Thursday, June 7, 2012

R.A. Dickey And The Quest For A 20-Win Season

Not since Frank Viola in 1990 have the Mets produced a 20-game winner.  In fact, the only Met to win as many as 17 games in a season since then was Al Leiter, who went 17-6 in 1998.  But that might change in 2012, and the man who might make it happen is R.A. Dickey.

R.A. Dickey, who just extended his personal scoreless streak to 24⅔ innings (just seven innings shy of Jerry Koosman's franchise record), is the proud owner of a 9-1 record with a 2.44 ERA through his first 12 starts.  With a full month left to the season's midpoint, Dickey is only one win shy of seeing himself halfway to win No. 20.

Will he finally end the Mets' 22-year drought of not producing a 20-game winner?  Let's look at all of the past 20-game winners in Mets history to see where they were after the first 12 starts of their 20-win campaigns.

  • Tom Seaver (1969): 8-3, 2.51 ERA through 12 starts (13 gm); finished 25-7, 2.21 ERA
  • Tom Seaver (1971): 7-2, 2.01 ERA through 12 starts (13 gm); finished 20-10, 1.76 ERA
  • Tom Seaver (1972): 8-3, 3.09 ERA through 12 starts; finished 21-12, 2.92 ERA
  • Tom Seaver (1975): 8-4, 2.16 ERA through 12 starts; finished 22-9, 2.38 ERA
  • Jerry Koosman (1976): 6-5, 4.03 ERA through 12 starts (13 gm); finished 21-10, 2.69 ERA
  • Dwight Gooden (1985): 8-3, 1.72 ERA through 12 starts; finished 24-4, 1.53 ERA
  • David Cone (1988): 9-2, 2.35 ERA through 12 starts (19 gm); finished 20-3, 2.22 ERA
  • Frank Viola (1990): 9-2, 2.04 ERA through 12 starts; finished 20-12, 2.67 ERA

Of the five pitchers who have produced 20-win seasons for the Mets, none had more than nine wins after his first 12 starts.  With today's win, Dickey has matched David Cone and Frank Viola with nine victories over their first 12 starts, although two of Cone's nine wins came in relief.

It appears that Dickey is on track to become the sixth member of the 20-win club, but there have been other pitchers in the past who got off to a quick start for the Mets, then failed to win 20 games.

In 1997, Bobby Jones had a spectacular first two months, going 10-2 with a 2.22 ERA through his first 12 starts to earn his first and only trip to the All-Star Game.  But after his quick start, he struggled the rest of the way, going 5-7 with a 4.85 ERA over his final 18 starts of the season.

Just two years ago, Mike Pelfrey got off to the best start of his career, going 8-1 with a 2.23 ERA over his first 12 starts.  But in addition to being snubbed for the All-Star team, he also failed to continue his hot start after June.  Over his final 21 starts in 2010, Pelfrey went 7-8 with a 4.60 ERA.  Both Jones and Pelfrey had to settle for 15-win campaigns in 1997 and 2010, respectively.

Johan Santana recently ended the Mets' long no-hitter drought.  Now it's up to R.A. Dickey to end another drought that no Mets pitcher has come close to ending over the past two-plus decades.  Can he become the first 20-game winner since the end of the Davey Johnson era?  Nothing is certain, but if Dickey can maintain his torrid pace, there's no reason why he can't join Seaver, Koosman, Gooden, Cone and Viola as Mets' 20-game winners.

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