On Monday night, R.A. Dickey was in complete control of his craft. He pitched his third complete game of the season. He struck out a career-high 13 batters. He extended his streak of consecutive innings without allowing an earned run (42⅔ and counting). And oh yes, he became the first pitcher in Mets history to pitch back-to-back complete game one-hitters.
But this particular start should not have come as a surprise to any Mets fan who has been watching the recent stretch of lights-out performances by R.A. Dickey. Over his last six starts, Dickey has been practically untouchable. Since earning a no-decision against the Cincinnati Reds on May 17 (a game in which he struck out eight batters and walked only one in six innings of work), Dickey has won all six of his starts, allowing two runs (one earned) in 48⅔ innings. That's a 0.18 ERA, folks. He has also allowed only 21 hits over his last six starts (an average of 3½ hits per start) and has a 0.53 WHIP over that time period.
As amazing as that sounds, here's the best part. Since May 17, Dickey has struck out 63 batters and walked only five. That's a handful of batters who have seen ball four from Dickey over his last six starts. We're talking about a knuckleball pitcher here. A knuckleball control artist should be an oxymoron. But there is nothing oxymoronic about R.A. Dickey or what he's accomplished recently. In fact, it may just be the best pitching stretch in Mets history.
Let's look at some of the greatest individual seasons by starting pitchers in Mets history and dissect them to come up with some of the best extended stretches of dominance for those pitchers. This is by no means a complete list of memorable months by Mets pitchers, just some of the ones that stand out above the others (minimum five starts).
- Jerry Koosman (7/21/68 - 8/19/68): 7 starts, 63.2 IP, 1.27 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 47 K, 16 BB
- Jerry Koosman (5/28/69 - 6/27/69): 7 starts, 60.0 IP, 0.60 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 62 K, 12 BB
- Tom Seaver (8/31/69 - 9/27/69): 7 starts, 63.0 IP, 0.71 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 44 K, 15 BB
- Tom Seaver (7/17/71 - 8/16/71): 7 starts, 60.1 IP, 1.04 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 66 K, 12 BB
- Jon Matlack (7/12/72 - 8/5/72): 6 starts, 51.2 IP, 0.70 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 36 K, 13 BB
- Tom Seaver (8/10/73 - 9/13/73): 8 starts, 75.1 IP, 1.31 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 69 K, 14 BB
- Tom Seaver (6/5/75 - 7/9/75): 8 starts, 69.2 IP, 1.16 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 66 K, 15 BB
- Jerry Koosman (9/11/76 - 10/1/76): 5 starts, 40.1 IP, 1.34 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 44 K, 7 BB
- Dwight Gooden (8/11/84 - 9/23/84): 9 starts, 76.0 IP, 1.07 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 105 K, 13 BB
- Dwight Gooden (8/20/85 - 9/26/85): 8 starts, 65.0 IP, 0.55 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 66 K, 14 BB
- David Cone (8/23/88 - 9/20/88): 6 starts, 48.2 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 48 K, 10 BB
- Frank Viola (4/11/90 - 5/12/90): 7 starts, 51.2 IP, 0.87 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 52 K, 6 BB
- Bret Saberhagen (6/30/94 - 8/10/94): 9 starts, 71.2 IP, 1.51 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 62 K, 5 BB
- Al Leiter (4/14/98 - 5/23/98): 7 starts, 49.1 IP, 1.09 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 44 K, 16 BB
- Johan Santana (7/27/08 - 8/22/08): 6 starts, 45.1 IP, 1.39 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 33 K, 9 BB
- R.A. Dickey (5/22/12 - 6/18/12): 6 starts, 48.2 IP, 0.18 ERA, 0.53 WHIP, 63 K, 5 BB
Note: For those wondering where Jerry Koosman's stretch from 1973 is (the one in which he pitched 31⅔ consecutive scoreless innings), it's not included here because he actually wasn't dominant during that stretch. From August 19 to September 7, 1973, Koosman had a 0.22 ERA, but had a rather ordinary 1.16 WHIP and a less than stellar 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (26 K, 16 BB). Koosman was more fortunate than dominant during that memorable stretch that helped the Mets claim their unexpected division title.
As you can see from the list above, Dickey has the lowest ERA and WHIP of all the pitchers who had five or more consecutive dominant starts. He also has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (slightly ahead of Bret Saberhagen's K/BB ratio from 1994) and only Dickey and Dwight Gooden have averaged at least ten strikeouts per start during their torrid stretches.
Some of the best pitchers in Mets history have had extended runs of success in a particular season. Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman had several of these month-long stretches of excellence. Dwight Gooden had two of the most dominant stretches in club annals. But for my money, I'd say R.A. Dickey is on his way to surpassing all of them.
No Mets pitcher has ever put together an extended stretch (minimum five starts) in which he averaged ten or more strikeouts per start, less than one walk per start, and had an ERA under 1.00. R.A. Dickey is the only man in a Mets uniform who can claim those numbers for his own. It truly has been a spectacular stretch for one of the most unexpected great pitchers in Mets history.