The best pitcher in Major League Baseball is a 37-year-old knuckleballer for the New York Mets named R.A. Dickey. He continued tempting and terrorizing opposing batters Monday night by throwing his second consecutive one-hitter, a 5-0 victory with 13 strikeouts against the Baltimore Orioles. Wilson Betemit's clean single accounts for the hit.
Doesn't your heart flutter a little as Dickey's knuckler flutters toward the catcher's mitt? Check out this post on Fangraphs that chronicles the three pitches with the most movement of the game.
Not since Dave Stieb of the Blue Jays in 1988 had a major-league pitcher thrown consecutive one-hitters. Not since Jim Tobin of the Boston Braves in 1944 had an NL pitcher allowed one hit or less in consecutive starts. (One of Tobin's starts was a no-hitter.) Dickey also shut out the Rays on one hit this past Wednesday, coming an infield single away from a perfect game.
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But this is no two-night stand, not even in a Johnny Vander Meer sense. Dickey is beyond that. Dickey has gone five straight starts (42 2/3 innings) allowing no earned runs while getting at least eight strikeouts — the longest such streak in MLB history, reports the Elias Sports Bureau. Even going back six starts, Dickey has allowed one — just one — earned run over 48 1/3 innings. Going back seven starts, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 71 to 6 — astonishing for a pitcher whose one real pitch is hard to command. Even Dickey can't really explain why he's become so good:
"Yeah, it's surreal,'' Dickey said. ''You almost get emotional out there, especially that last hitter. You hear everybody, like one big heartbeat beating. That's the best way I could explain it."
A longtime journeyman before joining the Mets in 2010, Dickey has won nine straight decisions and six consecutive starts. He is tied for the major league lead in ERA (2.00), strikeouts (103) and complete games (three).
He should be favored to start the All-Star game and obviously is a Cy Young contender. What a year for Dickey, who wrote a well-reviewed autobiography and has appeared countless other places to tell the often unglamorous story of his life. Knuckleballers are cool to begin with. Dickey, who dresses as Darth Vader, has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and usually makes this face when he throws a 68 mph knuckler, is cool for a knuckleballer. But you don't even have to care about all of the personal stuff to get into Dickey. The knuckler alone draws you in, and then leaves you sitting there in awe. It's how Dickey's major-league opponents feel, too.
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