R.A. Dickey: Is He Now a Top Major League Pitcher?

R.A. Dickey is going to be 38 years old this year, but the New York Mets pitcher is just coming to his own. The knuckleballer isn’t just getting older; he’s getting better, and he is going to be pitching for the National League in this year’s All-Star Game. Pretty remarkable for a player who spent eight years in the majors before he won 10 or more games in the season.

Older and better

Dickey has had a long road to success in his career – it took him five years to make the majors, and then close to another decade up and down from the majors and minor leagues before he became a pitcher worth talking about. What turned Dickey’s career around was when he perfected the knuckleball, something he started working on full time in 2006 on the behest of the Texas Rangers. After doing so, Dickey bounced around on different teams.

Then, in 2010, Dickey signed a minor league contract with the Mets, and got to put it all together. Dickey went 11-9 in 2010, with a 2.84 ERA, providing one of the more positive things for Mets fans and becoming a cult hero in New York. Dickey had a less stellar year in 2011, going 8-13, albeit with a 3.28 ERA. He was also filmed during that season for the baseball documentary “Knuckleball!”

Cult hero

That movie, along with R.A. Dickey writing a memoir called Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, and him climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to help raise awareness of human trafficking issues, raised his profile. Dickey, already a fan favorite, became famous to a larger audience over the past year because of these off-the-field activities.

In some cases, that extra attention may result in players neglecting their day jobs, but not Dickey. In 2012, with nearly half the season over, he led the National League with 12 wins, and his ERA hovered around 2.15. He, along with ace Johan Santana, has been helping the surprisingly competitive Mets win games with stellar pitching. He even pitched a one-hitter which could have been a no-hitter, if it weren’t for an error by David Wright. Dickey then followed it with another one-hitter, although he followed that by giving up five runs to the New York Yankees in a no-decision in one of his rare poor starts of the year.

Knuckleball is ageless

One of the things with throwing the knuckleball is that aging doesn’t affect the pitch the way aging does for pitchers who throw, say, the fastball. Another thing is that as time goes on, the knuckleballer can improve and perfect his craft. This season, Dickey is pitching as well as he has at any other time in his career – better, in fact, than he ever has.

If you have not already picked Dickey up for your fantasy team, and there is some chance he is available, you ought to see if you can get him. He is indeed becoming one of the elite pitchers in baseball, even though he is the only knuckleballer currently in the majors right now.

Lisa Swan is a sportswriter for blogs such as DraftStreet, a fantasy sports website.