Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

BECKETT'S NO ACE

Since Josh Beckett signed a three year deal with the Sox, worth a guaranteed $30 million, he's won just two games, and one of them was against the AL doormat Kansas City Royals.

Not exactly what the Red Sox, or their fans, anticipated.

After last night's loss to the Tigers, Beckett is now 0-2, with a stratospheric 7.00 ERA, this month. The 26-year-old righty was only able to get through six innings, in which he gave up five runs. Performances like that are becoming habitual; only once in his last eight starts has Beckett lasted more than six innings. Since the All-Star break, Beckett is just 2-3 and he hasn't won in nearly a month.

The Sox "second ace" is now 13-7, and in those seven losses has an ERA of 12.00 -- yes, you read it right. Overall, Beckett sports a hefty 5.02 ERA this season.

An ERA over five is worrisome, and it's not the stuff of an ace. You can make all the excuses you want about him getting adjusted to the AL, but it's mid-August. Adjustment time is over.

When the Sox traded Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez to Florida, it looked as if they were getting a young ace in Becket and some washed up baggage in Mike Lowell. Doesn't look that way anymore, does it?

Beckett has allowed a league-leading 31 homers, and though he's streaking right toward it, Bert Blyleven's MLB record of 50 may remain intact. But this has gotten ugly. Beckett's previous career high had been 16, and he matched that way back on June 5th. And by the way, when Blyleven set his ignominious record back in 1986, hit pitched 271 innings. Beckett may encroach on the record, but he won't even come close to that many innings.

Though Beckett was the first pitcher in either league to win 13 games -- back on July 24 -- he hasn't won since. The truth is, Beckett's record may be a bit inflated from playing on a winning team that has a great offense and defense. He's gotten the benefit of great run support. There may any number of middle-rotation pitchers in the AL who could have won 13 games for the Red Sox to this point.

Beckett's problem is that he's 26-years-old and still lacks maturity. Right now, he's one-dimensional and hitters know it. They sit on his pitches, just waiting for the fastball. Because he's 26, he thinks he has to blow every hitter away with a 97 mile-per-hour heater, and he's playing right into their hands. AL hitters are just feasting on that fastball. Beckett needs to broaden his repertoire and throw a variety of pitches. He needs to show opposing batters more -- he needs to let them see something other than the fastball. At this point, Beckett isn't acting like a crafty pitcher, he's acting like a macho hurler whose ego has gotten in the way while trying to smoke every batter with his power pitch.

Unfortunately, Beckett throws his fastball 71 percent of the time, and when he's behind in the count, he'll throw it 78 percent of the time. Despite the fact that the opposition has a .127 batting average when he throws his curve, he throws it just 16 percent of the time; the changeup 12 percent.

All we can hope is that Beckett will mature and continue to develop over the next three or four years. But that won't help this year in a playoff chase, and it seems kind of weird since he's already won a World Series in Yankee Stadium. The Sox expected him to assume the mantle of number one starter when Schilling retires at the end of next year, but at this point that may be just wishful thinking.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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