Saturday, February 9, 2008

Career Patterns: Josh Beckett

With the start of Spring Training only five days away, I'll be taking a look at the Red Sox rotation. To do so, I'll break down the starters one by one and look at how their careers have progressed over the past few years. The logical starting point would seem to be Red Sox ace Josh Beckett, so I'll be examine him first.

Here are Beckett's peripherals over the last four years. Keep in mind that 2004 and 2005 were in the National League and the last two years were in the American League.

2004 - 156.2 IP, 7.87 H/9, 3.10 BB/9, 8.73 K/9, 1.22 WHIP
2005 - 178.2 IP, 7.71 H/9, 2.92 BB/9, 8.36 K/9, 1.18 WHIP
2006 - 204.2 IP, 8.40 H/9, 3.25 BB/9, 6.95 K/9, 1.29 WHIP
2007 - 200.2 IP, 8.48 H/9, 1.79 BB/9, 8.70 K, 1.14 WHIP

The most striking trend in Beckett's numbers is his improving control. With the exception of one year (2006) Beckett's walk rates have gone down like clockwork. From his rookie year in 2002, Beckett's BB/9 rates have been 3.68, 3.55, 3.10, 2.92, 3.25, 1.79. It's easy to forget that Beckett came to the majors at age 21, after skipping college and the Triple-A level completely. So he's done most of his developing at the major league level.

His stellar walk rate last year is likely due to a mechanics adjustment he made in Spring Training. Still, it could be hard to sustain. A slip in his control could mean a slight regression. On the other hand, if Beckett sustains or improves on his walk rate last year, he would likely be a Cy Young caliber pitcher.

The rest of Beckett's peripherals have stayed rather consistent. His hit rates have gone up the past two years, likely as a result of pitching in the American League. It also may have to do with the park he's pitching in, as Fenway Park is conducive to high batting averages. But what's surprising is that his strikeout rates have actually stayed the same, even though he isn't facing a pitcher in American League lineups.

Those who are expecting a large regression in Beckett's performance are likely to be disappointed. Projections for him haven't been very kind, as they have to factor in his sub par 2006 season. But if you consider his 2006 numbers to be outliers (which at this point in his career they appear to be) Beckett has shown steady improvement from his rookie season on.

If you take out his 2006 numbers, Beckett's walk rates, WHIP, K/BB, ground ball to fly ball ratio, and even number of pitches used per inning have all improved rather steadily over his career. Everyone has off years, but I'd say there's reason to believe that Beckett could improve even more over the course of his career.


Anonymous said...

interesting breakdown. good to see someone actually analyze beckett rather than give an opinion mostly based on their team allegiance

Stomp You Out said...

2007 was Beckett's career year. He probably going to regress, most people do.

Gerry said...

Agreed that his #'s and development reflect continuing improvement. I hear no good reason for anything otherwise. He is in his prime and getting stronger and more savvy. You neglected to EMPHASIZE that his 2006 anomoly year was also his first year in the American League. He did great. He did better in 2007, and so it will continue barring the unforseen. Drew had the same problem. Watch him improve this year too.

Gerry said...

You neglected to clearly state that 2006 anomoly year was his first in the American League. Pull that year out and virtually ALL of his #'s show continuing incremental improvement. 2007 showed he has adjusted to the American League, in the way we hope for Drew in 2008. Should be a very good year for both of them.

Olde Town Glory said...

Thanks for the comment Gerry. I'm not all that sold on Drew because he doesn't exhibit the same trend of improvement that Beckett does. But we'll see next year.