Perhaps the top feel-good story in Major League Baseball this season has been the emergence of Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey as a force. At nearly 38, Dickey won his 18th game of the year against just four losses on Wednesday, a 6-2 victory over the Cardinals in St. Louis. He now leads the Majors in victories and his ERA stands at 2.64. Heretofore, he had never amassed more than 11 wins in any given season, and before picking up a ball in 2012, he was nine games under .500. But as Dickey said in his recent autobiography, "Wherever I Wind Up," "You may hit me. You may knock me out of the park. But I'm going to keep coming at you."
As such, Dickey's name must be highly mentioned this year in any honest discussion of the Cy Young Award in the National League. He has let up less than a homer and two walks and whiffed nine batters per nine innings. His excellent WHIP of 1.014 and five complete games are tops in the league. MLB.com caught up with Dickey and talked to him about his magical year this past Friday night after he earned a complete-game victory over the Marlins in Miami. MLB.com: With about a month to go in the season, how good do you feel about your chances of winning 20 games right now? Dickey: I don't really give it much thought. I feel good about competing for 18 right now. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. That's how it has been for me. I don't want to get out of that place, no matter how many times people ask me. Sure, I hope for it. What pitcher doesn't? What pitcher, as he grows up, doesn't want to be a Cy Young Award winner? Obviously, the hope is inside me. At the same time, I've got to be able to hold that hope and do the job at hand, and so the job at hand is [the next team] in five days, and that's where I'll be. That's the best way to approach it for me. I've found that if I don't live in the moment, it doesn't work out very well for me. So here I am. MLB.com: So do you think about the Cy Young Award at all? Dickey: Again, not really. The thing I think about more is if I can perform well in my next game. Hopefully, at the end of the year, the numbers will speak for themselves, and we'll see what happens. It's a tough year in the National League. You've got [Johnny] Cueto, [Aroldis] Chapman and Stephen Strasburg. You've got a lot of worthy, worthy people. I'll lay my head down on the pillow at the end of this year knowing that I competed my butt off, and I will sleep well regardless of the awards I do or don't get. My name is being mentioned in the same breath with those guys. It's humbling, but at the same time I have felt like I could achieve these things. It does not feel surreal to me because I've put in a lot of work. MLB.com: In saying all that, do you have a chance to think about what has happened this season, how well you've pitched? Dickey: I've worked hard to try to celebrate better. I've never been very good at celebrating. I've been good at wallowing in defeats and beating myself up about it, unfortunately. I'm trying to change that pattern. I've really been trying to embrace the good things that have happened throughout the year. I'll take a couple of days to really be glad about the outing, and then it will be time to work on who I've got next. Yes, I am glad to be able to say that I'm able to do that better, to celebrate the moment better. MLB.com: To have a career season so late in your baseball life has to be particularly gratifying, isn't it? Dickey: It's satisfying. It's really satisfying. I've always thought I could be good with the knuckleball. How that manifested itself throughout a year, I wasn't ever going to put a limitation on that because, why would you? Hopefully, the sky is the limit if you really apply yourself and work hard at your craft. I've tried to do that. I'm lucky it's in an upward arc. Last year, I was 8-13 and didn't pitch too much more poorly than I am now. But things have to go your way in a season like this, and I'm certainly aware of that. MLB.com: What kind of credence do you place in this sabermetric argument that wins for a pitcher is not a viable form of measurement? Dickey: I would have to say that it's not the only metric you want to be measured by as a pitcher, but it's certainly one you hope you will be. There are certainly others that are more important. How many times do you give your team a chance to win? Quality starts is a big metric for me. It's not for a lot of other people. But any time you go six or seven innings and allow two or three runs, you're giving your team a shot. That's a measure of consistency, and that's what I've always tried to provide. I've always wanted to be consistent, so ERA, quality starts and innings pitched have always been the metrics that I've measured myself by. MLB.com: This is the first time in your 10-year career when your stats across the board have produced victories, too. Dickey: Yeah, it has. The first year with the Mets , when I really felt like I was turning the corner, I won 11 games and missed a month of the season. I just didn't get called up. I missed a month out of camp. I knew I could've won more. I've just always felt that if you keep putting up good outings, you're going to get some wins. They've all come this year, all the ones I've saved up, I guess. MLB.com: Do you feel like you were fated for it to take so long in your career for this to happen? Dickey: I certainly believe in what they call the Kairotic Moment -- that turning point, that moment of truth when things come together. I do believe in that. I really believe that if you have aptitude and continue to grow through experience as a human being and a pitcher, that most of the time good things are going to happen. Hopefully, this is a manifestation of that. MLB.com: You had that little scene in your book when you told the story of how you could have died. Dickey: Yeah, sure. A couple of different times, actually. I feel very blessed to be here, and that I'm here for a reason. I'm hopeful that I'm really going to be able to have the vision and wisdom to really be in the moment with things in an effort to have a platform to do things outside myself. MLB.com: What did you do that is helping you now enjoy the moment? Dickey: Practice, just like anything. I'm fortunate to have some people around me who I love, who say, "Hey, you need to enjoy this. Let's go have some ice cream." I've had people who have really loved me who will help me to really enjoy something. MLB.com: What do you think you've had to overcome most to get to this point? Dickey: Myself. I had to overcome myself. I had to overcome a broken past -- a lot of brokenness -- to live fully in the moment. That's what I've tried to do with every five minutes I'm given: live fully in the moment. But it's taken a lot of work and practice to do that. That's what I would say: overcoming myself and my demons.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.