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Gary Armida's Blog
The FullCount: RA, Cubbies, Spats, Rocks, and FIPS Stuck
Posted on June 22, 2012 at 11:38 AM.

RA Dickey’s story is becoming more well known. His book detailed his horrific childhood of abuse. Since coming to the New York Mets, Dickey has been nothing more than phenomenal. His Baseball story is fascinating. He was drafted in the first round of the 1996 draft by the Texas Rangers as a hard throwing right hander. Following surgery, Dickey struggled to regain his fastball. At the suggestion of Orel Hershiser, Dickey became a full-time knuckleball pitcher after experimenting with the pitch every so often. Dickey became a journeyman pitcher, going from the Rangers to the Mariners, to the Twins, almost to Korea, and finally winding up as a New York Met.

When his signing was announced in New York, it was mocked. The Yankees had just signed CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and AJ Burnett. The Mets big signing was a guy who was trying to figure out the knuckleball. Dickey had already begun to master it and quickly became one of the Mets most reliable starters. But, this season, something different is happening Dickey is not only the frontrunner to start the All-Star game next month, he is a definitive early season frontrunner for the National League Cy Young Award. He is having an historic season.

In 14 starts, Dickey is 11-1 with a 2.00 ERA, which leads the league. He also leads the league in complete games with 3, including 2 shutouts. In 99 innings, he has allowed just 67 hits, 21 walks, and has struck out 103 batters. He is on pace for the best season ever for a knuckleball pitcher, and quite frankly, one of the most dominating seasons ever by any pitcher. Obviously, the danger of the knuckleball is that it can just suddenly stop being thrown for strikes. But, Dickey looks as if he has mastered the art and is dominating the league.

While Dickey continues to baffle, he’s a fullcount of happings around the league...

Cubs Holding Pennant Race Keys
The Chicago Cubs have the worst record in Baseball, yet they may be the most influential team of this season’s pennant race. While Theo Epstein remakes the entire organization, he does have a few assets at the Major League level who could be moved for a package of young talent. Ryan Dempster was said to be willing to waive his no-trade clause before landing on the disabled list, but once back, talks will begin to relight. The 35 year old was allowing just 6.8 H/9 during his 81 innings of work along with 2.4 BB/9, and 7.3 K/9.

His rotation mate Matt Garza is even more attractive given his success in the tough American League East before being traded to Chicago. While his ERA is elevated at 4.11, he striking out 8.4 batters per nine innings. Carlos Marmol has lost his closer job and much of his trade value, but if he can string together a couple of decent outings, some team would likely take a chance on him.

On the offensive side, the Cubs have role players such as Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Reed Johnson, and could even trade projected future star Starlin Castro for the right price. Alfonso Soriano has rediscovered his power stroke, but the Cubs will have to eat most of his contract if another team is looking for his skillset. While many teams will have to wait for the pennant race to really shape up, the Cubs can be aggressive early and gather some more resources.

Peralta Suspended Eight Games
Some good old fashion Baseball barbs were exchanged during the Rays-Nationals series this week. Nationals Manager Davey Johnson had umpires check Rays’ reliever Joel Peralta glove for pine tar. Sure enough, pine tar was discovered and Peralta was immediately ejected. The back story is that Peralta was a member of the Nationals in 2010. But, he never met Johnson. Major League Baseball suspended Peralta for 8 games, which he promptly appealed. Peralta can pitch until his appeal is heard. Expect a small reduction, but he will definitely serve a suspension for stupidity.

But, it was the Managers who stole the show as Maddon called Johnson’s actions “bush league and cowardly”. Johnson retorted, “read the rule book” and called Maddon “a weird wuss.”

Fighting words.

Tulo out 6 weeks
It has been a long season for the Rockies and their shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. He has been out since May 20th with a groin injury. He seemed to be on his way back, but then Tulowitzki removed himself from a rehab game on June 13th and has been trying to find out what the injury exactly is. He is now undergoing surgery to remove scar tissue from around the groin. His timetable to return is six weeks. The Rockies season is lost, but losing a star player not only hurts the team, but the fan base.

Rockies to use a four man rotation
Staying with the Rockies, Manager Jim Tracy announced that he will use a four man rotation for the time being with each starter only permitted to throw 75 pitches. In the last three games, only Jeff Francis has made it through five innings and the Rockies have used 11 relievers in those three games. The idea is novel in that the Rockies rotation isn’t good enough to get through a lineup more than twice. So, Tracy increases his chances to win by using his better pitchers, his relievers, more often. But, the risk is burnout of his bullpen.

The idea has some merit, but it may require a redefinition of roles. Starters may have to pitch in games on their throw day, and Tracy’s use of the bullpen may have to change as well. The idea to get your better pitchers more innings in a game is correct, but it is going to require a different type of conditioning. The Rockies are 1-2 in their past three, but the true test of this experiment is just how long the pitchers can survive with a heavier workload.

FIP Leaders
One of my favorite pitching stats is FIP, which stands for Fielding Independent Pitching. FIP gives a look at what a pitcher’s ERA would be if his balls put in play were league average. Essentially, it strips luck and fielder performance out of the equation. For a more thorough look at FIP, head to Fangraphs Glossary.

FIP gives a good indication as to who is actually pitching really well.

Top 10 FIP Leaders through June 21st
Zack Greinke 2.01 FIP (3.10 ERA)
Gio Gonzalez 2.01 FIP (2.55 ERA)
Stephen Strasburg 2.25 FIP (2.46 ERA)
Chris Sale 2.55 FIP (2.46 ERA)
Justin Verlander 2.57 FIP (2.62 ERA)
James McDonald 2.65 FIP (2.10 ERA)
RA Dickey 2.72 FIP (2.00 ERA)
Matt Cain 2.81 FIP (2.81 ERA)
Wade Miley 2.83 FIP (2.30 ERA)
Lance Lynn 2.87 FIP (2.80 ERA)

Gary Armida is an OS staff writer. You can find his other work around the web. Talk with him on Twitter @garyarmida
# 1 jmik58 @ Jun 22
It seems like it's been a while since we've seen so many guys with an ERA comfortably in the 2.00's
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