We have all witnessed Beckett's less than stellar performances this year. After a great start against the Rays, he has had difficulties ranging from decent starts (as in last nights game) to horrible ones. The traditional statline is clearly bad. Beckett has a 6.42 ERA in 40+ innings and a whip of 1.77. While the season is young, it is useful to look inside these numbers and see if we can learn anything about Beckett's struggles.
1)Beckett's walks are way up. In 2007 Beckett walked 40 in 200 innings, In 2008 he walked 34 in 174. He has already walked 20 in merely 40 innings to date. Before 2007, Beckett hovered around a 8.5 BB%. In 2007 and 2008 he cut that nearly in half below 5%. This year, he is at a career high 10.47%.
2)There is nothing wrong with Beckett's arm. Beckett's average fastball velocity is right in line with the last two seasons. His K numbers have been good as well with more than 1K per inning.
3)He has been unlucky. As we have all witnessed, Beckett "appears" to have been undone by weakly hit balls. For example last night an infield single and a bloop hit the other way contributed to 2 of the Rays' 3 runs. It seems like this has happened a lot. A check of Beckett's BAPIP supports this. Beckett currently has a BAPIP of 381, compared to a career average close to 300. On the other hand, his LD% is significantly up, at a high 25% (previous season high of 19.2% last year). This suggests that part of the BAPIP issue is luck, but part is not. On the other hand, it is known that these two are empirically correlated (usually quoted as LD%+0.12=BAPIP). We see that Josh's BAPIP is exceeding his "empirical" BAPIP a tad. Overall this is bound to come down.
4)His HR allowed, are, so far, not his problem. HR/BIA (5.33%) is below the good years of 2007, 2008, and not close to his awful 2006 of 10.75%.
So, from this we can say that control has been the biggest issue. The rest seems beyond Beckett's ability to control. What is different? Well, for one thing, his pitch selection is significantly different from his 2 previous years. Just check out the numbers here:
Beckett is throwing a far lower percentage of fastballs, and a far higher % of curveballs. Clearly this seems to indicate either a plan that the Sox have, or the possibility that Beckett is not happy with his ability to command his fastball, which has seemed to be the case in several games this year. In conclusion, the numbers show that Beckett's biggest problem has been location and command related, and is not related to HRs allowed or velocity. He has been likely unlucky, but if you are repeatedly catching too much of the plate your BAPIP will be higher. It is obvious, but if Beckett can start to command the fasball, he can throw more of them, and we should see the return of "good" Josh Beckett. Otherwise, this could be a very disappointing season from our ace.