30 minutes of phone calls on PTS about how Gibby is an idiot for sitting Adam Lind tonight…

    Who the fuck are these people? One guy declared that he’s “sick of this lefty/righty thing”; another helpfully added that he “guarantees” the Jays will get blown out tonight and lose the series because of this move alone…

  13. Love the .gif. Man, you can practically read the Rawlings logo on that ball. Hardly even makes half a revolution.

  14. Thole reminds me of Ne Hao Kai Lan

  15. It comes down to the range of velocity in my opinion. Kinda like when Shaun Marcum was dealing in 2011, he was showing 3 different speeds on his change up that year. Hitters were guessing on both velocity and fighting the movement of the pitch.

    I think it’s kinda the same thing with Dickey. If he’s showing slow, medium, and fast, that’s just overwhelming to most hitters (not to mention that the sneakiness of the fastball becomes more of a factor).

    If it’s just slow to medium, hitters have less to worry about as far as timing, and can concentrate on the movement.

    If Dave Cameron charted the velocity in groupings, I think that that would give a clearer picture.

  16. I think it’s all about movement and control of the knuckler. 75 vs 76 means nothing to a batter. A little more velocity probably correlates to movement/control/health etc but by itself surely doesn’t mean that much. Which I guess is what you’re saying.

  17. Yeah, control and movement have to be a lot more important than 1-2 mph. I think they are blurring cause and effect a bit. His back is sore so he can’t throw as well/hard. His back is causing the problem not the lack of velocity.

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