Analyzing a new potential trading partner for the Mets: Los Angeles Angels

Surely all of you have heard the news of Josh Hamilton signing a lucrative five-year deal (worth approximately $125 million) with the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday. It’s a move that is sending shock waves through the league.The Angels are making a strong push to make a run at the World Series while also tossing around money in a bid to compete with a their other free-spending L.A counterpart- the Dodgers.

With Hamilton in tow, the Angels have added another heavy hitter in a lineup that already includes Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. However, with Zack Greinke recently bolting the Angles to join the aforementioned Dodgers, the Angels could be in the market for an ace pitcher. Considering that the back end of the Angels’ rotation includes the likes of Joe Blanton, Jerome Williams, Garrett Richards and the oft-injured and recently acquired Tommy Hanson, Los Angeles might be on the lookout for a nice price-controlled pitcher with ace abilities.

Enter R.A. Dickey and the Mets!

There may be no better trade partner more equipped to make a deal with the Mets than the Angels. With a surplus of hitters (specifically outfielders), the Angles have what the Mets need most: a thumping power-hitting outfielder (Mark Trumbo) and a center fielder with great speed and glove in Peter Bourjous.

According to a recent MetsBlog poll, most Mets’ fans want to trade Dickey while his value is high. Although we all appreciate what Dickey has done for the franchise and the memorable moments he has provided for us in the last three years, this possible trade makes sense for both teams on a lot of fronts.

If the Mets offer up Dickey and perhaps another prospect(or maybe offer up, say Kirk Nieuwenhuis) and ask for Trumbo, Bourjos and maybe even Hank Conger (who is at least a palatable switch-hitting catching option), this has the makings of a deal that could work out for everyone.

The Mets would receive good, young cheap outfielders-and possibly a catcher-while the Angles would be getting a gifted ace and reigning NL Cy Young award-winner in Dickey. In this scenario both teams would get what they want. The Mets would continue with their platform of building for bigger and better things for the future. The Angels would continue in committing to going all in for a World Series trophy.

Granted I don’t love the idea of trading away a fan favorite in Dickey, but as I have said in the past, sometimes the best decisions in life are the most difficult decisions.

Granted Trumbo is not that graceful in the outfield and while he did tumble down the stretch last year, he is a marked improvement over the other options the Mets have.  Last year Trumbo had a .268/.317/.491 slash line to go along with 32 home runs, 95 RBI’s and robust .808 OPS. Trumbo’s righty bat would look great next to David Wright and Ike Davis.

In Bourjous, the Mets would get an adequate leadoff hitter and a steals threat (which are two things the Mets severely lack) at the centerfield position. Bourjos lost his center field job to Trout last year and had a paltry .220/.291/.325 slash line, but if given the appropriate playing time he could be a solid everyday player.

And if you get Conger, you would get a switch-hitting catcher with a little bit of promise. Conger (who had an awful .167/.280/.330 slash line in only 224 at-bats last year) is not the ideal candidate as the compliment to Josh Thole, but he would only be a throw in and a lottery ticket at that.

If both sides see the merit in this trade, this is something that can get done. It should be interesting to see if Sandy Alderson agrees with this line of thinking and makes a pitch to the Angles in the coming days.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

Should the Mets think short-term or long-term when it comes to R.A. Dickey?

One of the hot-button topics at the Winter Meetings in Nashville this week is what are the Mets going to do with reigning NL Cy Young award-winner R.A. Dickey?

Do the Mets shop him at his highest value while trying to land a bumper crop of prospects?

Or do the Mets negotiate a reasonable two-year deal and re-sign Dickey?

From the rumors and vibes coming out of Nashville, it seems the Mets are trying to go with option A, although they are having a difficult time finding a partner.

No doubt it’s a double-edge sword the Mets find themselves in.

On the one hand, you want to reward Dickey for the amazing season he just had and give the fans reason to come out to the ballpark while being committed to being a better team in 2013.

On the other hand you can’t be short-sighted, and if a Dickey trade can make you a better and more sustainable team for the long-term, then you have to strike while the iron is hot and deal him for prospects while you have the chance.

Sandy Alderson has stated that he wants difference-makers in any potential deal that involves Dickey. Apparently, there have been no teams that have stepped to the plate offering any “difference-makers”. If no legitimate high-end prospects are offered in return for R.A. Dickey, the plan then is to offer Dickey a reasonable two-year contract. Alderson has also stated that there is an option C and that is to let Dickey go into 2013 season without a new contract, but I just don’t see that as a viable alternative.

What constitutes a difference-maker anyway? Who could the Mets possibly get that could fit that description? The only player who could possibly fit the bill is Royals’ outfield prospect Will Myers. The Royals are hesitant to deal Meyers and it may take a mega-deal to land his services.

Other prospects being tossed around in potential deals include-but not limited to- the Dodgers’ Dee Gordon (with the possibility of moving him to outfield) and Zach Lee, the Rangers’ Leonys Martin and the Blue Jays’ J.P. Arencibia and Anthony Gose.

Those are not scintillating names (although I do like the upside of Martin) and they will not likely whet the whistle of both Mets’ executives and fans alike.

Also playing a factor is if the Mets are shopping Jon Niese and other prospects along the lines of Logan Verrett and Darin Gorski. Even if the Mets sit still with Dickey, they have to upgrade the outfield and possibly catcher either way. If it is through free agency then so be it. But, somehow, someway the Mets need to boost the offense (specifically the outfield) immediately.

Sometimes the most difficult decisions in life are the best decisions. That may be the case here with Dickey and he could very well be writing a new chapter of his book in another city next season. If that is to be, then the Mets better get the ‘difference-maker’ that will make us all happy. If not, re-sign Dickey and sign some free-agent outfielders and hope for the best in 2013.

You know the saying ‘be careful what you ask for’? Well, the Mets better-full well know what they are asking for when it comes to Dickey.

 Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

 

Trading R.A. Dickey… For whom?

There has been TOO much talk about the Mets keeping/trading R.A. Dickey without any real discussion over what they think they could realistically get for a 37-year old Cy Young.  It’s great that he throws a pitch that’s easy on the arm and has shown remarkably good health but age is always a concern and just as the Mets are more eager to trade Dickey than David Wright because of age… so to are teams willing to pay more for a player in his prime.

Step 1: Trade Candidates

Identify teams who have a need for Dickey.  Those who have obvious holes in their rotations and play in competitive divisions that they think they might actually stand a chance in.  The reasoning is that a team who feels like they need Dickey in 2013 is going to pay more than a team who would merely like to have Dickey in 2013.  The reports I’ve heard have linked 12 teams to interest in Dickey.  I’m going to venture 10:

  • Atlanta Braves – Atlanta is still a well built team and the Nationals have not yet pulled away with the NL East, so there is always the chance that they look to improve their rotation to attempt to claw their way back into NL East dominance.
  • Baltimore Orioles – Might 2012 have been an anomaly?  Maybe, but one thing I’m sure of is that Baltimore won’t think so.  They see the AL East as a jewel that can be stolen from the typical hands of the Yankees and Red Sox.
  • Boston Red Sox – Boston doesn’t look like a contender right now but Boston (thanks to Los Angeles) is able to spend some money to improve their team.  It would be shocking for Boston to not be seen as a player for many names this off season.
  • Chicago White SoxRobin Ventura’s White Sox are a solid team but they could use a strong pitcher to stack up behind Sale and Peavy.
  • Detroit Tigers – Detroit just made waves by signing Torii Hunter but they could still use a second star-quality pitcher behind their man Verlander.
  • Los Angeles Angels – With Haren moving on the Angels suddenly have holes in their once epic rotation.  Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are good but I have to think that they’d love to have Dickey as their #3.
  • New York Yankees – Let us not forget the Yankees who have C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda.  Remember that Pineda is not due back until June and that players like David Phelps, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances are penciled into the rotation.
  • St. Louis Cardinals – On paper you wouldn’t be too upset with Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Jamie Garcia but with Garcia’s health in question the Cardinals could look to add another pitcher.
  • Texas Rangers – Questions everywhere: When will Neftali Perez and Colby Lewis be healthy? How will Yu Darvish fair in his second season?  Is Martin Perez ready?  Perhaps an R.A. Dickey reunion would be in order?
  • Toronto Blue Jays – Before the mega trade the Blue Jays made a ton of sense.  Now… I can still see it but my confidence is less.  They have Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, J.A. Happ and injured players like Kyle Drabek.  With all of that said… I still see them as players for Dickey but the need is much lower.

Step 2: Focus On Met Needs

Identify which of these teams in turn has the MLB ready young players at catcher or outfield that the Mets might want if they were to make a deal.  Let’s see if we can make ourselves a neat little list.

Catchers:

  • Christian Bethancourt, C Atl: Bethancourt is young (21 for most of the 2013 season) and he’s already ready to be an MLB catcher (at least defensively).  His hitting isn’t yet at the caliber that would get fans excited.  An athletic catcher he’s going to have the legs to steal a few bases but he’s only got a career minor league OPS of .653 and that isn’t good enough for the majors.
  • Caleb Joseph, C Bal: Jospeh is going to be 27 in June but if not for a certain player named Matt Wieters.  Jospeh has slugged .408 through 5 minor league seasons and was great in AA in 2012.  The flip side is that he stunk in the 22 games he played in AAA making me question if he’s worth trading for or if he’s simply a guy you look to include in a larger deal.
  • Christian Vazquez, C Bos: Vazquez wasn’t phenomenally impressive in 2012.  (.254/.344/.369 and a .713 OPS) He struggled once he was promoted to AA.  23 in August he’s still young and on track for a catcher of his age.  The reason I pick him out of the lineup is that in 2011 he hit 18 HRs and slugged .505 in the SAL.  If Boston cannot trade Lavarnway… Vazquez is the catcher we’d want.
  • Ryan Lavarnway, C Bos: Let us imagine that the Red Sox trade for someone like Mike Napoli it would open them up to trading someone like Ryan Lavarnway.  What you must understand about him is that he’s not the complete package.  He’s a hitting catcher who has yet to really hit in the majors.  His power is VERY real and I believe he will someday hit in the majors.
  • Tyler Flowers, C Chi AL: Color me skeptical but Flowers is a long long way from being worth trading a pitcher like Dickey for.  The only way that Flowers is the catcher in the deal is if someone like Thompson was the centerpiece of the deal.
  • Carlos Ramirez, C LAA: He’ll be 25 in 2013 and repeating AA for the first time.  Ramirez only really impressed in one season (for me) in 2011 and in A+ CAL he managed 21 doubles and 4 HRs while hitting .348 in 52 games.  Spending a full year in AA with a triple slash of .204/.312/.276 does a lot to make me think he’s not that special but he’s got a good eye… so there’s that.
  • Gary Sanchez, C NYY: The Yankees will not be willing to trade Sanchez.  I say this because his name has been floated on tons of trade offers and he’s still a Yankee.  The good on Sanchez is that he’s mastered his way through A+ and he’s going to be 20 in 2013.  The knock against him is that he does nothing for the Mets until 2014-2016 and I’m not sure Alderson has the ability to be the long-sighted.
  • Austin Romine, C NYY: The second option is Romine.  He’ll be 24 but he’s also just about ready to take the helm for an MLB franchise.  He was hurt in 2012 but seems reliable for an OPS above .700 when he is healthy.  Because of his injury the Mets would need to be getting more than Romine back.
  • Cody Stanley, C Stl: The theme with catchers is flaws.  Stanley will be 24 and hasn’t played above A+.  He’s hit fairly well everywhere that he has played but there isn’t this overwhelming groundswell of data supporting him as a trade target.
  • Jorge Alfaro, C Tex: Texas has a few rated prospects but none of them have really progressed beyond low A.  Alfaro will only be 20 and could be ready for A+ but it’s another case of me not thinking that Alderson can target a player who isn’t likely to contribute by 2015.
  • Travis D’Arnaud, C Tor: Pretty much every name on this list until now (Maybe Sanchez) has been part of a package for Dickey.  Travis D’Arnaud would be a 1 for 1 swap.  D’Arnaud is a righty, with power, who hits for contact, can field his position and is only 24.  His numbers are boosted by the PCL which the Mets will soon enjoy but he’s already whispered to replace the powerful J.P. Arencibia as the starting catcher for the Blue Jays.  If the Mets could snag D’Arnaud I would be quite happy.

Outfielders:

  • Todd Cunnigham, OF Atl: At 24 and moving up to AAA, Cunningham isn’t the most exciting guy you’ll see.  He’s not a power guy and he’s not a 50 SB guy but he does a little of both… hey… that sounds familiar (Kirk Nieuwenhuis).  Cunningham is a switch hitter with a good OBP who could leadoff for the Mets as early as 2013.
  • L.J. Hoes, OF Bal: Hoes is again not the prototypical power corner guy nor the speedy leadoff hitter.  He does show pretty decent power and some speed along with a solid OBP which leads to him having a yearly OPS around .750.  What is nice is that he will be 23 and ready for the MLB.
  • Bryce Brentz, OF Bos: If the Mets are talking about Christian Vazquez then it might be realistic to talk about Brentz.  Brentz managed a .296/.355/.478 in 135 games at AA last season and he’ll be 24 through the 2013 season.  If he continues on schedule he’s a guy who will be knocking on the door mid-way through the season and he looks to have the makeup to be a solid corner OF.
  • Jackie Bradley Jr., OF Bos: While Brentz could be the cornerstone of a deal, Bradley is more like the other names listed.  His fatal flaw (for the Mets) is that he also is a lefty and doesn’t fill the immediate need for a righty.
  • Trayce Thompson, OF Chi AL: I mentioned Thompson in conjuction with Flowers.  If the White Sox really wanted R.A. Dickey they could fill two of the Met needs by trading the pair to New York.  Thompson is a big righty who has shown good power.  The White Sox rocketed him up through A+, AA and AAA in 2012 but I’m betting he’s a safer bet to start 2013 in AA.  At 22 he could become the starting corner outfielder for the Mets before he turned 23.
  • Avisail Garcia, OF Det: Another player who is 22 but here is one who is MLB ready.  Between A+ and AA he managed 17 doubles, 14 HRs and 23 SBs in 2012 and also managed a .319 average through 47 MLB at bats.  He’s 6’4” and listed at 240 Lbs and might be an option if Detroit becomes a player.
  • Zolio Almonte, OF NYY: Assuming that Sanchez is off the table I might be very satisfied with a package of Romine and Almonte from the Yankees.  In 106 games at AA Almonte managed .277/.322/.487 which amounted to a .808 OPS.  That seems on line with his development and he looks like someone who might blossom into a 30 HR threat.  He strikes out about once per game which isn’t great but is better than Matt Den Dekker.
  • Oscar Taveras, OF Stl: He’s a lefty and I don’t care.  He hit .321/.380/.572 in his first season at AA at the age of 20.  I anticipate absurdly good numbers in the PCL and think that he’d force an audition after the All-Star Break. I’m willing to say it wasn’t a fluke as he slugged .584 the year before in Low A.
  • Mike Olt, OF Tex: Texas is currently trying to get a player with a little more certainty like Justin Upton and might trade Olt to do that but if not he’s got to be a big guy on the Met radar.  A righty with good power he is the exact match for what the Mets are looking for but the Rangers are not guaranteed to be looking for a pitcher so don’t get too excited.

Step 3: Evaluate

The Mets best matches are with Boston (Bryce Brentz and Christian Vazquez), Chicago (Tyler Flowers and Trayce Thompson), the Yankees (Austin Romine and Zolio Almonte), Texas (Jorge Alfaro and Mike Olt) and Toronto (Travis D’Arnaud).  Frankly, I would take any of these trades but then again I’m a supporter for trading R.A. Dickey.  So I’m posing the question to the fans who read the site.

Would one of these packages suit you in a trade for R.A. Dickey?

Dickey reaches mountain top with Cy Young award

Call him C.Y. Dickey!

In what most thought to be a lock became a formality on Wednesday when R.A. Dickey captured the 2012 NL Cy Young award in a landslide. Dickey received 27 first-place votes en route to becoming the oldest pitcher since Dennis Eckersley in 1992—and first knuckleball pitcher—to win the prestigious honor. Dickey is the first Mets’ Cy Young Award winner since Dwight “Doc” Gooden won the award in 1985.

This award caps off a remarkable season in which Dickey captivated the hearts of Mets’ fans everywhere by throwing 27 quality starts, back-to-back 1-hitters and becoming the first Mets’ 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990.

Dickey’s final stat lines read like this:

20-6 record, 2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and league-high 230 strikeouts in 233.2 innings pitched.

Dickey was indeed the story of the year for the Mets and maybe even all of baseball. Every time he took the mound, Dickey gave the Mets a chance to win. It’s astonishing that Dickey won 20 of the Mets 74 wins this year. When you step back and grasp how unlikely this season was for Dickey, you would not be the first.

After climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in the offseason and releasing a book that disclosed his bout with sexual abuse, Dickey has truly conquered all obstacles and is resting at the mountain top-both literally and figuratively.

Dickey’s story from prospect to flameout and then reinventing himself as a knuckleballer to now Cy Young award winner cannot be overstated enough.  Scripts in Hollywood are hardly this believable. That being said, don’t be surprised if a big-screen adaptation of Dickey’s story becomes a reality.

The thing is Dickey’s story still has a couple of chapters left to be written.

So, what do the next couple of chapters have in store for Dickey? A better question is where are the next couple of chapters going to be written?

Hopefully the Mets can sign Dickey to a semi long-term contract so that the Mets could be put in the best position to succeed. However, I get the side that says trading him now while his value is at an all-time high is beneficial, as Dickey could land a bumper crop of prospects if he is dealt to a team in search of some pitching stability.

It’s a tricky situation for sure, as you want to have someone on your roster that could draw fans to the stadium and give you a chance to win every time he steps on the mound like the way Dickey does. On the flip side, for a team that is still in a rebuilding mode, it would be great to get some reinforcements in the way of some young prospects.

Regardless, this is all about the here and now. This is about the moment Dickey and Mets’ fans find themselves in. We should all applaud the season Dickey just had, as it couldn’t have happened to a better guy.

Dickey’s Cy Young award along with Johan Santana’s no-hitter gave Mets’ fans some solace this year in what was otherwise an extremely disappointing season. So there is always that.

So hip, hip R.A.! Here’s to a Really Awesome season and hoping for more!

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon  

All hands on deck today for Dickey

Today we could witness history, as R.A. Dickey attempts to become the first Mets’ pitcher to win 20 games since Frank Viola won 20 in 1990.

Dickey is trying to close a chapter on a sensational season by recording the magic number for wins while also solidifying his chances to win the NL Cy Young award. It would an end a magical season in which Dickey has gone above and beyond the call of duty and uplifted Mets’ fans spirits in a season marred by otherwise ugly baseball.

Dickey has been a beacon of pride for a downtrodden franchise and this possible feat could at least satisfy a fanbase in need of some good news. That being said, all hands should be on deck today as the Mets have to play this game as if this is their playoffs.

Terry Collins is treating it as such and told WFAN’s Mike Francesa, that he will be put together the best possible lineup for Thursday’s game against the Pirates. This will not be the time for experimentations or tinkering with the lineup.

Considering that Dickey will line up against the Pirates’ Kevin Correia (who’s a righty), the Mets will likely employ a lefty heavy-laden lineup once again.

This is my educated guess at what the lineup could look like on Thursday afternoon:

Ruben Tejada, SS
Daniel Murphy, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Scott Hairston, LF
Lucas Duda, RF
Jordany Valdespin, CF
Josh Thole, C (also Dickey’s personal catcher).

Granted the defense in the outfield with this lineup is less than stellar but the Mets need to put some runs on the board. It would be good to put some runs on the board early-perhaps building a decent sized lead- and then insert players like Jason Bay and Andres Torres  into the game late for defense.

If Dickey can’t the distance, then Collins will have to rely on Manny Acosta in the seventh and Bobby Parnell and Jon Rauch for the last two innings. Collins told Francesa that there is no clear cut closer at the moment with Frank Francisco still shelved.

Granted Dickey’s has another start lined up before the season ends, but Thursday would be the ideal time to get Dickey the win, as he’ll be pitching the last game at Citi Field this year. It would be a nice gesture and momentum building effort that the Mets can carry over to the 2013 season. As it is, this current little hot streak (Mets winning five out of their last six) is a bit of a consolation considering the abomination that was the Phillies’ series.

I would just love Dickey to achieve this milestone, as no other player has defied the odds like he has to come back as a reinvented pitcher and now who is on the cusp of winning the NL Cy Young.

Dickey already leads the NL in ERA (2.66), is second in strikeouts (209) and is just a win behind the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez for the league lead in wins. There is every chance that Dickey can capture the pitcher’s Triple Crown.

Let that sink in for a moment. Did anyone before the season started think this this was even remotely possible?

If Dickey can accomplish this feat on a team that has been terrible for the better part of three months, it only speaks volumes to just how special a season Dickey has had.

So Thursday afternoon, sit back and enjoy the Mets’ last home game and hope Dickey can get that elusive 20th victory while bringing some joy to some down-on-their-luck Mets’ fans.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

Dickey winning the Cy Young could be the happy ending Mets’ fans need

 

On Wednesday afternoon in St. Louis, R.A. Dickey became the first Mets to amass 18 victories in one season since Frank Viola and Dwight Gooden both achieved the feat in 1990.

With each win and with each quality outing, Dickey is solidifying his chances to become the first knuckleballer to win a Cy Young. If Dickey wins this coveted award, it could give legitimacy to a pitch that has too long been considered a ‘gimmick’ pitch. And if Dickey is to win the Cy Young, it will give the Mets fan something to hang their hats on in what has been an otherwise troubling, frustrating season .

Unlike how Jose Reyes won his batting title last year (bunting to get on base and then being asked to be taken out) and then bolting for his paycheck in Miami, if Dickey wins this highest honor for a pitcher it could help boost morale for a team in need of every single silver lining.

Dickey is everything you want in a pitcher. Dickey’s a grinder, a competitor, a perfectionist, a wonderful humanitarian and above all else he is a winner.

After Wednesday’s outing, Dickey is now tied for the most wins in the NL with Johnny Cueto, is second behind Cueto in ERA (by only six points mind you, as Cueto’s ERA is 2.58, while Dickey’s is 2.64) but absolutely destroys him in strikeouts as Dickey has 195 (third in the NL) while Cueto only has 149.

Most pundits claim the Cy Young is not about how valuable you are to your team and a team’s record should not influence voters. Consider that Cueto has had another Cy Young candidate Aroldis Chapman closing games for him, while Dickey has had to carry the load for himself for most of his victories.

Pushing aside biases, there is no way Dickey should not win this award. If Dickey does not win then it will be evident that there will be some voters who will still view the knuckleball as a bastard pitch and that a guy who relies on it is getting by on smoke and mirrors. That would be an absolute shame if that were to be the case. Results are results. This is not a beauty pageant.

With Johan Santana accomplishing the Mets’ first ever no-hitter and with Dickey perhaps winning the Cy Young award, this year will forever go down as a memorable season no matter how you slice it and one that could foster some hope for a bounce back season in 2013.

Now granted, there were some ugly, uninspiring moments that ruined most of the good vibes this year, if Dickey does win the Cy Young, it could mask what was an otherwise disappointing season.

I for one look forward to R.A. Dickey capturing that magical 20th win and then get awarded with ultimate hardware in the offseason. Considering the playoffs are not attainable, this will have to settle as the next best thing.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

R.A. Dickey: One (Ace) of a kind

While Johan Santana and his pitching of the Mets’ first ever no-hitter rightfully captivated the area and had Mets’ fans practically worshiping him at his feet, it has been the pitching of one R.A. Dickey that is becoming the story this year for the Mets.

In case you haven’t heard, Dickey has been pretty good this year.

Good doesn’t even begin to describe the roll Dickey is on right now. Dickey was once again masterful on Wednesday night in Tampa, mowing down Rays’ hitters like they had no business being major league ballplayers.

For the night, Dickey allowed one hit (A hit that could easily have been ruled an error by David Wright. As such the Mets are appealing the decision) while allowing no walks and striking out a career-high 12 batters in the complete-game gem. This is Dickey’s second 1-hitter, as he had one two years ago against the Phillies.

And, oh yeah, Dickey just happened to pass Jerry Koosman in the record books for consecutive scoreless innings by a Met by going 32.2 innings without allowing a run. (BTW, his run in the 9th inning was a cheapie unearned run)

As you’re probably well aware, this was no isolated incident. Dickey has been straight dealing in his last five games. In this stretch, Dickey is 5-0 with an absolutely, ridiculous 0.23 ERA. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Dickey has amassed a whopping 50 strikeouts to just three walks in 39.2 innings pitched!

To go even further, in Dickey’s 13 starts this year only a torrential storm in Atlanta-in which Dickey couldn’t get a grip on his patented knuckleball- resulted in his only non-quality outing of the season. For a refresher, Dickey is now 10-1 (tied for the lead league in wins) on the year with a sterling 2.20 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.

This leaves absolutely no doubt: Dickey is the real thing and legitimate ace.

There is absolutely no question that he deserves to be the NL starting pitcher at the All-Star game. To put it another way, if the season ended today, he would have to be named the NL Cy Young winner. He’s been that good.

The path R.A. Dickey took to get this level is a story rife with determination, hope and triumph. Dickey had to reinvent himself as a knuckleball pitcher and in the process has shattered the mold on how knuckleballers are perceived. The velocity on his knuckleballs has baffled hitters and has made them look silly at the plate. With the improved command, Dickey continues to keep hitters guessing and making them looked over-matched.

Dickey is not just your ordinary pitcher. Just as much as he is an All-Star pitcher, Dickey is also a humanitarian (remember his Kilimanjaro hike), philanthropist as well as an established author.

In his book Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball, Dickey opens up about his issues with sexual abuse with poise and aplomb. The book’s theme is about overcoming all the obstacles one faces in life with the prevailing thought that with hard work and perseverance, you could achieve anything.

It was not my intent to get profound in this post, but Dickey is clearly a one-of-a kind athlete-on an off the field. Dickey is the textbook definition of a role model, as he competes to the last out while being a great clubhouse mentor.

So, we should all step back and enjoy this ride as long as it takes us. If it weren’t for Dickey, the Mets would be nowhere near competitive.

While the Giants’ Matt Cain (after pitching a perfect game last night) may be the talk of baseball today, that’s okay because with the unassuming Dickey, he’s not one to clamor for the spotlight. Dickey has lived long enough in the shadow, but with the way he is pitching, he’s about to cast a shadow for himself as he has been nothing short of astonishing this year.

Right now, Dickey should take a backseat to no one.

Follow me on Twitter @stacdemon

Sizing up potential Met All-Star candidates

In just about a month’s time (July 10 in Kansas City) the mid-summer night classic-better known as the MLB All-Star game-will commence, bringing both great fanfare and controversy along the way.

Despite your feelings about the game itself, it is always an honor to be selected for the annual event. As fans of the game, it is fun to argue and debate on the merits of who belongs to be included on the All-Star roster.

Some argue that the selection process is flawed and out of touch with reality-helped of course by the fact that fans still have the power to select the starters-with the game becoming a floundering spectacle. At the heart of many fans’ rage is the fact that the winner of the All-Star game gets home field advantage for their respective league. However, that is another argument for another day.

As I said it’s fun to speculate on who should be chosen, and with the rule being that at least one player from each team be represented (another rule some people despise), we’ll know the Mets will have at least one delegate. But with a team that is playing over their heads and exceeding expectations, we all know that the Mets should have more than one representative.

So, in this post I will adhere to objectivity and confidently proclaim that the Mets should have three representatives in the All-Star Game. Actually, it’s pretty cut and dry. The three (David Wright, R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana) about to be profiled have gone out and proven without a doubt to be All-Star-worthy. After that, there isn’t any other strong case for anyone else to be included.

So, here then should be your 2012 Mets’ All-Star representatives:

David Wright:

Wright’s selection is a shoe-in.

Batting .359 (second in the NL) with seven home runs and 33 RBI’s, Wright has all but erased doubts that he is still a premier player despite his injury-riddled, non-productive 2011 campaign. As of Wednesday, Wright was leading all third baseman in voting. The prevailing thought here is Wright will get the popularity vote and will go regardless. In any event, even if he was somehow not voted in, he would be a no-brainer selection.

R.A. Dickey:

Dickey has been a revelation this year and has legitimately become a front-end ace. At 8-1 (tied atop the NL in victories), Dickey has done all that was asked of him and much more.

Dickey has morphed into a complete pitcher and is throwing his patented knuckleball with much more vigor and crispness. As such, Dickey is accumulating quite a few strikeouts (70 K’s in 73.2 innings pitched) while also limiting the baserunners (1.06 WHIP, which is no doubt buoyed by him issuing only an astonishing 17 walks). With 10 quality outings in 11 starts to go along with a sterling 2.69 ERA, there is no doubt that Dickey should be included on the All-Star roster.

Heck, if Dickey keeps it up and has stats like this by the break, there is every reason for him to be in the discussion for being the NL’s starting pitcher.

Johan Santana:

Ah yes, he of the first ever Mets’ no-hitter lore. Maybe Santana should be selected for putting an end to a 50-year curse.

All kidding aside, Santana deserves to be included on the NL All-Star roster. Although Santana has only three wins, you can’t fault him for the lack of victories as factors beyond his control (lack of run support, shoddy defense and bullpen meltdowns) have resulted in him having six no-decisions.

Santana’s peripherals have been outstanding and with a 2.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and an outstanding 3.2 strikeout to walk ratio, he has every right to be selected. I have a feeling that Santana will get shafted do to the paltry win total, but aside from that Santana has been a godsend for the Mets rotation and he deserves the All-Star nod.

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Dickey and Santana and pray for manna

R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana have pitched back-to-back shutouts in the past two games for the Mets, becoming the first two pitchers to accomplish the feat since … Dickey and Santana in 2010. Both pitchers have had less than great luck in picking up Wins in their tenure with the Mets, due to poor offensive support and questionable bullpen relief. But it is becoming increasingly clear that Dickey and Santana can match up with any two pitchers in the game today.

Both Dickey and Santana have made 11 starts. Dickey has broken through and is piling up Wins, as he is 8-1 this year. Santana is having more of the same bad luck, as he is just 3-2 so far this season. But in games where one of the two has started, the Mets as a team are 15-7. When someone else toes the rubber, the Mets are 15-16.

Even that 15-7 figure is a bit misleading. In their 22 starts, Dickey and Santana have pitched well 20 times. The only two bad outings for the duo came early in the season, when both had a hard time in Atlanta against the Braves. Dickey’s outing was partially explained by bad weather. Recounting his start in Atlanta, Dickey said it was like throwing “a wet water balloon.”

How good have their other starts been? If we go by Bill James’ Game Scores, the next-worst outing for either pitcher was Dickey’s start against the Marlins on May 12th, when he allowed 2 ER in 6 IP and picked up the win. That one checked in with a Game Score of 45.

Meanwhile, the other pitchers who have started a game for the Mets have combined to have 10 outings with a Game Score under 40. In one-third of the games started by someone other than Dickey or Santana, the SP is not giving the Mets a realistic chance to win the game. Eight of those 10 games had a Game Score beneath 30. On May 2nd, Chris Schwinden gave up 5 ER in 4 IP and earned a Game Score of 29.

It’s just another head scratcher in what has turned out to be a tremendously fun season for the Mets. The Mets have a winning record despite having a negative run differential. They are seven games above .500 despite a .467 mark in night games. And they would make the playoffs if the season ended today despite the non Dickey & Santana pitchers combining for a 5.08 ERA.

It’s reminiscent of the 1948 Braves, who featured Hall of Famer Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain, a pitcher who won 20 games in four out of five seasons. Sports editor Gerald V. Hern penned a poem in their honor, after the duo went 8-0 in 12 days without another pitcher starting a game.

First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain.

I want to believe that this is the year that Jonathon Niese finds consistency and can pitch a full season. I want to believe that Josh Thole behind the plate really makes a difference for Dillon Gee. I want to believe that Chris Young can come up and give the Mets 15 starts equal to the four he gave them in 2011. I also want to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Here in 2012, no one remembers the full poem that Hern wrote. Instead it has been boiled down to “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.” I have no illusions of being a poet. Instead I am merely an observer. While I write down what I see, my hope is that you will be moved by the results, not the words (flowery or cold as they may be) used to get there.

Still, there’s something to be said for an eloquent phrase. So, with apologies to Hern, here’s the mantra for the 2012 Mets:

Dickey and Santana and pray for manna.

Home runs haunt R.A. Dickey in 2012

If you ask major league hitters what is the toughest pitch to hit, undoubtedly one of the top answers would be the knuckleball. Which makes the following stat a bit tough to believe: Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is the easiest pitcher in baseball right now for batters to hit a HR once they hit the ball in the air. Dickey has an MLB-worst 33.3 HR/FB rate.

Except for his start in Atlanta when the weather conditions were not good, Dickey has not pitched bad this year. In fact, it has been the exact opposite. After being a hard-luck loser last year at 8-13, he is 3-1 in 2012. Dickey’s 8.14 K/9 is easily a career-best and he is still keeping his BB/9 at a good clip at 2.96. Opposing batters are hitting just .266 against him and he has a .288 BABIP.

But Dickey sits with a 4.44 ERA because he has allowed 7 HR this year, surrendering a homer in each game he has pitched. Last night against the Astros, Dickey had a no-hitter through five innings. He allowed a leadoff single in the sixth. Two more hits followed in the inning, including a two-run homer. The Mets rallied to tie the game and get Dickey off the hook for the decision, but on a night where he had good stuff, Dickey finished with 3 ER in 6 IP.

Just how much are the gopher balls hurting Dickey in 2012? Here are his five starts this year and how many runs scored on homers:

4/7 – 2 runs, both on a HR
4/13 – 1 run on a solo HR
4/18 – 8 runs, 6 on HR
4/25 – 1 run on a solo HR
4/30 – 3 runs, 2 on HR

Dickey has given up 15 runs this year and 12 of those have scored on HR. For a comparison, Dillon Gee has surrendered 16 runs this year with five of those scoring via HR.

In his previous two years with the Mets, Dickey has not had this trouble with the gopher ball. An average HR/FB ratio is about 10 percent and Dickey has posted HR/FB numbers of 8.5 and 8.3 the past two seasons. And we cannot blame the new dimensions at Citi Field, as five of the seven homers have come in road parks.

Clearly one out of every three fly balls allowed by Dickey will not go over the fence in 2012. Regression will arrive and the home runs will decrease. But while he has been unlucky with homers, Dickey has been quite fortunate with his strand rate. After posting above-average LOB% in 2010 (77.3) and 2011 (75.1), Dickey sits with an 85.4 rate this season.

It all adds up to a 3.12 xFIP for Dickey in 2012. It is certainly up for debate if xFIP is an appropriate measurement for Dickey, as the metric assumes an average BABIP, LOB% and HR/FB rate for each pitcher and we know there is nothing “average” about a knuckleball pitcher. But, if we take it at face value, it is an indication of how well Dickey is pitching in 2012, as his xFIP is the 21st-best mark in the majors.

Regardless, Dickey remains must-watch TV. He has the best chance of any pitcher in the rotation to pitch a no-hitter. And for you chicks who still dig the long ball, he gives up more of those than anyone on the staff. So no matter if you like to see offense or defense when you tune in a game, Dickey gives you a good chance to see either. And as we saw last night, you can even see both.

Mets Card of the Week: 2012 R.A. Dickey

2012 TOPPS R.A. DICKEY

Who needs Punxsatawney Phil?

I prefer my predictive tools in pack form.

So there I was in Target on February 2, gazing at all manner of configurations of the new 2012 Topps baseball cards. I grabbed a 72-card pack, a couple of racks, and a few wax packs.

By my reckoning, if I unwrapped a meager selection of Mets in this first sampling, winter would continue for another six months.

Hell, last year I pulled nothing but a Lucas Duda in my first batch, and winter lasted until, oh, late September or so.

But I figured if I could pull a decent selection of Mets, it would mean an early spring.

Well I’m happy to report that I received a veritable bounty of Mets– 10, to be precise.

Duda was among them, along with Bobby Parnell, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, and a bunch of others.

But I think this R.A. Dickey best represents my current Mets mood. It is a cool photo of R.A. shortly after release, shot from a slightly elevated angle to capture perfectly the “yaaarrggghh” look on his face. The back of the card informs us that this is R.A. “[flinging]” the only “hybrid” knuckleball in MLB.

And this is all a pretty precise distillation of what I expect from the 2012 Mets.

I realize that the team is hamstrung by its finances and a bit of a talent deficit, and faces a Himalayan task in the year ahead. But I’m confident that they’ll be out there wearing their “yaaarrggghh” faces and throwing their weird little pitches. They might only ever flirt with .500, but I trust they’ll do so with grit, spirit, and style.

So get ready for an early spring, fellow Mets’ fans. It might even last all summer long…

R.A. Dickey starts climbing anyway

Robert Allen Dickey certainly isn’t a normal baseball player. First off, he’s a knuckleballer so that automatically makes him weird. Second, he loves Star Wars. Like, he really likes Star Wars. So when Dickey announced that he wanted to bike up Mount Kilimanjaro I thought, “yeah, that’s about right”.

When the Mets front office heard about this they weren’t too excited. It’s most likely because they are paying him $4.5M for the 2012 and biking up Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t the safest thing you can do. Per year there are about 30,000 people who attempt to climb the mountain. 12,000 of them fail to reach the summit and there are about nine deaths per year. The Mets are scared he’ll be one of those 12,000 and the reason he won’t make it is because tears his hamstring or his anterior capsule or his rotator cuff (they’re the same thing right?). For the Mets current financial state, $4.5M is a lot of money and they don’t want that all going down the drain because of a loose rock.

So the Mets sent Dickey a letter saying that they don’t want him to ride up Mount Kilimanjaro. Sandy Alderson said, “If we thought it was a good idea, we wouldn’t have sent the letter,” but I don’t think a simple letter will dissuade a real man like R.A. Dickey. Even Alderson didn’t think it would. The letter to Dickey is kind of like the “No Sleigh Riding At Anytime” sign by the giant hill at my high school. When it snows everyone goes there to go down the hill, but when a make-shift sleigh takes out some little kids knees and sends him flying through the air, the school doesn’t want to be held reasonability for the permanent alterations to the child’s body. That’s what the Mets are doing. If Dickey hurts himself at all or if anything bad happens to him on the highest mountain in Africa, they can void his contract.

Even with the very threatening letter, Dickey set off to bike up the mountain. He said that he has received a ton of support from everyone and that he is very thankful for it.

As a Mets fan it is exciting to see Dickey doing this, however I have to admit I’m a little nervous. He is one of our best pitchers and probably the only pitcher we can really count on for the 2012 season. I’m not really scared about him dying because there is around a .03% chance of that happening, but there are injuries that could occur on the ride. Even smaller thing could happen that would affect other people, but could for a professional athlete like Dickey.

Dickey is riding up to raise awareness and money for the Bombay Teen Challenge, which fights against human trafficking. One of the reasons Dickey is one of my favorite Mets is because he just seems like such a great and honest guy. In sports there are a lot of conceited, self-righteous people. I feel like Dickey is just your everyday guy, who happens to throw an amazing knuckleball. What makes him even more likeable is that he does things like donating clothing and money to under-privileged communities and other endeavors like this one.

So good luck R.A., I hope you raise a lot of money for this great cause and make it home safe! We need you this year.

Bombay Teen Challenge Website: http://bombayteenchallenge.org/