4-11-2011: Josh Beckett shines against the Yankees


Josh Beckett threw eight innings of two-hit ball at the New York Yankees yesterday in what some are calling his best start in Fenway, ever. Not bad for a washed-up, overpaid veteran. Beckett showcased two strong fastballs, a harder cutter, and the nasty curve of the Beckett who came up with the Marlins last night, and it was a welcome sight to behold. Those of you who were trying to retire Beckett at the age of 31 better recognize.

What made the difference?

Beckett was really able to command his fastballs all night. Once he established the two- and four-seamers early, he was able to go to throwing changeups away and cutters in to lefties. He maintained his velocity well throughout the night, and things seemed to be working better overall, if velocities have anything to say about it.┬áHere’s some PITCHf/x data from last night’s start compared with his start on April 5th in Cleveland:

Velocity Good Beckett Bad Beckett Difference
4-seam FB 93.6 92.2 1.4
2-seam FB 93.4 91.9 1.5
Cutter 90.5 88.6 1.9
Curveball 75.4 74.6 0.8
Change 88.4 87.4 1.0

Even if you assume that the calibration of the PITCHf/x system is slow at the Jake, you still see a noticeable hop in the fastballs relative to the other pitches. Added fastball velocity is always good.

Beckett’s curveball was incredibly sharp last night, and his sinker actually showed some sink:

Movement Good Beckett Bad Beckett Difference
2-seam FB-H -9.39 -9.49 0.10
2-seam FB-V 3.87 5.72 -1.85
Curve-H 9.14 6.89 2.25
Curve-V -10.10 -8.08 -2.02

In addition to being able to throw everything for strikes, I think these two pitches really made the difference for Beckett last night. His sinker had almost two inches of additional sink, and he was able to throw it inside to lefties. And adding two inches of break and two inches of drop to that curveball makes it a completely different pitch, and that was reflected in the difference in linear weights on that pitch type between starts (-2.00 last night, -0.55 in Cleveland). He was able to keep it lower in the zone, and that made it deadlier.

The Varitek factor?

And, I might add, he was throwing to Jason Varitek. I don’t really put a ton of trust in things like catcher’s ERA, but you have to consider the fact that Daisuke Matsuzaka and Beckett allowed only 3 runs in 13 innings with the Captain behind the dish (2.08 ERA), which means that Sox starters have a collective 7.75 ERA when working with Salty. Just pointing it out – you can reach your own conclusion here.

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One Response to 4-11-2011: Josh Beckett shines against the Yankees

  1. redsoxtalk says:

    Mike Fast just posted about one of the questions I raised about PITCHf/x velocities in different ballparks:
    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13545

    Looks like Cleveland’s system is registering about 0.7 mph slower than Fenway’s. So Beckett’s curveball was about the same velocity, but we saw a pretty big spike in his cutter velocity, and a moderate increase in his 2- and 4-seamers from his previous start.

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