4-27-2010: Josh Beckett’s recent woes

After Toronto had their way with Josh Beckett last night, Beckett had nothing to say. He said he felt good, but they just hit him well. I’ve heard a lot of people starting to panic about our starting rotation. Are you kidding me? We have a top 3 I’d put up against any top 3 in baseball, a young phenom who’s coming into his own, and a fifth starter in his prime years with a career 4.00 ERA and who won 18 games just two years ago. We even have a solid starter just sitting around in the bullpen. Stop the madness, people. Just stop it.

In his last two starts, Beckett hasn’t recorded a decision and posted a 13.50 ERA over 10 innings (we won both games, BTW). He’s also walked more batters (8) than he’s struck out (7), which is extremely uncharacteristic of him. Hitters went .372/.462/.744 against him in these two games, and that’s scary, I know. But please remember small sample size – for example, two of Tim Lincecum’s back-to-back April starts last year: 0-1, 7.56 ERA in 8.1 IP, 6 BB, 10 K, with opponents hitting him to the tune of .378/.467/.622. It happens to repeat Cy Young winners too. But let’s take a look at the data and see if we can understand some of what’s going on with Beckett.

The symptoms in 2010 include more walks, fewer strikeouts, a high line drive rate against (24.7%), a reduced swinging strike rate (6.7%, down from 8.2% last year), and a bump in HR rate. The percentage of strikeouts he’s gotten swinging are down 50% over his usual average, so he hasn’t been able to punch guys out with two strikes. A glance at the 11.1% HR/FB rate (compared to 10.7% lifetime) shows it’s not so much hitter hitting him harder so much as they have hit more fly balls overall.

The issue is not velocity. Beckett’s fastball is about 94.3 mph over the past three seasons, and he has clocked in at an average of 93.8 mph this season. But look at the last two starts compared to his last good start against the Rays, and you’ll notice quite a bit of variation in terms of movement.

4-seam FB Num Avg mph mov-vert mov-horiz strike% inplay%
16-Apr 44 93.0 9.70 -7.81 75.0 20.5
21-Apr 52 93.3 7.98 -6.96 69.2 17.3
26-Apr 13 92.8 7.65 -5.86 61.5 15.4
Career 94.1 7.90 -7.70
2-seam FB
16-Apr 4 92.7 5.91 -12.47 75.0 25.0
21-Apr 11 93.8 4.17 -10.78 27.3 9.1
26-Apr 30 92.8 4.47 -8.78 63.3 23.3
Career 91.9 3.70 -9.90

Beckett seems to have abandoned his bread-and-butter four seam fastball in favor of the sinker more and more the past few starts. He didn’t throw a sinker at all before 2009. The four-seam fastball has had less horizontal movement the past two starts, and slightly harder to throw for a strike. Perhaps this was a change in strategy made specifically for the Blue Jays, but as it’s still early in the season, I’m thinking he’s working on that sinker so he can go to it in a key situation later on. Remember the Sox jumped out to a 5-0 lead in this one after 2 1/2 innings when the damage started happening.

Also, Beckett couldn’t get his change over last night, and his cutter wasn’t cutting for him last night, resulting in guys being able to hit it:

Cutter Num Avg vel mov-vert mov-horiz strike% inplay%
16-Apr 10 89.6 7.60 0.66 60.0 0.0
21-Apr 9 90.6 5.83 -0.02 88.9 33.3
26-Apr 10 90.0 4.09 0.73 60.0 20.0
Career 91.2 7.00 0.20

Beckett has aged (or hitters have adjusted), and there are some negative trends to be noted. But as long as it seems he’s been around, he’s only 30, and it’s not as if he lost it overnight, or forgot how to pitch this winter. There’s some “bad luck” mixed in here in 2010. Hitters have a .352 BABIP against Beckett so far, but they’ve never managed anything better than .331 on him over a full season (back in 2003), and the lifetime number os just .302. Beckett’s LOB% is also extremely low this year, just 58.6% compared to his career number of 71%. The hits have come at bad times for him, with men on base, resulting in more runs than usual. These things should even themselves out, especially after the Sox get two great outfield defenders back in Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Don’t worry about the rotation, and don’t worry about that contract extension. Yet.


One Response to 4-27-2010: Josh Beckett’s recent woes

  1. Pingback: Links 4-28-2010: Embree called up, Castro down, Sox sign Rosario « Red Sox Talk

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