The Rogers Centre hasn’t been kind to knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey, the newest member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Dickey, 38, has played in five games at Toronto’s domed stadium – three of them starts, in which he compiled a 2-2 record with an unsightly 6.55 earned-run average.
He allowed 28 hits over 22 innings pitched, including four home runs.
The only upside to all that for fans of the American League team is that all of those games came before 2010, before Dickey had really mastered the craft of throwing the knuckleball and shot into prominence as a member of the New York Mets.
He was voted the Cy Young Award in the National League last season with the Mets after compiling a 20-6 record with a 2.73 ERA.
Dickey was dealt to the Blue Jays in a trade that was officially announced on Monday, part of a seven-player swap in which the Jays surrendered two blue-chip minor-league prospects to land the veteran pitcher.
Usually pitching indoors in the climate-controlled atmosphere of a domed stadium is felt to be a benefit to a knuckleball pitcher, where the wind, which can play havoc on the accuracy of the slow-moving ball, can be controlled.
Interestingly, however, both of Dickey’s victories at Rogers Centre came when the roof was pulled back.
“People try to use his stats from early in his career, when he didn’t really throw the knuckleball or was just learning it,” Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “You kind of have to throw those stats out the window, he’s not the same guy. You have to look at really the last three years.”
“I haven’t looked at the statistical analysis of indoor versus outdoor,” Dickey said on Tuesday when he spoke with reporters for the first time following the trade. “I feel like it’s pretty good.
“I know I love pitching in Tampa. I’ve loved pitching indoors over the course of my knuckleballing career. So I expect it not to be much different in the Rogers Centre.”
Since he joined the Mets for the start of the 2010 season, Dickey has pitched only once in the domed confines of Tropicana Field in Tampa, and it was one of his sharpest performances. Back on June 13, Dickey threw a one-hitter against the Rays and struck out 12.
Dickey insists that he doesn’t see any advantage if he is pitching indoors or out.
“If that was the case I would have never won a Cy Young Award,” he said. “I have to be able to be a trustworthy product outside of a dome as well as inside of a dome.”
Typically a knuckleball is a pitch a pitcher develops as a last resort to prolong his professional career, which was the case with Dickey, who didn’t start toying with the pitch until 2005.
“This may be a pitch of last resort, which I think is accurate, but think about over history how many last resorts have ended up being successful,” Dickey said. “A lot. It doesn’t mean just because it’s a last resort it can’t be a legitimate, successful weapon in the major leagues and that’s what I’m trying to prove and it has taken a long time … at the end of the day, results usually speak for themselves and I think in this case that’s what happened.”