Dickey's Strong Outing vs. Giants
This was the R.A. Dickey the Blue Jays have been looking for.
To be fair to the 38-year-old, he has shown flashes of his dominance this season and has had trouble getting rid of a back/neck issue that crept up early in the year. But his latest outing against San Francisco was his best of 2013.
The key to Dickey's success against the Giants largely stemmed from his ability to throw the ball in the strike zone, something that has evaded him for much of the year. Dickey threw 49.51% of his pitches in the zone and has only eclipsed that mark once this season.
After walking just 54 batters over 233 2/3 innings last season, Dickey has already issued 34 free passes in 83 innings. The knuckleballer entered Wednesday's outing having surrendered six runs in back-to-back starts -- he only allowed more than five runs once last season -- but left the field at AT&T Park having allowed just two hits and no runs. He became the first Blue Jays starter to work into the ninth inning this season, and looked well on his way to a complete game before experiencing some hiccups in the final frame.
Dickey struck out five over 8 1/3 innings to lower his ERA to 4.66. It was Dickey's eighth quality start of the year.
Half of Dickey's hits and walks came in the ninth, and it was the only frame he didn't throw more than 50 percent of his pitches in an inning for strikes. Dickey never threw more than 16 pitches in an inning and threw 10 or fewer in four of them. The 10 outs he recorded on the ground was just the fourth time in 13 starts he recorded double-digit groundball outs this year. In 33 starts in 2012, he did that 16 times.
Dickey's groundball rate has dropped each year since 2010, and this season has been no different. He's recording outs on the ground 41.4% of the time, which is his lowest mark since he started throwing the knuckleball. More good things are bound to happen for Dickey if he can continue to keep the ball on the ground.
On Wednesday, Dickey helped his cause by driving in the eventual game-winning run with a fake-bunt, RBI double in the fifth.
Not only was Dickey throwing strikes in general, he started off most at-bats with one, which allowed him to work ahead in the count. Dickey threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 29 hitters he faced or 65.5% of the time -- his second-highest mark this year. This was coming off a start in which he threw first-pitch strikes to 69% of the Braves batters he faced and may be a sign of things to come. Before that start against Atlanta, Dickey had turned in three consecutive outings in which he started off a batter with a strike less than 50% of the time.
It's too small a sample to suggest that Dickey is turning it around in that department but it is something to watch, as the knuckeballer is throwing first-pitch strikes at a career-low mark this season.
What's interesting to note is that Dickey's average knuckleball against the Giants was 73.93 mph, the lowest velocity it has been in a start this year.
He also left us with this classic reaction after Macro Scutaro's bat went flying into the stands following a strikeout.