URL Weaver: The Best

Late yesterday afternoon, the current National League Cy Young winner met with the media in Toronto. It is rather unusual for the NL Cy Young winner to hold a press conference in an American League city, but it just so happens R.A. Dickey no longer plays in the National League.

Dickey was traded, along with his personal catcher and backup personal catcher, to the Toronto Blue Jays in a blockbuster deal which confirms the Blue Jays status as a contender. Dickey was paraded about before the media yesterday, at which point he sent the local scribes swooning with his uncommonly articulate and thoughtful answers to any and all queries.

It was a tour-de-force performance by the most interesting man in baseball, who casually dropped terms like “neophyte” into his answers before slipping into baseball player-speak when addressing the concept of leadership in the clubhouse. Lest any eyes glaze over, Dickey quickly mentioned winning ballgames is for the players to “unpack” as the GM cannot do it for them.

When the occasional baseball question slipped through, Dickey discussed the philosophy of throwing the knuckleball and catching it, too. Philosophy being the key word.

When not expounding on his zen-like appreciation for the process versus the results, R.A. Dickey mentioned the long learning curve required to master the knuckleball. He spoke of working with one of his new catchers, J.P. Arencibia, (with whom he threw for the first time this week) and the challenges ahead for a young receiver to work with the knuckleball for the first time.

Dickey spoke at length about his mastery of the knuckleball high in the zone, a place most knucklers refuse to tread. Dickey’s ability to both throw his knuckler for strikes and throw it up on the zone are what sets him apart from previous practitioners for the lost art of flutter.

There is an old saw TV analysts trot out about the knuckler, that if you see it low, let it go. But if it’s high, you gotta let it fly! R.A. Dickey subscribed to that school of thought for the first few years as a knuckler, specifically when he joined the Mets. But in 2012, his willingness to throw his harder (80 mph average on the harder of his two floaters) lead to his strikeout spike.

Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info

The above image shows Dickey’s knuckleballs by location in 2012. Below is 2010 and 2011 together. The change is subtle but not insignificant.

Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info

On the whole, Dickey threw his KB up in the zone 42% of the time in 2012, allowing a Well-Hit Average of just .155 in that location. The previous two seasons, the Mets ace only threw the ball up 32% of the time, when his WHA was still a paltry .171. Dickey and his catchers recognized that his pitch thrown in that spot was incredibly difficult for batters to handle so they kept going there, getting the highest whiff rate up in the zone of any starter in baseball.

Though Dickey insisted trying to win another Cy Young is the worst thing he could do for the Toronto Blue Jays, his outlook is not blase. He is the rare athlete who appears aware of his limitations and embraces them, accepting new challenges as a man who views continuous improvement as a valid life outlook, not a corporate mission statement.

Which is to say: Dickey the best.

And the rest

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R.J. Anderson an essential read on how Mike Trout and Desmond Jennings steal bases. Spoiler: any way and any time they damn well please. [Baseball Prospectus]

Yesterday, we posted video of Barry Bonds hitting an absolute moonshot at Yankee Stadium in 2002. The next day, Joe Torre and the Yankees intentionally walk Bonds three times. My friend Rob was at the home run game and said it was a day he will never forget. All of this is a lazy excuse to post this gif

Ahhhh, yes.

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