W2W4: R.A. vs. Rays (June 13)
June, 13, 2012
By Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information
Dickey’s Going for History
R.A. Dickey enters with a 24-2/3 inning scoreless streak, seven innings shy of the Mets' record set by Jerry Koosman in August/September, 1973.
Dickey also enters with a seven-game winning streak. The two pitchers whom Dickey most credits as being influences on his knuckleball, Hall of Famer Phil Niekro and ex-Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, each had longer streaks.
Niekro’s longest was an eight-gamer in 1982. Wakefield had a 10-game winning streak with the Red Sox in 1995.
Get a Whiff of This
Dickey has struck out at least eight hitters in each of his last five appearances, the best such streak by any major league pitcher this season.
As my Stats & Info colleagues noted and you may have read elsewhere, the last Mets pitcher with a streak that long was Pedro Martinez, who had a run of six straight such starts in 2006.
Hitters have been able to put the ball in play against Dickey on just 31 percent of their swings during this stretch. The only pitcher with a lower rate can throw the ball about 25 mph harder than Dickey, Stephen Strasburg (29 percent).
This is particularly noteworthy for Dickey, because there is no starting pitcher getting hitters to swing more often than him. In the last five starts, hitters have swung at 55 percent of the pitches he’s thrown.
Dickey’s biggest improvement during this strikeout stretch is against left-handed hitters, as noted in the chart on the right. His approach has been one of working his pitches (particularly his knuckleball) to the outer third of the plate or further away more often, and it has worked.
It will be interesting to see how Rays manager Joe Maddon approaches his lineup and if he suggests any switch-hitters bat right-handed versus Dickey, as some in the NL have done.
The Other Guy’s Been Pretty Good Too
Fellow Tennessean David Price provides a formidable foe for Dickey on Wednesday night. Price has a 1.98 ERA in his last nine starts, a 1.03 ERA in his last four starts, though he lasted only five innings against the Yankees his last time out.
Price did average almost 97 mph on his fastball in that start, with his 96.7 mph average being his second best in the last four seasons (he averaged 96.8 in a start in 2010).
Price’s toughest matchup might be Scott Hairston, whose run of recent success started right around the time Dickey started amassing the strikeouts.
Hairston is 11-for-his-last 24 against left-handed pitching since May 18 (Dickey’s five-start strikeout run started the day before). Hairston has more home runs against lefties in that span (five) than strikeouts (four).
The only Mets hitter with experience versus Price is Jason Bay, who is 2-for-5 with a home run against him, all done during the 2009 season.