Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Uncharted territory for Dickey
The 5-0 record that R.A. Dickey takes into his start with the Tigers tonight is rarified air for a knuckleball-throwing starting pitcher.
With the help of Baseball-Reference.com and the "Knuckleball Headquarters" website, we checked win streaks to start a season for nine of the most prominent knuckleballers we knew.
That would be: Tom Candiotti, Charlie Hough, Joe Niekro, Phil Niekro, Steve Sparks, Dennis Springer, Tim Wakefield, Hoyt Wilhelm, and Wilbur Wood.
That's far from an encyclopedic list, but it's a good starting point for us.
Do you know how many of those pitchers ever had a season in which they began 5-0 as a starting pitcher?
Just one. That was Wilhelm in 1959, a run that the Yankee-hating Mets fan will be glad to know included three wins (and back-to-back shutouts) against the Bronx Bombers.
Hall of Famer Phil Niekro never did it. His best start was 4-0 in 1984, one matched by his brother Joe in 1986. Joe's knuckler is said to be the one that most resembles Dickey's because both threw the pitch at a speed of around 80-miles-per-hour.
The best start for Wakefield's knuckler was also 4-0 in his first season with the Red Sox, 1995. Wakefield actually ran off 10 straight wins in one stretch that season. His second-longest win streak at any point was six, done four times, but not since 2002.
Dickey can reach six both overall and to start the year, if he can find a way past a tough Tigers lineup tonight.
The way Dickey's season has gone bears a strong resemblance to that of Wakefield's first year, 1992, even though Dickey isn't making his major league debut this year.
Both pitchers started the season off well for their respective Triple-A affiliates in Buffalo (Dickey had a one-hitter) in which he retired 27 straight hitters, and then both arrived in the majors to provide a strong, significant impact.
In Wakefield's case, that included pitching two superb games against a reeling Mets team in August, to knock them into oblivion and propel the Pirates to a second straight NL East title and near-miss of a World Series berth.
In Dickey's case, he's hoping his impact is as significant for the Mets, instead of against them. And surely he'd take a level of success anything close to what Wakefield has done.
For more on tonight's game, check out our TMI blog on Jose Reyes recent efforts to spark the Mets.
Mark Simon is a researcher for Baseball Tonight. Follow him on Twitter at @msimonespn or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.