It’s a Stretch to Think Beckett Can Pitch Out of the Stretch

I don’t want to hear about all the good things Josh Beckett did last night. And I don’t want to hear about how Beckett made just one mistake. Not from Jerry Remy. Not from Terry Francona. Not from John Farrell. Not from any reporter. Not from Victor Martinez. And certainly not from Josh Beckett himself. Sorry, I just can’t take any more of that protectionist coddling. Not fifteen hours after Beckett blistered the Sox once again.

Cutting right through the nonsense ….. my first thought when Hideki Matsui sank a Beckett mistake into the bullpen for three was Beckett quit on the Sox once again. Things were snowballing and rather than arresting the fall, Beckett was weak and got crushed. This implies Beckett’s problems may be more mental than physical.

But then I started to think and it struck me that Beckett’s stuff might be the problem. And in particular, he may be unable to get people out consistently when he throws out of the stretch. So I did some digging and my findings couldn’t be any more revealing. It turns out that when runners are on base this season, Josh Beckett turns into the manager of a shooting gallery. Here are the numbers.

Career, with the bases clear, Beckett gives up the following slash: .237/.289/.389. And with men on, his slash rises to .256/.332/.411. So there is some natural degradation there (65 OPS points) but it is hardly outside the norm. But this year, the splits tell a completely different story. With nobody on, the numbers read as follow: .260/.304/.466. That is hardly sweet music but with runners on, the music is just flat out grating: .344/.432/.550. I’ll save you the trouble of doing the math …. This year, Beckett’s OPS is TWO HUNDRED AND TWELVE points higher when he pitches out of the stretch. If numbers don’t mean anything to you and you need a less esoteric translation here it is: every batter Beckett pitches to out of the stretch basically becomes Kevin Youkilis.

Those splits are so horrifying that one can’t help but think there is a structural problem at work. And my guess is that problem is two-fold. First, Beckett doesn’t have the pure “stuff” he had three years ago and thus he has much less margin for error. And two, he knows his stuff isn’t great and that weighs on his confidence. The net result is Beckett is left to defend with just a 93 MPH fastball and no conviction. That is obviously a problem. A very big problem.

At this point, I think Beckett really needs to re-invent himself. He just isn’t the guy he was in 2007. Gone are the days when he could blow 98 mile fastballs past opposing hitters. And gone are the days when hitters were so fearful of that gas, that almost everything in Beckett’s arsenal had a chance of success. Now, that 98 mile fastball is more like a 94 mile fastball. And there is no fear in that. So Beckett has to change things up. Improve his change. Strengthen his command. Gain stamina. Become more cerebral. All of these things are possible but they require commitment. And unless Beckett commits to rounding out his game, I fear we will continue to see nights like last night where there is plenty of good but it’s just a matter of time before Beckett gets in trouble and then falls apart.  

POINTS OF INTEREST:

* After last night’s three walk abortion, Manny Delcarmen has now given up 27 walks in 42.1 innings this season. That works out to 5.8/9 innings and if you think that plays in the major league, you are delusional. It’s pretty hard to imagine MDC surviving this winter’s bullpen cleansing but for some reason, this guy just keeps squeaking  by at tribal council.  I have had it with him but I wouldn’t make a big bet that he is voted off the island this Winter.

* Tough night for the future …. Kalish, Nava and Lowrie go 1-12.

* What happened to JD heating up? The guy looked like he was ready to explode coming out of Dallas but he is one for his last twelve and with two lefties on tap, I think we can safely say that Drew’s eruption is on hold.

FARM REPORT: Anthony Rizzo may be the hottest bat in all of professional baseball right now. Three more hits yesterday, two of which left the yard. Rizzo’s OPS is now over 1200 in August and over 1000 since the break. He is slugging over .800 in his last ten games and stands right at .500 for the season. This guy is coming so hard and so fast, Theo Epstein’s head must be swimming. It’s a good problem to have but Rizzo’s charge makes the Sox off-season that much more taxing. That is because this guy’s arrival is no longer over the horizon. Instead, it could happen sometime next year. And given this guy’s tools, only a fool would set up a roadblock to get in Rizzo’s way.

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One response to “It’s a Stretch to Think Beckett Can Pitch Out of the Stretch

  1. Mister Snitch!

    “I don’t want to hear about all the good things Josh Beckett did last night.”

    Agreed. After each (failed!) outing, we’re told:

    • He feels great… (though it doesn’t feel so great to watch these games)
    • He’s hitting the mid-nineties… (and the batters facing him are hitting the fences)
    • He was cruising, until… (until he hit that brick wall, it was a lovely drive)
    • He blames himself for the loss… (hey, nobody’s arguing)

    Why do we get these rosy assessments of these disastrous outings? Because the actual truth is a bitter, bitter pill: This farce is going to continue, at a very high rate of pay, for FOUR MORE YEARS.

    The Sox can’t actually let this go on for four years, of course. But for this season, they can’t bring themselves to stop it, either. Beckett’s contract is an enormous (and completely needless) mistake to unwind. This one’s totally on Sox management. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    Imagine: If they’d let Beckett walk after this year, and instead just let Doubront find his way as a starter, the Sox would get BETTER results at a fraction of the cost.

    COULD Beckett ‘re-invent’ himself? Sure. WILL he? Uh, I’d still prefer watching Doubront ‘invent’ himself.

    On a happier note, Rizzo is the reason the Sox won’t make a big effort to sign Beltre. With Youk & Rizzo spelled now and then by Hall, you’ve got very productive 1st and 3rd positions.

    Beltre will be next year’s Jason Bay.

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