Remember when Josh Beckett was great?

And I know that "game-calling" skills may be overrated. But in the case of Beckett, I prefer Varitek to be behind the plate, rather than Kottaras. No disrespect to Georgie boy, but I like when the calm, collective, intelligent mind of Tek is calling the shots while Beckett is on the hill. Could be just a personal preference I guess. But we will all agree, I'm sure, that nobody knows Beckett like Tek does.

Do you? Do you remember 2007? Where Beckett made Hanley Ramirez an after-thought? Post-2007, Hanley was merely Khalil Greene in the eyes of Red Sox fans.
Maybe not Khalil, but you get my point, right?
What Beckett did was incredible. We didn’t actually think Hanley was roughly a league-average SS, but we were okay with letting a future superstar go–especially with the addition of Mike Lowell as well.
Sure, Lowell was a salary dump, as we all know. But that turned out pretty good, agree? Yes, the answer is yes.
But there is much less panic when a team ships off their future superstar (Hanley) to acquire two veterans (Beckett, Lowell), and ultimately wins a championship with the help of both of them.
But neither has been what they were since.
And since this is mainly about Beckett, I will dispose with what Lowell has done since rather quickly:
Lowell was hurt in 2008, although solid enough when he played, and has begun the 2009 campaign red-hot. Aside from the injury, Lowell has been fine. But players in their mid-to-late thirties tend to get injured more frequently. So that is part of what we might have, with the two remaining years of Lowell’s contract.
Now to Beckett…
See the thing that frustrates us so much is that Beckett has great stuff. Beckett flashes a great 4-seamer, a good 2-seamer, two different breaking balls, and a Greg Maddux-like change-up.
“Maddux-like” in a sense that his change-up has the same velocity as Maddux’s fastball. But even mentioning Beckett in the same breath as Maddux really isn’t fair to arguably the smartest pitcher to ever step on a rubber.
Not yet anyway. And not anytime soon either.
And the change matters, complements his repertoire, but lets be real, it ain’t that great.
To be honest, I am kind of hanging with one arm secured on the bus, heading for “The land of Josh Beckett is overrated.”
Not because Beckett isn’t good. That would be a fallacy, a myth, a fable. Something made up by spiteful Yankees fans, or the casual fan lacking the knowledge to evaluate a baseball player–even by the simplest of metrics.
But after 2007, was there any doubt that Beckett was a great pitcher?
A 20-7 record, ERA+ of 145, 200 IP, 194 K’s, 40 BB.
And then, more importantly to most, Beckett cruised through the postseason like few we have ever seen.
Schilling-esque. Smoltzy-esque. Bob Gibson-esque.
Seriously, it felt like we had Bob Gibson after the 2007 postseason concluded.
The guy went through a somewhat depleted Angels lineup, but went through them like they had not a single credible hitter on the team.
Then, Beckett twice man-handled a very talented Indians lineup. One that consisted of Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, and Grady Sizemore–to name a few, and to name the few best.
And to top it off, Beckett shut down, for the most part, a good Rockies lineup.
End result: 4 starts, 4 wins, 4 ER.
He was our modern day Bob Gibson. Or at least he felt like it.
But then Josh Beckett regressed. Somewhat due to injury, but as we are seeing now, probably due to simple, well, regression.
See, Josh Beckett had never been that great before. Good, flashes of greatness, and some serious postseason excellence.
But never did he put it all together, not to that extent.
Here are Beckett’s ERA+’s in seasons which he started 20 or more times:
98, 138, 108, 118, 95, 145, 115.
The no doubt great seasons would be the numbers 138 and 145.
And as mentioned, the 145 came in 2007, and was awesome.
So the 138 was great too…but it wasn’t really what it appears to be. As Beckett only made 23 starts that year, on a very good World Series winning Marlins team. The postseason is well-known by now; the underdog Marlins tipped over the Yankee juggernaut, with Josh Beckett being the largest reason why.
The outliers in the numbers above, are the two highest numbers, leading me to believe, that maybe, just maybe, Josh Beckett isn’t as great as many think he is, including what I thought of him, as recently as this off-season.
This isn’t just the frustration behind watching Beckett get shelled in back-to-back games by divisional rivals.
Because I know that Beckett will regroup. He will rebound, and he will be a good pitcher by seasons end–possibly even great.
After all, the stuff is there. But great stuff doesn’t always translate into greatness.
The one thing that stands out, that I overlooked in the past–in Beckett’s 2007 season of greatness–is his groundball rate. Josh Beckett induced ground balls, often.
By now, we know about Beckett’s 2007. His LD% was the lowest it had ever been, his K/9 and BB/9 were both spectacular, and with a good defense behind him, that translated into a great season.
But, Beckett put the ball on the ground with the best of them. He fell in at 16th in the AL in the percentage of ground balls induced, 47%. Probably due to effective use of the 2-seamer, but also due to effective command of all his pitches
So not only did he allow few home runs, miss a ton of bats, and walk very few. He also avoided well-hit balls in general, and kept the ball on the ground–allowing a solid defense to scoop them up.
This Josh Beckett isn’t doing that.
And I know that “game-calling” skills may be overrated. But in the case of Beckett, I prefer Varitek to be behind the plate, rather than Kottaras. No disrespect to Georgie boy, but I like when the calm, collective, intelligent mind of Tek is calling the shots while Beckett is on the hill. Could be just a personal preference I guess. But we will all agree, I’m sure, that nobody knows Beckett like Tek does.
Because after Beckett really concentrated, and developed his secondary pitches more so going into the 2007 season. The best thing at that point, was for him to simply nod when Varitek puts down his fingers.
Because who would you rather have calling a game: Beckett or Varitek? Sure, they both have a say in what is thrown. But I feel that Beckett may succumb to Varitek’s opinion, more often then he would with a catcher he is fairly unfamiliar with (Kottaras).
But expect this guy, Beckett, to get it together, but “together” may not be 2007, but rather 2008.
We wait and see…

Categories: Curt Schilling George Kottaras Grady Sizemore Greg Maddux Hanley Ramirez Jason Varitek Josh Beckett Mike Lowell Travis Hafner Victor Martinez

28 Responses to “Remember when Josh Beckett was great?” Subscribe

  1. marcos May 2, 2009 at 5:21 AM #

    Sources tell me Beckett doesn't like Varitek.

  2. marcos May 2, 2009 at 5:25 AM #

    The Red Sox never saw Hanleys power because he was a switch hitter in the minors and he had no power from the left side.

  3. Daniel Rathman May 2, 2009 at 7:07 AM #

    Hmmm, the comments thing ate part of one of my sentences. The one that ends with "walks" should read "walks

  4. Daniel Rathman May 2, 2009 at 7:09 AM #

    Sean:
    Any idea where you're sitting yet on Wednesday? Looks like it'll be Masterson against Carl Pavano.

  5. Daniel Rathman May 2, 2009 at 7:14 AM #

    Lester's problem is fairly simple. The difference between last year and this year for him is that far more of the flyballs he's giving up are sailing over a fence. His HR/FB rate was just 7.0% last year, but it has jumped to 16.7% this year.
    I don't know if last year's rate was realistic, but it seems unlikely that one-sixth of the flyballs he gives up will sail out of the yard all year.
    His .375 BABIP also leaves significant room for improvement.

  6. M.A.G. May 2, 2009 at 7:26 AM #

    "He was nothing from the start"? Really? He gave us a ring in 2007. That's "nothing" for you? Man, you really have a selective memory…
    And Hanley is gonne. Get over it. He will never be a Red Sox. Enough of the unhealthy melancholly, already. If you are gonna hate Beckett do it for his performance, not for Hanley's performance.
    I wanted Miguel Cabrera in 2008, but I'm not gonna hate Lowell the rest of my life just because i didn't get the player I wanted. We are not always gonna have the guy we want, but that doesn't mean we have to cheer for the other guy to fail.

  7. Joe Veno May 2, 2009 at 8:15 AM #

    Just to be clear, I DO think that Beckett will be a good pitcher in 2009. And I also believe that he can be great, possibly, by the end of the year. But his "greatness" is living off of two seasons/two postseasons. Although, the K rate and BB rate were both very good last season.

  8. jvwalt May 2, 2009 at 8:32 AM #

    Ooohhh, hate, hate, hate. If only Sean O had been the Red Sox GM, we'd be celebrating five straight World Series championships instead of only two. Let's take these one at a time, shall we?…
    Mike Lowell sucks? Even if you ignore his 2007 season and his 2009 so far, he's hit around .280/340/470 as a Red Sock, with about 20 HR a season. That makes him one of the better third basemen in the league. In fact, if you look at all the third basemen in the AL, you can find only TWO who are clearly better (ARod and Longoria), and about ten who are clearly worse. What, you'd rather have Melvin Mora, Brandon Inge, or Josh Fields?
    Beckett's been "nothing from the start"? Ridiculous. No, he didn't "give us a ring in 2007" and I don't think anyone here gives him sole credit — but the Sox sure as hell would have been worse without him. And even if you leave out 2007, he's been a good, tough, mid-rotation starter. As has been said in previous discussions of Wakefield, there is great value in a starting pitcher who can post solid numbers and eat innings. That is the absolute worst of Beckett — a solid innings-eater. The best is a top-of-the-line ace. How many pitchers manage a career WHIP of 1.24, off-seasons included?
    As a young pitcher with dominant stuff, Beckett is a tremendous asset to the Red Sox. Yes, I want him to start pitching better. But do I want to run him out of town? No way.

  9. Anonymous May 2, 2009 at 9:51 AM #

    Marcos, I don't know who your sources are, but it doesn't sound like they know what they're talking about – a little search on google would confirm that!
    During a Hill-Man Morning Show phone interview on July 8th, Josh Beckett was asked what he thought about Jason being chosen by Major League players for the 2008 All-Star Team in spite of his low average.
    Josh's response:
    "I'm one of the guys that voted for him, so maybe you're asking the wrong guy.
    "To me, he's an all-star in every aspect. He leads our team, maybe not offensively all the time, but mentally, and there are times when emotionally, he can carry us. And he does a great job at that. There's not too many people that I've ever played with at any level that I feel like can take the burden off of a whole team like he does."
    Plus, I found this from spring training this year(doesn't like him?):
    http://www.jason-varitek.com/gallery/cpg143/displ

  10. Sean O May 2, 2009 at 11:05 AM #

    Well, I was right. Beckett was a nothing from the start, while I trusted that Hanley would become something well above average, if not quite to this level. It was an idiotic trade from the start, and now we’re saddled with our 7.22 ERA ‘ace’ who can’t even keep us near games, let alone ahead.
    The difference between Lugo and Hanley is so much greater than Arroyo to Beckett. We would’ve been better off in ’07 with Hanley, and certainly better off in ’08. Chances are we’d be looking for 3 straight this season.

  11. Daniel Rathman May 2, 2009 at 11:05 AM #

    A few things about Beckett…
    He’s walking a crapload of guys, which shows that he has control issues, but he’s not going to suddenly go from someone who walks

  12. M.A.G. May 2, 2009 at 11:08 AM #

    Big fan of Beckett here. When he is in his zone, he is unhittable. I admit his inconcistency can be maddening, though. If he could solve this problem, probably he would be THE best in the league.
    I have the theory that his problem is mental. But in a different way. Generally “mental problems” means lack of confidence. In his case I think is pure anger. I got the impression than when somebody get a hit of him, he try to “demonstrate” the hit was a fluke, and then he loses control triying to do too much to overblow the oponent. Just an opinion anyway.
    On the other hand, Beckett has not been the only one with consistency problems this year. Lester has had a lot of problems too, and people are less hard with him. Eventually, I think both will regain form, but in the meanwhile we got a big problem, because our two best arms are underperforming big time, and at the same time.
    Fortunately, Wake is overperforming.

  13. Sean O May 2, 2009 at 11:58 AM #

    Pavano’s corpse, hallelujiah. Looks like I’m sitting in the upper bleachers, but I have an extra pair of grandstand seats I’m still trying to sell. If anyone knows anyone who wants an extra, lmk, face value.
    Beckett didn’t give us a ring in 2007, and I wish people would stop saying that garbage. Pedroia, Matsuzaka, Ortiz, Ramirez, Ellsbury, etc. and Beckett gave us a ring in 2007. Beckett has been crap for 2 of the 3 years we had him, and I wouldn’t like him or his attitude regardless of how he got here. The fact that we gave up a top-5 player in all of MLB to get him just shows how clueless Theo is.
    I also hate Lowell because he sucks, not because he was part of that trade. If he’d been an above-average 3b more than once in the previous 4 years, and if he wasn’t being paid a ludicrous $13m a year to be an awful third baseman, I’d have no beef.
    We could’ve had Lowell for nothing in ’06 if we wanted him, for far less than the cost of even Anibal. If Theo really wanted to show some sack, he could’ve traded for him then.
    They both suck, and both are dragging us down.

  14. PWHjort May 2, 2009 at 1:19 PM #

    Great work, Joe. There's no doubt that he was great in 2007. I think his reputation as a "big game pitcher" sort of adds to the Beckett mystique such that people think he's greater than he actually is. If I'm choosing a pitcher to pitch in a consequential game 7, Beckett would be near the top of my list, but he'd be lower on my list of pitchers to go with for the course of a 162-game season than he would be on my "winner takes all game" list. We talk about greatness a lot (especially on your statistician magician site), and I believe there's multiple elements to greatness. Beckett has the brilliance down, he needs to work on the sustainability.

  15. Sean O May 2, 2009 at 1:22 PM #

    "SeanO you don't win rings with big hit/no field shortstops. You win rings with tough clutch pitching/great defense and clutch hitting."
    You mean like the Yankees of the late 90s? Be serious. Hanley is a bad fielder, no doubt, but he will never field poorly enough to outweigh the tremendous bat..
    You're welcome to look up where Mike Lowell ranks among MLB 3B. He was 11th out of 19 in 2008 (or would have been, if he weren't injured enough to not qualify). In 2007 he was still only 5th, 11th out of 20 in 2006, and 19th out of 19 in 2005. So that's one above average year in the last 4, with 3 of those 4 years being in a park practically built for him. He's an above average fielder now, but not enough to make up for the lead bat.
    Which of these players would you rather have?
    A: 4.19 ERA, 8.8 H/9, .9 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, 5.7 K/9, $4.6m
    B: 4.26 ERA, 8.7 H/9, 1.1 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, 8.2 K/9, $10m
    Because we had the former, and decided we needed to give up our top prospect and dump A for the latter.

  16. Joe Veno May 2, 2009 at 1:33 PM #

    There are 30 starting 3B positions in the big leagues though, Sean O. Other guys may not have qualified those years, but that probably meant that those teams needed more than one guy at the position, because of injury or ineffectiveness or whatever. Lowell is playing in a park that is built for him, I definitely agree with that. He looks middle-in, tries to get his pitch to pull off or over the wall. And he can hit the ball away, but he doesn't do it with any kind of authority. He isn't worth the money, but he is a solid player. And it could be much worse.

  17. Nick May 2, 2009 at 1:54 PM #

    What a foolish and silly post by SeanO. Forget about the WS won in 2007 without the Beckett/Lowell trade. Never would have happened if Larry Lucchino didn’t pull off that trade. Thank You Larry! Hanley Ramirez can hit but Julio Lugo is a better fielder than Hanley. Yes, Julio Lugo is a better glove that NoHandley and it’s why there is talk the Marlins want to hide this gloved dog in the outfield. Hanley Ramierz has won what in the big leagues? Is he able to play in a big market? We know he can hit and hit national league pitching big with 2,000 people in the stands in a quiet media market and when it’s not October. Handley reminds me of a Soriano or a Jose Reyes. Nice stats but does not have a reputation for clutch or leadership and has zero resume in post-season play. Beckett and Lowell are already in possession of every quality people question with Hanley Ramirez. They also have WS ringS.
    SeanO you don’t win rings with big hit/no field shortstops. You win rings with tough clutch pitching/great defense and clutch hitting.
    Get over Viagra Ramirez would you please.

  18. SamR May 2, 2009 at 2:06 PM #

    Cmon guys. It's early in the season, let's take it easy. His inconsistent preformance lately and his continual idiotic lack of focus on the mound has pissed me off as much as anybody. But Beckett has a long time to rebound and solidify his status as a top pitcher, not only this season but over the rest of his career. It's really far too early to determine who "won" the trade anyways (it's my opinion that niether team ever will). We don't know what Beckett still has in store, and we will never know for sure what Hanley would have done for us. We do know that we won a WS in '07 that we probably wouldn't have won without Beckett's preformance in the ALCS that year.
    Regardless, what happened happened, and I see no reason to get too bent out of shape over the whole thing. Let's root for Beckett's resurgence, rather than against it for the sake of proving a point. He is a huge part of this Sox team now whether you're a fan of him or not, and we need him to succeed if we want to win another title.
    By the way, in response to #10, Theo didn't make this trade Sean. You know that. He's never been one to ship off his top prospects.

  19. M.A.G. May 2, 2009 at 2:19 PM #

    Beckett was absolutely ESSENTIAL in the 2007 title, you like it or not. People are not gonna stop sayin it just because you don’t like to admit the truth. In the end, no matter how good Beckett can play, you still are gonna hate him because of your fixation with Hanley.
    And, by the way, Lowell was very important in the 2007 title too. Even when I wanted to replace him (for Cabrera or Dunn) a couple of times, I have the decency to recognize his contributions to the team. I’m not a fan of Lowell, but I’m gratefull for what he has done for this team.

  20. Joe Veno May 2, 2009 at 2:22 PM #

    And I know we sometimes overrate game-calling skills a lot. But nowadays it seems like maybe they are even underrated a tad. I mean it seems that every catcher has the exact same method and “skill” at calling a game when some of the stat-guys refer to it. Maybe I am exaggerating, but they can’t all be the same right? And I for one am much more confident with Tek calling a game then any pitcher on the team, and more so than Kottaras too. As of now anyway, as Kottaras knows less about each pitcher than Varitek, unless George is the fastest learner around.

  21. Joe Veno May 2, 2009 at 2:54 PM #

    Hanley just struck out. Beckett is better :)

  22. Joe Veno May 2, 2009 at 3:23 PM #

    And that is a good point, PWH. I am fine with the trade, because of that reason. And because we still have a good pitcher and a solid 3B. Granted, we had to extend Lowell's contract. And Beckett's too. But we received two years of Lowell, and received Beckett, and locked him up. Seems like the trade was good enough.

  23. PWHjort May 2, 2009 at 7:15 PM #

    Any time a trade results in a World Series win, the trade worked. I think it is more important for a trade to “work” than to “win” the trade.

  24. jvwalt May 3, 2009 at 12:26 AM #

    Oh, good, SeanO found a couple of stats to prop up his argument that Beckett and Lowell are useless.
    So you say that we are "welcome to look up where Mike Lowell ranks among MLB 3B," but you don't tell us where the ranking comes from. And I'm confused: you say he was 11th out of 19 last year, but there are 30 teams in baseball. Does that mean 11 teams didn't field a third baseman? Or that 11 teams had such a black hole at 3B that they had no players who qualified for your rankings? (Which would make Lowell 11th out of 30, right?) Myself, I didn't consult any rankings; I just looked at the list of American League third basemen, and I only found two I'd rather have: Longoria and ARod. If I look at the National League, I find David Wright and Aramis Ramirez. That's four who are clearly better than Lowell. Did I miss anybody?
    As for your mysterious pitcher comparison, it looks like you're referring to Bronson Arroyo, and you cherry-picked only his Boston stats. Since then, Arroyo has had one fine year with Cincinnati and two mediocre ones. Take the last two years plus this year so far, and you get an ERA round 4.50, a WHIP of over 1.4, and a much higher HR rate — in the weaker National League. If you seriously think Arroyo is Beckett's equal, then your emotions are clouding your analysis.

  25. jvwalt May 3, 2009 at 8:51 AM #

    Pot, meet kettle.
    "There are at least half a dozen no-name, no-contract third baseman (sic) each year that (sic) outperform him." Okay, name some. Name some who hit for a good average, hit 20 HR a season, and are above average defensively.
    "I compared Lowell to those most like him: people who play third base regularly." Well, you're skewing your sample right there. A lot of teams have trouble filling the third-base slot. You have to take that into account when assessing Lowell's value.
    Look, I'm not saying Lowell's a star. But it's absurd to argue that he's below average at his position.
    I'm sorry that bum had to go and hit a home run last night, and I'm doubly sorry he's leading the team in RBI, tied for the team lead in HR, and third on the team in slugging and OPS. I wish he'd stop dragging us down like that.

  26. Sean O May 3, 2009 at 11:35 AM #

    Your entire post was an argument from ignorance. C’mon, I expect more from the people around here.
    Where the stats come from? Who cares? They’re a matter of history at this point, so it doesn’t matter where they’re from. I went to espn.com, but you easily could’ve gone to b-r, or baseballprospectus, or SI or mlb or anywhere else. Amazingly, the stats will be the same anywhere you go.
    I compared Lowell to those most like him: people who play third base regularly. And your argument that you’d only pick a handful of 3b ahead of Lowell works against him, as that means there are a half dozen (at least) no-name, no-contract third baseman each year that outperform him.
    Plus, of those 11-12 teams, you have players capable of being a util. And when your best third baseman is wasting 90% of the season playing first, it’s idiotic to have a below-average 3B.
    Where did I say that Arroyo is Beckett’s equal? I’m saying that there was no reason to trade Arroyo in for a supposedly better model, while paying him $6m more a year and giving up two top prospects. And, if I cherry-picked, why did I ignore that Arroyo has thrown 80 more innings from 2006-2009?
    Beckett is better than Arroyo, but it was an unnecessary move.

  27. Joe Veno May 3, 2009 at 2:10 PM #

    Lowell is an above average 3B. I can’t find anything saying that he isn’t. He isn’t Chipper, or AROD, or David Wright, or Longoria. But it seems to me that he is in that next tier of 3B. At least for this season, maybe next. Look at this leaderboard and tell me guys that you would rather have than Lowell this season?
    http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=3b&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=6&season=2009&month=0

  28. tom May 4, 2009 at 3:39 AM #

    rings
    Beckett = 2
    Ramirez = 0