Forgive me, as I am not trying to exhaust the subjects of Josh Beckett and Jason Varitek. But I have wondered about something for a long time, yet never expressed it within the text of any of the writings I have published.
But why exactly did it take so long for Josh Beckett and Jason Varitek to get on the same page?
The entire year of 2006 was basically donated to the adjustment that Beckett had to go through, when moving from the National League to the American League.
The Yankees were definitely the better team, a great Beckett wouldn’t have changed anything in the division–except for the Red Sox finishing ahead of the Blue Jays, and finishing a bit closer to the Yankees than they did.
The Bobby Abreu “heist” had a lot to do with the Yankees pulling away easily during the stretch run. Again, another topic, another day.
But with all of Varitek’s praise for “calling a great game.” Why was it such a difficult transition? Was it because calling a game is overrated from one catcher to the next? Or was it because of Josh Beckett’s stubborness, his unwilling approach to changing what had worked in the past, including in the 2003 World Series.
By now, if you watch the Red Sox, and you watch ESPN. You have probably heard Steve Phillips refer to the time that he saw Josh Beckett throw 26 consecutive fastballs in a game that ESPN covered during that season.
Our opinions of Phillips’ ability to analyze the game of baseball may differ (although purposefully picking against NY teams may make him appear less knowledgeable about the game). But I think we will all agree that Phillips can tell a fastball from, say, a curveball or a changeup.
But why did it take an entire year to realize that Beckett was throwing too many fastballs that season?
It wasn’t just the fastball that attributed to Beckett’s “slightly below average-ness.” As far as I have seen, and heard, Beckett improved upon his breaking ball a lot after that season of “experimenting” with the same old approach. His breaking ball(s) attacked the zone with more purpose, and in the more ideal spot (You know, so the batter didn’t have so many hanging breaking balls to adjust to).
But the percentage of fastballs that were thrown in 2006, were the exact same that were thrown in 2005. And while I believe that it takes time to move to a new league, and in this case a tougher league. I wonder why it took the full year, rather than say, a half-year.
Even I realized that Beckett was throwing too many four-seamers during that forgettable season. Yet, I couldn’t and didn’t have any say.
I remember when Rob Neyer linked to a Dave Cameron post on “USS Mariner,” about how Cameron pointed out that Felix Hernandez was throwing too many fastballs in the early innings. And that is why King Felix wasn’t doing well early on in his starts. The Mariners apparently took note of this, changed the “King’s” approach, and the pitcher was a better pitcher because of it.
If Cameron realized it (and that is no knock on some internet writers and experts, they know a lot), then why didn’t the Red Sox? And how much did blister issues play into this? I am no doctor, nor am I a pitching coach, but the fastball is generally the pitch that is relied upon more when there are injuries hindering one’s ability to use his whole arsenal (not to mention a blister would have caused location problems to some extent).
Watching the 2006 season, I just expected Beckett and Varitek to throw fewer fastballs, eventually. But it never seemed to happen.
36 home runs surrendered (ridiculous), an increase in walks (74), and a 5.01 ERA (although the defense wasn’t exactly helping too much that season), were all contributions to a year in which Josh Beckett wasn’t exactly proud of (nor were we after giving up Hanley Ramirez AND watching Anibel Sanchez throw a “No-No”).
But I firmly believe that an abundance of fastballs was also a contributing factor to his lack of success.
And there are some good baseball minds on this site, so please, tell me what you feel was the biggest problem during Beckett’s transition period.