By Rich Coutinho
» More Columns
The numbers jump off the page.
158 hits allowed in 198 innings. 195 strikeouts and only 45 walks. A WHIP of 1.03. An ERA of 2.64. Batting average against? .221. And 18 wins on a Mets team that, for most of this season, had a bullpen which made a ride on the Titanic seem like a pleasure cruise.
Put it all together and it spells Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.
And lest I forget -- we're talking about a pitcher who has reinvented the knuckleball in a historic way.
I've heard all of the objections and really don't have time for nonsense. The Mets are seven games under .500 and Dickey is 14 games OVER .500. He has pitched consistently, fields his position well and holds runners on like a right-handed Andy Pettitte. But the thing that has really impressed me about R.A.: how grounded he is and how much he cares about both his teammates and Mets fans.
"I can't think of a better teammate," said Dillon Gee. "He shares so much with us both about pitching and life. He prepares so well for his opponents and has shown me that arming yourself with a game plan is so important because those are the building blocks to success."
R.A. is also a big fan of Terry Collins. And for a player who has seen his share of managers, Dickey's opinion carries clout.
"For the past two years, Terry Collins has been very supportive, and we have a great relationship because we communicate so freely and honestly. And trust me, that is very important," Dickey said.
We must all remember this is a pitcher who had to reinvent himself and trust that his knuckler would work. And I stress the words -- "his knuckler."
I've talked to opposing hitters and they all tell me the same thing -- his knuckler is thrown with more velocity than any other they have seen and has more late movement than most ordinary pitches. Carlos Beltran said it best: "Rich, the thing about his pitch is that most knucklers weave in and out of the strike zone. But his starts out as a strike and becomes a better strike both up and down and across. He throws it hard and that makes his fastball harder to pick up as well."
The Mets have a bunch of things to consider in the offseason, with the outfield and bullpen at the top of their shopping list. But Dickey has helped to define this Mets team as a rotation-first squad, something that will comfort Sandy Alderson going into the winter.
Of course, a contract extension awaits R.A., and I do think both parties will come to an agreement in the offseason. A Cy Young Award could complicate the negotiations but Dickey has always struck me as the type who wouldn't bleed a team for every penny he could get.
Unlike his elusive knuckleball, I get the sense Dickey will be a straight shooter with the Mets in negotiations.
You can be sure, once they come to an agreement, that'll be the last "straight pitch" from R.A. Dickey.
Do you think R.A. should be a lock for the NL Cy Young Award? If not, who should get it? Sound off below!
for more features.