Saturday, March 26, 2011

Red Sox Player Preview: Josh Beckett

After a 2010 season riddled with injuries and disappointment, Josh Beckett is determined to forget it and move on.

Josh Beckett attempts to rebound
from a season of injury and disappointment.
“I can’t change last year. I just have to do the best I can this year," Beckett told "My dad said, ‘Throw the rear-view mirror away, because you can’t change anything that’s already happened.’ As frustrating as 2010 was, I’ve got to focus on 2011.’’

It's certainly a year the ace would want to forget as he posted the highest ERA of his career (5.78) while fighting a back injury. After the four-year, $68 million contract extension Beckett signed with the Sox, this was not the type of performance that fans wanted to see.

We will look at his 2010 statistics, his career highs in parenthesis, and his 2011 outlook.

Games Started: 21 (33, 2006)
Innings Pitched: 127.2 (212.1, 2009)
Win-Loss Record: 6-6 (20-7, 2007)
ERA: 5.78 (3.05, 2003)
WHIP: 1.54 (1.14, 2007)
Batting Average Against: .288 (.227, 2002)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 8.18 (9.63, 2003)
Walks/9 Innings: 3.17 (1.76, 2008)
Average Pitches/Game Started: 103.4
Fastball Pitch Value (wFB)*: -14.5 (+18.7, 2008)
Cutter Pitch Value (wCT): -0.2 (0.8, 2006)
Curveball Pitch Value (wCB)*: -2.1 (+11.6, 2005)
Changeup Pitch Value (wCH)*: -1.4 (+6.3, 2009)

*Pitch values are a sabermetric statistic from Fan Graphs and measures which pitch is a pitchers best pitch. A 0.0 pitch value is average, a positive value is above average and a negative value is below average. As a point of reference, the best fastball pitch score was Tim Hudson with a +32.1 and the worst was James Shields with -24.7.

2011 Outlook:

Thus far in spring training, Beckett has remained one of the most polarizing players on the Red Sox roster. In late February, he took a batted ball to the head from staff assistant, Ino Guerrero, who was trying to hit balls into a bucket when one got away from him. The hit gave Beckett a concussion and caused quite a stir around Beantown. However, that incident's old news by now. What Red Sox fans should be more concerned with is Beckett's spring training ERA, which currently stands at 6.64 with just one more start to go in Houston.

On the one hand, spring training never paints an accurate picture of what a player will look like in the regular season -- especially when it comes to pitchers. The Red Sox are certainly not overly concerned about Beckett at this point.

On the other, the high ERA does little to convince fans to keep their patience with the ace. The Red Sox loaded their roster with talent during the off-season yet Beckett will still be one of the most important pieces to that World Series puzzle. The fact that he still remains one of the team's biggest question marks this far into the spring doesn't inspire much confidence.

The Red Sox expect a bounce back year from Beckett in 2011

The inability to get out of a bind was Beckett's biggest problem last season. He allowed a line of .338/.432/.507/.939 to hitters with runners in scoring position. He's having the same problems this spring. On March 13th the Pittsburgh Pirates scored four runs off of him in the fifth inning and then five off of him in the fourth inning a week later. Just as recently as Friday the 25th, Beckett was pounded by the Blue Jays for 11 hits and seven earned runs.

Beckett's also lost his job as the opening day starter this year, falling all the way to fourth in the lineup. His spot in the rotation will have him missing the opening series against the defending American League champion Texas Rangers.'s Gordon Edes says that the Red Sox say they are trying to set Beckett up to get off to a good start. His current slot would have him starting against Cleveland.

The Sox are expecting a big bounce back year from Beckett, and they'll need one. Beckett only had 21 starts last year, his lowest in a Red Sox uniform.

"Josh certainly can do better than he did last year, he knows that," said Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. "He had a really strong winter. The biggest thing is he didn't hide at the end of last year, he took accountability for it. He knows there's more in there, better in there. I wouldn't bet against him going forward at all."

With a healthy Beckett, there's certainly reason to expect that. As we see in the statistics above, Beckett's fastball last year was the least effective of his entire career. In fact, all four of Beckett's pitches (fastball, changeup, cutter, curveball) graded below average per 100 pitches, according to We could point to injuries as the reasons for this. Specifically, if it was the back injury that was hurting his curveball which was the least effective it's been since Beckett's been in a Red Sox uniform. Hitters could then expect it and sit on his fastball.

Beckett was also relying much too much on his cutter in 2010. He threw the pitch 15.6 percent of the time, the highest of his career. Though it was actually his most effective pitch (-0.2, fangraphs) it was still below average.

However, while health was a big problem for Beckett, it was maybe him trying to do too much that caught up with him in 2011.

"I got sick during spring training," he said. "I was trying to catch up then and then when I felt like I did get caught up then I felt like I still had to do more."

"I think he tried too hard at times last year and it kind of ganged up on him after a while," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "It got to be too much and it was so hard on him. It shouldn't be that tough but, again, he fought some things physically. He never was able to get on a roll. Now he's got a fresh start, so let's use what happened last year to our advantage."

A fresh start is exactly what the pitcher needs. If he can stay healthy, don't expect him to be just the fourth starter when the playoffs come around.

Previous Players Previewed:

Kevin Youkilis

Adrian Gonzalez

Dustin Pedroia

Carl Crawford

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Jacoby Ellsbury

JD Drew

Marco Scutaro

Jon Lester

Clay Buchholz

Mike Cameron

Want to know more about Josh Beckett’s outlook in 2011? Please comment and ask questions in the comments section. Also, find me on Twitter @SaverSports.

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