Gratuitous (and amazing) R. A. Dickey statsby Shane Tourtellotte
June 19, 2012
We may as well officially declare this R. A. Dickey Day at The Hardball Times. Troy Patterson tops the homepage with his article examining Dickey's remarkable strikeout totals with his knuckleball. Patterson may have thought it was well-timed, coming soon after Dickey's 12-strikeout one-hitter on June 13 against the Rays. Little did he know—okay, by this time he could reasonably have guessed—that Dickey would beat that Monday night, putting up a 13-punchout one-hitter against the Orioles.
That's consecutive one-hitters for Dickey, which has to be pretty rare. Thanks to the modern marvel that is Baseball-Reference, we can see just how rare. From 1918 through last week, there had been exactly nine pitchers who threw consecutive games of one hit or fewer. Dickey is No. 10. I'll figure out eventually how to embed the appropriate tables without crashing the site, but for now, here's this lovingly hand-crafted list (total hits for the two games in parentheses):
Howard Ehmke, 1923 (1)
Dazzy Vance, 1925 (1)
Lon Warneke, 1934 (2)
Johnny Vander Meer, 1938 (0)
Mort Cooper, 1943 (2)
Jim Tobin, 1944 (1)
Whitey Ford, 1955 (2)
Sam McDowell, 1966 (2)
Dave Stieb, 1988 (2)
R. A. Dickey, 2012 (2)
Three of those pitchers threw a no-hitter as part of the string. A fourth threw two. (Show-off.) Stieb's games were where he famously lost consecutive no-hit bids with two outs in the ninth.
Dickey beats all these fellows in one category: strikeouts. With 25 for the two games, he's well ahead of Sam McDowell and Lon Warneke with 18. One can argue that Warneke's feat, in a lower-strikeout environment, was a greater show of excellence. But I won't hear that—not on R. A. Dickey Day. His two walks for the two games is second-best on the list, tied with Ehmke and just behind Vance's one.
Another thing I won't hear is how Dickey gave up a run in the first game, which seems to spoil the awesomeness. Not only was it unearned, but even the harshest detractors of the unfairness of earned and unearned runs would have to admit this run was not the pitcher's fault: error, passed ball, passed ball, groundout. What's that? Knucklers produce a lot of passed balls? Nope, still not listening. (Besides, three of the other pitchers gave up runs in their strings. Two of them were even earned.)
Still not convinced? Time to bring out the heavy artillery. Dickey's performance against Baltimore yesterday produced a Game Score of 96. His previous one-hitter came in at 95. (Yep, he's getting better.) I still haven't figured out the embedding thing, so here is my personalized, artisanal, locally-produced list of all the other pitchers since 1918 to pitch consecutive starts with Game Scores of 95 or better:
Bob Veale (97 & 95)
And the bizarre thing there is, Veale did it over two years: September 30, 1964, and April 12, 1965. And there was an intervening relief appearance in the last days of the 1964 season. So if we're going to be fair on R. A. Dickey Day, we have to discount Veale's accomplishment and acknowledge that R. A Dickey stands alone in this regard. (At least since 1918. Maybe ever.)
Besides, Bob Veale, while a decent enough pitcher, doesn't quite have the historical gravitas to stand in the same company as R. A. Dickey. Why, equating the two might imply that Dickey's wonderful run might not win him eternal fame and glory. Or that it might not last forever, and that we should just be thankful for every great game he can put on this string, however long he can keep it going.
I certainly wouldn't do that. Not on R. A. Dickey Day.
And isn't that just so much fun to say? R. A. Dickey Day, R. A. Dickey Day, R. A. Dickey Day ...
Shane Tourtellotte is a long-time, occasionally-nominated science fiction writer, currently living in Asheville, North Carolina. He will tell you all about the baseball novel he’s shopping if you give him an inch.