R.A. Dickey in Top Form; Plus: Should Tim Tebow Try Yet Another Athletic Switch…to Knuckleball Pitcher?

Dickey shows his gripLast time, we reported the comments of R.A. Dickey after he had helped the Braves beat the Phillies 3-1. He said, in effect, that the game was a good omen for future outings in the season. And he challenged himself to keep up his current performance.

He has indeed kept it up—for example, with his role in the Braves’ June 19 clobbering of the Giants, which produced headlines like “Dickey, Braves roll past free-falling Giants, 9-0” and “Dickey solid as Braves rout Giants, 9-0.”

In the latter article, by talkingchop.com’s “Ivan the Great,” the pseudonymous author declares that the game was one of Dickey’s best in the season so far.

The game started inauspiciously for Dickey, as he gave up an 0-2 single to leadoff man Denard Span, and then an infield single to Eduardo Nunez to put runners at the corners with none away. However, the knuckler then worked its magic: a pop-out, a strikeout of Braves nemesis Buster Posey, and another pop-out kept the game scoreless. Dickey also caught a bit of a break in the second, as Brandon Belt hit a one-out double but then popped off the base when sliding into second, resulting in an out….

Dickey did not allow a base runner in the third, fourth, fifth, or sixth inning. He hit Posey with a knuckler to start the seventh, but Brian Snitker rewarded his efforts by leaving him in the game, and Dickey retired the next three batters in order. His final line: seven innings, three hits, one walk, one HBP, and six strikeouts. The outing was one of his best, rivaled only by his seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball with eight strikeouts against the Phillies a couple of starts ago.

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution’s David O’Brien (“Dickey, Braves roll past free-falling Giants, 9-0”) is even more enthusiastic, regarding Dickey’s performance against the Giants on the 19th as not merely “one of his best” performances but “his best” performance of the season.

After R.A. Dickey gave up eight earned runs in five innings Wednesday at Washington, the veteran Braves knuckleballer said in an earnest tone, “My results tonight were very pedestrian. But I’m close. I’m close to turning the page here and not being mediocre.”

It seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but Dickey looked like he knew something the rest of us didn’t when he made his next start Monday night against the free-falling San Francisco Giants. He allowed three hits and one walk in seven innings of a 9-0 series-opening win at SunTrust Park, the Braves’ third straight and fifth in seven games….

After a 44-minute rain delay prior to the first pitch, Dickey (5-5) pitched his best game of the season and his first scoreless outing for the Braves. He gave up a double and single to the first two batters, worked out of that jam with two pop-ups and a strikeout, then didn’t allow another runner to advance past first base as the Giants stumbled to their seventh consecutive loss and ninth in 10 games.

An IKA reader adds on the day of publication that “in Dickey’s last three outings he walked just one batter altogether, which is superb.”

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Tim Tebow at batSBNation’s Marc Normandin has some advice for Tim Tebow, who switched from football to baseball: switch again; “become a knuckleballer.” Normandin thinks that although Tebow’s on-base percentage is “pretty all right,” he strikes out too much, and “athletically, [at age 29] he’s on the wrong end of his peak years…”

You might ask: What evidence is there that Tebow can throw a knuckler, the most unpredictable pitch there is? And I would counter: Have you ever seen Tim Tebow throw a football?

Tebow is already throwing knucklers….

Jon Bois wrote probably the lengthiest story ever published at SB Nation on the premise that Tebow threw a football really, really weird by America’s standards….

Tebow wouldn’t make it with any regular old conversion to pitching. He doesn’t have the arm strength for that—it’s why scouts said he should play left field instead of right field, given left relies less on hard, accurate throws. Knucklers, though, don’t need to throw 100. They don’t need to throw 90. Hell, they don’t even need to throw 80. So long as his fastball is harder than his knuckleball and he can consistently throw it accurately, this would work.

We don’t know whether Tebow is cut out to be a knuckleballer simply because he has experience weirdly throwing a football. But the points are well taken about how 1) knuckleball pitching can be an effective late-career move and 2) it does not require the nth degree of arm strength that other pitches require.

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