You just can’t tell with the knuckleball.
That mystery was supposed to be a strength for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013 after they make the splash to acquire R.A. Dickey, but as it’s turned out this season thus far, the team has ended up on the short end of the stick in the spectrum of unpredictability.
It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. After winning the NL Cy Young award in 2012, a culmination of three very solid seasons, Dickey came to Toronto with the reputation of being a different kind of knuckler: he could throw it a little harder (mid 80s), with a little more control (2.08 BB/9 in 2012) and turned the pitch into a strikeout weapon (8.86 K/9).
None of that, however, has proven to be the case this season — as least not consistently.
Take his latest start against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, for instance. For five (not consecutive) out of his seven innings pitched, Dickey was fantastic, allowing just a hit and walk while striking out three. The remaining pair of innings? How about six hits, one walk, and a dagger of a home run in the seventh that plated three of the six runs that the knuckleballer gave up on the day.
So yeah, that dreaded “one bad inning” syndrome is still plaguing the 38-year old in his first season as a member of the Blue Jays … except it came double on this day in the third and seventh innings.
It was more than enough to wipe out any goodwill that he’d built up through the rest of his turn, and while he did go seven innings to save the bullpen, the fact is that Dickey did not do enough to give the bluebirds a chance to win. More alarmingly, the six-run outing on Saturday marks the fifth time in his last nine starts that he allowed at least six runs or more.
That’s not good for any pitcher, let along the expectant ace of a team, but more frustrating in Dickey’s case is the fact that in the four remaining starts over that stretch, he has allowed just three earned runs in 30 combined innings … good enough for a 0.90 ERA. It would probably make Two-Face jealous.
Much like the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays, Dickey’s knuckler has been fantastic when it wants to be. When it’s not, however, it’s more often soul-crushingly bad more often than not for the fans to watch.
The lack of a middle ground in Dickey’s performances has more or less parallelled with the ups and downs of this disappointing squads, and unfortunately for the Blue Jays, the downs have added up a whole lot more than the ups at this point. Sunday’s loss was just another frustrating reminder that this veteran arm just hasn’t quite put it together yet in his return to the AL — leaving fans to wonder if he will at all in 2013.