R.A. Dickey, a 38-year-old knuckleballer for the New York Mets, found a fitting epilogue to his storybook season Wednesday night, when he was named winner of the 2012 National League Cy Young Award.
Dickey earned 27 of 32 first-place votes, finishing ahead of Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals. The awards are voted by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Dickey harnessed the unruly power of his knuckleball to devastating ends. He was 20-6, becoming the Mets' first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990, and led the league in innings pitched (2332⁄3), strikeouts (230), complete games (five) and shutouts (three). He finished with the lowest earned run average of his 10-year career (2.73) and was named to the All-Star team for the first time.
It was a stunning transformation for the former journeyman, who learned the quirky knuckleball as a last-ditch effort to save his wilting career.
"Growing up, you just want to compete, and then once you have the weaponry to compete, you want to be really good, and then when you're really good, you want to be supernaturally good," Dickey said after winning his 20th game in September.
Dickey's accomplishments were more impressive considering the overall struggles of the Mets, who finished the season 74-88.
Dickey is the third Mets pitcher to win the award. Tom Seaver won the award three times — in 1969, 1973 and 1975 — and Dwight Gooden won it in 1985. Dickey is the first knuckleball pitcher to win the award.
Price nips Verlander
David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays barely beat out 2011 winner Justin Verlander for the American League prize in one of the closest votes ever.
Runner-up two years ago, Price was the pick this time. He received 14 of 28 first-place votes and finished with 153 points to 149 for Verlander, chosen first on 13 ballots.
Other than a 1969 tie between Mike Cuellar and Denny McLain, it was the tightest race ever for the AL award.
Rays closer Fernando Rodney got the other first-place vote and came in fifth.
"It means a lot," Price said. "It's something that I'll always have."
Price went 20-5 to tie Jered Weaver for the American League lead in victories and winning percentage. The 27-year-old lefty had the lowest ERA at 2.56 and finished sixth in strikeouts with 205.
Verlander, also the league MVP a year ago, followed that up by going 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA and pitching the Detroit Tigers to the World Series. He led the majors in strikeouts (239), innings (2381⁄3) and complete games (six).
Price tossed 211 innings in 31 starts, while Verlander made 33. One factor that might have swung some votes, however: Price faced stiffer competition in the rugged AL East than Verlander did in the AL Central.
Affeldt staying a Giant
Jeremy Affeldt wanted some job security — and the reliable reliever got it.
The left-hander and the World Series champion Giants completed an $18 million, three-year contract Wednesday. Affeldt realizes few relievers can say they will have spent seven years with the same team. The 33-year-old Affeldt went 1-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 67 appearances covering 631⁄3 innings this season for the Giants.
Tigers deal for Hunter
Free-agent outfielder Torii Hunter has reportedly agreed to a $26 million, two-year deal with Detroit, giving the Tigers a capable corner outfielder coming off an impressive season at age 37.
Hunter hit a career-best .313 last season for the L.A. Angels with 16 home runs and 92 RBI. Hunter won nine consecutive Gold Gloves from 2001-09 before gradually switching from center to right.