Can The Love Fest Last: A Saber Look at R.A. Dickey

Earlier this week we had our resident sabermetrics analyst at Metszilla, The Bionicchop, harness his inner Urkel and get a good look at two of the better stories in New York baseball this season.  Since we could only so much ‘mathletics’ in a day, we decided to break things up into two sections, with Part I (click here for full story) focusing on New York’s rookie left hander Jonathon Niese.

If you bow down to the sword of sabermetrics, then you had to be pleasantly pleased with the final analysis of Niese’s long term potential.  The Chop crunched the numbers and came up with the following conclusion:

Niese registered a 83 PBV in June, a 109 in July and a 79 in August. Very solid #’s for a young hurler seemingly on the cusp of ace material. At the age of 23 it’s an easy assertion that he’s one of the best young pitchers in the game today.  From a saber standpoint, Niese is about as sure of sure thing as you can have with a young MLB arm.”

Surely nothing is guaranteed, as we’ve seen with the Jeckyl and Hyde act that Mike Pelfrey has pulled throughout the season, but the more you watch him pitch and the more you break down his numbers, the more legit Jonathon Niese looks.  Perhaps the only player to give fans more reason for cheer during this otherwise dismal season is 35-year-old knuckle baller R.A. Dickey.  While The Chop had his protractor and slide rule out, we had him give Dickey’s stats a once over with the sabermetric paint brush and he was kind enough to share his 2 cents below.

Numbers from the back of the baseball card

Numbers from the Da Vinci Code

2.41 ERA / 3.79 XERA

DOM (K/9) 5.8

CTL (BB/9) 2.3

As most people in the sabermetric army know and as I pointed out in the Niese post, the above indicators help get you to one bottom line, Base Performance Value (BPV).  BPV, which is calculated using a formula similar to that of John Nash’s ‘Game theory’ ((Dominance Rate – 5.0) x 18) + ((4.0 – Walk rate) x 27) + (Ground ball rate as whole number – 40), serves as an indicator of ‘overall raw skill level’ and gauges a pitchers potential for long term success.  While the analysis yielded more than favorable results for Jonathon Niese, things were less stellar for the high-wire act that is R.A. Dickey.

With a fantastic name and his tumblin’ knuckleball, the Dickster has to be the biggest surprise for the Mets team this season. After posting a 5.21 and 4.62 ERA in 2008 and 2009 respectively, the 35-year-old has been confoundingly ace-like. A 2.41 ERA over 119 IP? Aside from a May / June stretch of dominance last year, there were no statistical indicators that pointed to this level of success. Can Robert Alan keep this up for this season and beyond?

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Simply put, yes (kind of). He is clearly not a 2.41 ERA pitcher. But, he does have the statistical ability to put up a high 3 ERA and be a quality innings eater for the Mets. His ERA splits this month have been (ERA / XERA) : May (2.84 / 4.56), June (3.06 / 3.56), July (1.51 / 3.43), August (2.73 / 4.09). So, as these numbers point out, R.A. has been fairly ‘lucky’ every month with his surface stats. His BPVs have fluctuated monthly from a 33, 107, 81 and 54.  The benchmark for BPV is a minimum of 50 for a player with hopes of achieving long term success.  As a point of reference when looking at Dickey’s amazing season, keep in mind that Ubaldo Jimenez has a BPV of 83 so far this year, Mat Latos a 114, and Roy Halladay checks in with an unworldly 148.  Like the hard forkball / knuckleball he throws, there will always be a bit of mystery and surprise to the stats Dickey will put up.  But maybe that’s part of the charm.

The final analysis when the marble notebook closes is that fans should bank on Niese for the Mets future and enjoy the Dickey show while it lasts, I know I will.




Powered by Facebook Comments