There remains speculation out of Flushing that R.A. Dickey may be converted into a permanent twice-a-week starter on the battered but competitive Mets. “After August 1st,” Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reported yesterday, “[Terry Collins] may consider using R.A. Dickey on three days’ rest.”
With Dillon Gee sidelined for what may be the rest of the season, the Mets have entered desperation mode. They aren’t a sure enough playoff contender, perhaps, to enter the thin market for starting pitching reinforcement; Matt Harvey may or may not be ready. Dickey, meanwhile, is the one-of-a-kind knuckleball sensation. Why not use him?
Dickey’s averaged 7.05 innings per start this season. He’s scheduled to go tomorrow, and assuming the Mets make it to Aug. 1 firmly in the playoff picture and still woefully thin at the pitcher position, Dickey will have pitched something like 140 innings.
Right now, he sits at 120.
He starts on the 14th. Assuming he performs as he has over the course of the year (no sure thing): 127.
He’d get his normal five days of rest throughout July—meaning he’d start on 7/21 and 7/27 as well. Let’s assume he makes it 14 innings combined: 141.
Assuming no tweaks are necessary from August on and “Dickey Every Four Days” as an experiment is a go, he’d pitch on Aug. 2 (at San Francisco), Aug. 7 (vs. Miami), Aug. 11 (vs. Atlanta), Aug. 16 (at Cincinnati), Aug. 20 (vs. Colorado), Aug. 24 (vs. Houston), Aug. 29 (atPhiladelphia), Sept. 2 (at Miami), Sept. 7 (vs. Atlanta), Sept. 11 (vs. Washington), Sept. 16 (at Milwaukee), Sept. 21 (vs. Miami), Sept. 25 (vs. Pittsburgh), Sept. 29 (@ Atlanta), and in the final game of the season, Oct. 3 (at Miami). Though I acknowledge that one skipped start for Dickey, a spot start for Harvey or Miguel Batista, or one tweak in the rotation would throw off that schedule totally, but this is an experiment to see just what Dickey’s innings pitched total could look like if all those stars align.
That’s 15 starts in a span of two months. Perhaps the Mets would keep him on a shorter leash—six innings per start or something of that sort—but considering his knuckleball ways, it’s possible they let him loose and allow him to average seven, as he has. That’s 105 innings in a compact time frame; it’s an open question, for me at least, whether anyone’s arm can take that beating. He’s never pitched more than 73 in a span of two months (June-July of 2011), and even then, the beating took place over a span of 11 starts.
Meanwhile, his season total would be boosted to around 246 innings, which would be an increase of close to 40 innings from last year. Maybe an 83 mph fastball coupled with a primary pitch (77 mph knuckleball, of course), thrown 86 percent of the time, would allow him plenty of shoulder abuse.
Upon closer examination, the end result isn’t all that nuts: Thirty-five pitchers, since 1996, have thrown 246+ innings in a season. Among the names are era-defining, elite talents: Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Roy Halladay, Greg Maddux, CC Sabathia, Curt Schilling, Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay. Also on the list are the likes of Jose Lima and Pat Hentgen, much more like Dickey than the aforementioned in their soft-tossing ways.
Some, like Johnson, were able to thrive in the subsequent seasons. He, in fact, managed four consecutive 246+ inning seasons. Others, like Halladay, faced shoulder troubles the next year; Halladay touched the DL twice in 2004 with right shoulder troubles, and missed 75 games with soreness and a strain, respectively. And none, so far as I’m aware, pitched so many innings in such a compact time frame— even Johnson mustered only 95 in his brilliant run from July 31 to Sept. 30, 1990.
Are the Mets willing to gamble with their de facto ace, the well-deserving All-Star and Cy Young candidate who’s at the center of a heartwarming feel-good story and may be a rotation staple for the next five years if handled properly? Would Dickey himself be willing to tax his body to such an extent?
I’d bet Dickey, a true gamer and grinder, would buy into the idea—after all, they’re considering it only because the knuckleball is thrown with relative ease. But the Mets may be wise to consider their 23.6 percent playoff odds (per Baseball Prospectus) and tread lightly, instead affording those extra 30-40 innings to Harvey’s development.