From NL Cy Young winner in 2012 to a 13-12 record and 4.21/1.27 ERA/WHIP in 2013, forget about being an AL ace — R.A. Dickey hasn’t even been the most valuable pitcher on his own team.
So, that makes him a unequivocal bust for the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays, right?
Well, even though it’s likely the case that the team would rather have former top catching prospect (and current -0.4 fWAR player with a .463 OPS through his first 86 PA) Travis d’Arnaud back, not to mention Noah Syndergaard, the answer is little more complicated than that.
The fact is that, all things considered, Dickey just hasn’t been that bad overall.
Has he been a disappointment given the sky-high expectations heaped on him prior to the season? Much like it was for the team, the answer is a definite yes. This is especially true if you were to see things from the first half when the bluebirds’ season essentially spiraled out of control, as the knuckler put together a poor 4.69/1.29 ERA through his first 128.2 innings with a mediocre 6.44 K/9 to 3.29 BB/9.
That’s far from the 4.26 K/BB he had when he was in Cy Young form, and with hitters crushing homers off him at a 1.40 HR/9 rate, it’s little wonder why he went 8-10 in his first 20 starts (also, the team wasn’t very good).
Since the All-Star Break, however, it’s been a bit of a different story.
No, he didn’t come out of the post-break gate on first (nine ER though 12.0 IP in two starts), and his homer-proneness is still intact (1.23 HR/9), but if the team hasn’t quite seen the veteran who won the Cy Young last year, they’ve at least gotten the guy who pitched well in the season leading up to that triumph.
In his last 10 outings, Dickey has failed to pitch into the seven inning only twice, and has allowed more than three runs in just three of those outings … which is to say that seven of those turns were of the quality variety. Despite those two sub-par starts since the break, he owns a much-improved 7.92 K/9 and 2.45 BB/9 since the break — a 3.23 K/BB that’s much more in line with what was expected of him.
Unsurprisingly, he’s owned a 5-2 record with a 3.46/1.23 ERA/WHIP since then with a .247 BAA. That’s not so different from the 3.28/1.23 and .248 he posted in 2011 with the New York Mets, and keeping in mind that he is in the toughest division in the AL these days in a homer-friendly park, the adjustments that he’s made has been rather impressive.
In fact, you might even say that he’s rounding into form. Over the last month (six turns), Dickey is right where he was expected to be all along — sitting atop the Blue Jays rotation as the most valuable pitcher at 0.8 fWAR.
Over those last 41 IP, he’s taken a big step in limiting his home run problem (0.88 HR/9), and owns a 3.07/1.20 ERA/WHIP to boot. It’s a shame that it’s taken the 38-year old this long to find his form in the AL, but thanks to the late boost that currently sees him at 2.0 fWAR and having eaten 209.1 innings and counting (in a season where that’s been especially valuable), Dickey has well outperformed his $5 million salary of the season.
Even as his salary goes up to $12 million per in each of the next two years, he would only need around 2.5-ish fWAR production in those seasons for the Blue Jays to get requisite value out of the extension. If his second half is to be believed, topping that number is eminently doable.
It won’t bring d’Arnaud back, and it might not be enough to carry the Blue Jays to contention; but as far as a “bust” goes for the 2013 nightmare version of the team … Dickey is simply not it.