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Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: R.A. Dickey

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Dickey this spring.
Dickey this spring.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, there was a story telling us that R.A. Dickey reported to Blue Jays camp 'leaner' than he has been in the past. I guess leaner is the new 'best shape of his life". I'm all for anything that might help him get off to a better start to the season. It does sound like he's totally recovered from his offseason knee surgery.

We've had three seasons of R.A. and, in each one he's had a poor first half and a much better second half (I like how baseball's 'first half' is about 60% of the season):

2013:

First half: 9-10, 4.69 ERA

Second half: 6-3, 3:56 ERA

2014:

First half: 7-9, 3.82 ERA,

Second half: 7-4, 3.57 ERA

2015:

First half: 3-10, 4.87 ERA

Second half: 8-1, 2.80 ERA.

It seems to take him half a season to figure out how to throw his knuckleball each season. I do think that, at least last year, Gibby seemed to have a slow hook in the first half and, then in the second half, Gibby seemed to have a much better feel for when to take him out of the game.

Dickey is coming into his age 41 season. 41 is getting older, even for a knuckleball pitcher. I thought i'd take a quick look at how other knuckleball pitchers did at age 41.

Tim Wakefield

Wakefield was coming off a 17-12, 4.76 ERA season (his ERA was actually slightly better than league average, more runs were scoring in 2007). In 2008, at age 41:

                                                                                    
Year   Age  Tm  W  L  ERA  G GS GF CG SHO    IP   H ER HR BB  SO HBP WP ERA+ BB9 SO9
2008    41 BOS 10 11 4.13 30 30  0  1   0 181.0 154 83 25 60 117  13 12  112 3.0 5.8

His bWAR was 1.0.

He had a pretty good season at age 41. He'd play 3 more seasons,

I think, I could be wrong, that Wakefield was the first Knuckleball pitcher to have a 'personal catcher.

Charlie Hough

At age 40, Hough had a 3.32 ERA in 34 starts, 252 innings (wouldn't it be great to have a pitcher throw 252 innings?). Age 41 wasn't quite as good:

                                                                               
Year   Age  Tm  W  L  ERA  G GS GF CG    IP   H ER HR BB SO HBP WP ERA+ BB9 SO9
1989    41 TEX 10 13 4.35 30 30  0  5 182.0 168 88 28 95 94   6  7   91 4.7 4.6

He went from a 3.9 WAR in 1988 to a 1.0 WAR in 1989.

Hough would play another 5 seasons, making another 143 starts after age 41.

Joe Niekro

The younger Niekro brother would make 35 starts with a 3.83 ERA, throwing 225.1 innings at age 40. Age 41:

                                                                               
Year   Age  Tm W  L  ERA  G GS CG SHO    IP   H ER HR BB SO HBP WP ERA+ BB9 SO9
1986    41 NYY 9 10 4.87 25 25  0   0 125.2 139 68 15 63 59   1 10   84 4.5 4.2

.Age 40 he had a 1.5 WAR, at age 41 it dropped to -0.6. He played 2 more seasons, making 28 starts.

Phil Niekro

Phil, as a young man of 40 (Niekro, at 40 looked much older than 40), made 44 starts for a crappy Atlanta Braves team, going 21-20 (the man both won and lost 20 games), with a 3.39 ERA in 342 innings. (23 complete games).

                                                                                 
Year   Age  Tm  W  L  ERA  G GS CG SHO SV    IP   H  ER HR BB  SO WP ERA+ BB9 SO9
1980    41 ATL 15 18 3.63 40 38 11   3  1 275.0 256 111 30 85 176  9  102 2.8 5.8

Compared to age 40, he threw 67 few innings and still threw 275 innings. And he had a save. At age 40 he had a 7.4 bWAR. At 41 it dropped to 3.4. He'd play 7 more seasons. He'd make 190 starts after the age of 41.

None of this really means anything, I was just curious to see how other knuckleball pitchers did at Dickey's age. I guess you could say that all four had pretty big drop offs from age 40 to age 41 but it really isn't a big enough sample size to mean anything.

Dickey has had a streak of 6 straight 200 inning seasons. I think there are 2 questions about Dickey. Can he have a decent first half? Can he get to 200 innings again?

The projection systems think he's got an uphill battle to get to the 200 innings.

Streamer figures Dickey to throw 202 innings with a 4.25 ERA. ZIPS has him at 175 innings and a 4.41 ERA. PECOTA 183 innings and a 4.59 ERA.