R.A. Dickey defeats Cardinals, is first to 18 wins

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If R.A. Dickey had fallen back a bit in the NL Cy Young race with his little rough patch after the All-Star break, he’s pretty clearly the favorite again now.

Dickey allowed two runs over 6 1/3 innings against the Cardinals on Wednesday to become the first major leaguer to reach 18 wins this season. He’s allowed a total of three runs while winning his last three starts.

At 2.64, Dickey is still a bit behind Johnny Cueto (17-7, 2.58) for the NL ERA lead. However, most of the other more visible statistics favor him. He has just four losses on the year. He has five complete games to Cueto’s two and three shutouts to Cueto’s none. He also has 195 strikeouts, compared to 149 for Cueto.

What Cueto has is the disadvantage of pitching in a ballpark that’s much more favorable to hitters. Neutralizing for ballpark, baseball-reference gives Cueto a 165 ERA+, while Dickey is at 146. That’s a big difference, but it’s probably not something that is going to get much attention from voters.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.