This MLB free-agent class is so severely lacking in competent starting pitching that the signings of R.A. Dickey and (reportedly) Bartolo Colon actually qualify as significant moves.
With Dickey’s contract in particular (one year, $8 million with a 2018 club option), the Atlanta Braves were prioritizing rotation stability after cycling through 16 different starters in 2016. The 42-year-old hasn’t spent any time on the disabled list since 2005, so the Miami Marlins can expect to face him several times next season. Despite his recent struggles (4.46 ERA, 5.03 FIP in 169.2 IP last year), that’s not necessarily a matchup the Fish should look forward to.
During a streak that dates back to the Florida Marlins days, Dickey has not lost any of his past 10 starts against this franchise. It’s tied with Jon Niese for the longest active run of its kind. And it’s an excuse to watch some filthy knuckleballs.
There is a certain pleasure that comes with watching major league batters flail at that pitch, even when it’s at your team’s expense.
The W’s themselves don’t mean much—most of these starts occurred in 2011 and 2012, when the Marlins finished in last place and struggled to score against anybody. But his performances have been legitimately dominant. Dickey averaged a 65 Game Score across the 10 outings, including two complete games, with the Marlins combining to hit .228/.269/.322 in 288 plate appearances. He essentially transformed the entire lineup into the 2016 version of Adeiny Hechavarria (.236/.283/.311), but with more strikeouts.
The only Marlins position player who was on the losing end of those Dickey gems and remains on the club today is Giancarlo Stanton. He missed four of the games due to injury/rest, otherwise perhaps the streak would have been snapped sooner. Despite some difficulty putting balls in play against Dickey during the streak (8 K in 19 PA), he owns a .333 batting average.
Overall, the 2017 Marlins will clearly have more offensive talent than those past teams did. Thursday’s announcement gives them three recent Silver Slugger Award winners—Stanton in 2014, Dee Gordon in 2015 and Chrisitian Yelich in 2016—in everyday roles.
However, the Braves quietly wrapped up this past season on a high note, surging to a 20-10 record over their final 30 games. The improvement came largely from their run production (an NL-best 110 wRC+ in September/October). Barring some investment in their own starting rotation, the Fish could struggle to keep pace with Freddie Freeman and company on days that Dickey takes the mound against them.