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?