R.A. Dickey’s Amazing Fastball

The impetus for this article came from a spring training article submitted by the AP on Sunday. It seems that Dickey froze Brett Lawrie with an 84 MPH fastball right down the middle the other day.

Laughter ensued.

This brought about the following quote from R.A Dickey regarding his fastball:

“That can be a weapon, too, if you use it in the right place, if a guy has tracked 10 or 11 knuckleballs in a row,” he said. “When you throw a fastball in there, it’s a whole different animal. It looks a lot harder than it really is, so you can play with the optical illusion from time to time.”

Time to go digging…

Note: The majority of this data comes from pitch f/x. How effective is the pitch f/x system when it comes to handling knucklers? That’s the question. However, outside of human scouting, is there a viable alternative? I doubt it. Let’s work with what we’ve got.

R.A. Dickey Fastballs

In 2012 R.A. Dickey threw 432 fastballs; 112 of these pitches ended PA’s.

Within these concluded PA’s, opponents ended up with a line of .319/.417/.495. Additional statistics include:

  • .386 wOBA
  • .352 BABIP
  • 4 HR
  • 17 K vs 15 BB

Upon first glance this appears to be a garbage pitch. However, the internal rates tell a different story.

  • 78.2% strike rate – highest rate in MLB
  • 67.1% zone rate – second highest in MLB
  • 66.1% called strike rate – highest in MLB by far (second place 51.1%, MLB average is 36.3%)
  • 35.9% swing rate – 18th lowest in MLB, 4th percentile

Fangraphs pitch value

Simply put, the value gained from the sheer amount of strikes the pitch earns–183 called strikes in 432 pitches– makes the pitch a positive contributor via FanGraphs pitch value system. The pitch value system uses linear weights, which in a nutshell values each pitch in each count and situation. Dickey’s fastball value in 2012 ended up being a positive 4.8 runs per 100 fastballs. In 2011 the pitch was valued at 11.1 runs, which ranked it the 14th most effective fastball in all of baseball!

Location

R.A.Dickey-Fastball

Usage

 


Count % of Total FB Thrown
0-0 35%
0-1 3.2%
1-0 17.4%
0-2 5.1%
1-2 3.7%
2-2 2.3%
3-2 3.9%

Back to the quote that began the article:

“That can be a weapon, too, if you use it in the right place, if a guy has tracked 10 or 11 knuckleballs in a row,” he said. “When you throw a fastball in there, it’s a whole different animal. It looks a lot harder than it really is, so you can play with the optical illusion from time to time.”

 

Perhaps little gamesmanship on Dickey’s part? The assertion that it’s a change of pace to end counts appears to be false; the data shows that R.A. uses this pitch to get ahead in counts.

The discrepancy between 0-1 (3.2%) and 1-0 (17.4%), along with the 0-0 rate of 35% highlights the real purpose of this pitch–earn an easy strike.

So there we have it: R.A. Dickey owns one of the better fastballs in baseball.

Note: above statement is purely from an outcome perspective; I’m sure the pitch rates as a clear 20 on the 20-80 scouting system.

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Sources: ESPN True Media, FanGraphs, AP, Pitch F/X, Front image via: RICK MADONIK / TORONTO STAR

has written for mopupduty.com since 2006. Follow Matthias on Twitter, Facebook and Google +