The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

R.A. Dickey’s Place in Mets History

You’ve probably already heard the news this evening that Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey has won the N.L. Cy Young award, becoming the third Mets pitcher to win the award (Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden being the other two.)  Dickey led the N.L. in strikeouts, led the Majors in Quality Starts, and finished second in the N.L. in ERA.  He also became the sixth 20-game winner in team history.

First, I want to congratulate R.A. Dickey for a fantastic season, and for being one of the few consistently bright spots in yet another disappointing season for Mets fans.

Aside from Cy Young awards, how does R.A. Dickey’s season rate among the best seasons ever by a Mets pitcher?  Before looking at the stats, I would have guessed that it was easily among the top ten seasons ever by a Mets pitcher.  Using WAR as a benchmark, here is where Dickey’s 2012 season actually ranks:

1)  Dwight Gooden – 11.9  1985

2)  Tom Seaver – 10.3  1973

3)  Tom Seaver – 9.7  1971

4)  Jon Matlack – 8.8  1974

5)  Tom Seaver – 7.5  1975

6)  Tom Seaver – 7.1  1969

7)  Johan Santana – 6.9  2008

8)  Pedro Martinez – 6.7  2005

8)  Tom Seaver – 6.7  1968  (Seaver owns 5 of the top 9 seasons in Mets history among pitchers.)

10)  Al Leiter – 6.5  1998 (Bet you didn’t expect to see him here.)

11)  Jerry Koosman – 6.2  1968

12)  Frank Viola – 6.1  1990

13)  Sid Fernandez – 5.9  1992  (Third toughest pitcher to hit ever!)

13)  Tom Seaver – 5.9  1974

15)  Jerry Koosman – 5.8  1969  (Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, what a great staff.)

15)  Jon Matlack  – 5.8  1972

15)  Tom Seaver  – 5.8  1967

18)  R.A. Dickey – 5.6  2012

19)  Jerry Koosman – 5.5  1973

20)  Tom Seaver – 5.4  1970

20)  Craig Swan – 5.4  1978  (Led N.L. in ERA and ERA+ in ’78, with just 9 wins for his efforts.)

22)  David Cone – 5.3  1988

22)  Brett Saberhagen – 5.3   1994  (WAR would have been higher, but for the lockout.)

24)  Dwight Gooden – 5.2  1984

25)  Tom Seaver – 5.1  1976

As you can see, though Dickey enjoyed a fine year in 2012, and, in my opinion, justly deserved the Cy Young award, his was far from the best season in team history.  That’s no slight against him.  It just goes to show that once upon a time, the Mets boasted many very fine pitchers.

But once again, congratulations to R.A. Dickey, and here’s to hoping that 2013 brings similar good fortune to him, and to his team.


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15 thoughts on “R.A. Dickey’s Place in Mets History

  1. William,
    R.A.’s story is a such a wonderful one about perseverance. Glad to see his hard work and belief in self pay off. That’s quite an eye opener about his rank among Mets pitching seasons all-time, though. As you mentioned, that’s a strong statement about the changing dynamics of the game and the wealth of fine pitchers in franchise history. Great post.
    Rob N

    • Rob, You’re right. It is great to see Dickey’s season end by earning the Cy Young award if for now other reason than his entire story is so compelling. The Mets have generally had a history of fine pitching. With the young Zach Wheeler and Matt Harvey coming up, perhaps they’ll restore some more of the luster of their glory days.
      Thanks for reading,

  2. I liked Phillips, Flynn, and Boisclair, among others. I liked the ’79 team. I was proud to be one of the few… the proud… the Mets fans. One time, a friend of mine and I were at the last home game of ’78. The Cardinals and the Mets fighting for last place. We were sitting in the upper deck, in general admission. It was such a cold night that Mettle the Mule died in the Mets bullpen of frostbite. There were so few people at the game that we could actually hear what people were saying to each other down in the field boxes down the third base line.

    And Flynn had deceivingly good stats at the bat in ’79. Take a look at his stats that year. 61 Runs batted in is pretty damn good for a number 8 hitter on a last place team. Think about it.

    As far as your talk about pitching, the most unappreciated and underrated Mets pitcher of all time: Terry Leach. Yes, I’m serious.

    As for Craig Swan, did you ever notice that Swan always never finished his pitching motion in the same way? If we had a still camera on Craig Swan while he was pitching, there would never be two of the same “follow throughs” the same. It was like he was posing for some ungraceful sculpture (quite unlike a SWAN) that would have water spurting out of his mouth. I would definitely have to say that Craig Swan was definitely not one of Rube Walker’s model students. (Rube stressed the follow-through all the way down to the ground; Swan always ended up in weirdo positions in mid-air. The best example of Walker’s pet students were Seaver, Koosman, and Tug McGraw. Matlack, Ryan, and Gentry were other good students of Rube Walker in the follow-through department.)


    • Hi Glenn, I can see that you really have been a loyal Mets fan over the years. Working backwards, Swan’s lack of a consistent follow-through is probably one reason why he was all done as an effective pitcher by age 31. I had never noticed that about him, but it makes sense.
      Leach was a good and underrated pitcher, but I’m not sure he was the most underrated pitcher in Mets history. I’d have to take a closer look before making that kind of a statement.
      Flynn’s 61 RBI in are more an example of a fluky stat than any real evidence that he was a good hitter. His on-base + slugging for the year was a lowly .582. In 580 plate appearances, he had just 28 extra base hits, and scored just 35 runs while playing in 157 games. What value he had was pretty much tied up in his defense, which was solid, though not world-class.
      The Mets from 1977-82 had so many bad players, it would be difficult to recall them all. Unfortunately, through the magic of baseball cards, I get to relive those awful years from time to time.
      But somehow, within about a year, they were able to pull off trades for both Keith Hernandez, then Gary Carter. I’d like to see them do something equally cool this off-season, but I’m not holding my breath.
      Take care, man.

    • While I’d agree with Bill that he might not be the most underrated Met pitcher ever (although there’s a seried for you, Bill–Most Underrated Met at each position!), Leach was a damn valuable guy who did an awful good job in a bunch of different roles. That’s a fine career for someone who was never drafted.

  3. It’s funny that in a “Year of the Pitcher” a guy can win the Cy Young with a rating so far below past Mets pitchers.

    • I think that shows how much things have changed in baseball since the ’70’s and even the ’80’s. Although pitching is making a comeback, it still has a ways to go to return to what it was 20 or 30 years ago.
      Thanks for reading, man.

  4. Poor Craig Swan–the man was a good pitcher, and he’s trying to win with Lenny Randle and Tom Grieve behind him. Not only were those late-70s Mets teams bad, they were dull as well.

    • That’s true, but for some reason, I attended about a dozen games, and watched most of the rest on T.V. Roy Staiger, anyone? How about Mike Phillips, Doug Flynn, John Pacella, Nino Espinosa, or Bruce Boisclair?

      • The thing I remember about John Pacella is that he could never keep his hat on, despite (as Burleigh Grimes described a pitcher he once managed) being wild low because he didn’t have the stuff to be wild high.

      • Yeah, I remember. His hat used to fall off after every pitch. Imagine making it all the way to the big leagues, and that’s all anyone remembers about you.

  5. Northern Narratives on said:

    Hard to believe that he is the first knuckleballer to win the Cy Young. I guess that throwing the knuckleball has become a dying art 🙂

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