R.A. Dickey and David Price were named the 2012 Cy Young Award winners for their respective leagues Wednesday and they achieved their success in very different ways.
There are many ways for a pitcher to be successful.
David Price thrives with a fastball that had an average velocity of 95.4 miles per hour, the best of any of the 88 ERA-title qualifiers in baseball. R.A. Dickey doesn’t have the ability to do that. Instead, he wins with a knuckleball that often looks as tough to hit as a 95 miles-per-hour fastball. Except that he drops it in with an average speed of just over 77 miles per hour.
Price and Dickey achieved a pair of firsts. Price became the first Rays pitcher to win the Cy Young Award. Dickey became the first knuckleballer to do so.
Here’s a look inside each of their seasons.
Price finished the season with 20 wins, a 2.56 ERA and 205 strikeouts. He was the only pitcher with at least that many wins and strikeouts, and that low an ERA in 2012. The two pitchers who hit those benchmarks in 2011--Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw--each won the Cy Young Award that season.
That combination is tough for an American League lefty to achieve. Only three went 20/2.56/205 in the last 40 seasons. The other two were Ron Guidry for the 1978 Yankees and Randy Johnson for the 1997 Mariners.
After getting roughed up for seven runs by the Mets on June 13, Price finished the season with 12 wins in his last 13 decisions. He had a 2.26 ERA and an 0.97 WHIP in his last 18 starts.
Most Wins Above Replacement
Single-Season (Rays pitchers)
Price steamrolled through the AL East this season, going 10-2 with a 2.51 ERA. The latter ranked second best in the AL among those who pitched at least 50 innings against other teams in the division, trailing only Jake Peavy of the Chicago White Sox (2.22).
In the last 20 seasons, only two other pitchers have matched Price’s win total and ERA against AL East teams- Mike Mussina for the 2002 New York Yankees and Derek Lowe for the 2002 Boston Red Sox. Price himself also did so in 2010, when he was 10-2 against the East with a 2.12 ERA.
Price went from a 3.49 ERA in 2011 to an AL-best 2.56 ERA this season. One of the primary reasons for this was that he limited damage from right-handed hitters, trimming his opponents’ OPS by 83 points against them.
Price’s fastball struck enough fear into right-handers that it helped make his breaking pitches even better, particularly his curveball. Price had 39 strikeouts with his hook in 2012, 30 more than he had in 2011. He allowed only one extra-base hit against a righty with that pitch all season, after giving up eight in 2011.
Dickey joined Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as the only Mets pitchers to win the Cy Young (Seaver won it three times).
Dickey’s 20 wins were impressive, considering that they came for a losing team. He’s only the third NL pitcher to win 20 games on a losing team in the last 30 seasons, along with Fernando Valenzuela (1986 Los Angeles Dodgers) and Greg Maddux (1992 Chicago Cubs).
Like Price, Dickey made significant improvements from 2011 to 2012, dropping his ERA from 3.28 to 2.73 and his WHIP from 1.22 to 1.05. He led the National League in innings pitched, strikeouts, complete games, and shutouts. This came from a pitcher whose career numbers entering the season were 41-50 with a 4.34 ERA
Dickey did so with a jump in knuckleball velocity. He threw the pitch an average of one mile-per-hour faster than he did the previous season, but used the harder knuckler as more of a putaway pitch in 2012.
Oldest Pitcher to win Cy Young
Dickey got 179 outs with knuckleballs of 80 miles-per-hour or faster, 79 more than he did in 2011. He did so allowing one fewer hit (29 in all) against pitches of that speed.
His miss rate on knuckleballs of 80 miles-per-hour or faster was 32 percent, up from 19 percent in 2011.
Statistically speaking, this led to one of the best pitching seasons in New York baseball history.
Dickey finished with 20 wins, a 2.73 ERA and 230 strikeouts, the latter an NL-leading total (and only eight strikeouts fewer than he had in the previous two seasons combined).
Gooden and Seaver are the only Mets pitchers to hit that combination of stats. The only other pitchers to do so for a New York-based team in the last 100 seasons are Dazzy Vance (1924 Brooklyn Dodgers) and Ron Guidry (1978 Yankees).
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that at 37, Dickey is the oldest pitcher to be a first-time Cy Young Award winner from an NL team. He’s the third-oldest first-time winner overall. The list of the five oldest pitchers, noted in the chart above, features Dickey in the company of four Hall of Famers.