CINCINNATI — Braves right-hander R.A. Dickey is walking batters at a higher rate this season than nearly all of his previous 14. The 42-year old knuckleballer has a 5.10 ERA over his first 11 starts and says the walks are a big reason why he hasn’t been more effective.
“I’m somewhat embarrassed about the way that I’m throwing this year,” Dickey said. “I’m traditionally a slow starter but I’ve never walked this many guys in my life. There’s going to be a correction at some point, I know. But it’s frustrating to walk this many guys. I can take the little ‘bleeder’ hits and all that crap but I can’t walk this many guys.”
Dickey walked five of 28 Reds batters faced on Saturday to raise his season base on balls percentage to 11.4 with 298 batters faced. That tied for the fifth-highest walk percentage among qualified pitchers in the majors entering Sunday.
Dickey walked 13.2 percent of 53 batters faced as a rookie in 2001 and 12.7 percent of 153 batters faced in 2005. Dickey reinvigorated his career by learning to throw the knuckleball, starting during the 2007 season in the minor leagues, and has a 3.79 ERA in the majors since 2008.
“I need to be much more aggressive and have much more of an attack mentality because my pitch, when it’s right, it doesn’t matter, I can throw it in the strike zone against anybody,” Dickey said. “I need to get that back to that mentality. I think what’s happened some this year is I’ve been a little bit too careful in situations. You are going to have some bad luck, and I’ve had some bad luck, but I’ve made some of my own bad luck, too.”
The Braves signed Dickey to a one-year, $7.5 million contract in November. The contract includes an $8 million team option and $500,000 buyout for 2018.