If chicks dig the long ball, then Josh Beckett has done more than his fair share to help out the lonely hitters of the American League. In tonight's 7-6 loss to the Cleveland Indians, Beckett served up his 29th, 30th, and 31st home runs to Aaron Boone, Travis Hafner, and the man currently known as Choo. There used to be a time when Beckett, like Curt Schilling, was nigh-untouchable at home in Boston, but just like his mentor he has begun to reveal the chinks in his armor. We've all smartened up to the fact that wins and losses (13-6) are a terrible indication of a pitcher's success, so combined with all these long balls and an ERA of 5.00 (up .90 over his previous career high, set in 2002) it seems fair to say that Beckett has poorly acclimated to the Junior Circuit.
Or has he?
Without a doubt, the home runs have been a problem. Beckett is climbing a rather infamous ladder in an unintentional attempt to join Burt Blyleven and José Lima for the highest HR/Season totals, but otherwise his pitching numbers have been surprisingly good.
Nobody can expect a pitcher, particularly one of the young, hurler variety, to enter the Land of the Designated Hitter and continue to post NL-dominant numbers. With this in mind, it's fair to say that Josh has done alright. Wins and losses aren't that important, but he has picked up 13 and will probably end up in the 16-18 range, no small feat in the AL East. His K/9 number is down from his normal range of 8-9, but remains an impressive 7.5. The home runs are definitely up (1.88 HR/9), but his opponents are batting a weak .245 against him and only getting on base just barely 1/3 of the time (.313). Walks per nine innings are just barely higher than his career best at 2.95, and he's remained very close to his career average of 16 pitches per inning. A very telling overall sign of Beckett's success is his WHIP, which remains at 1.27.
Whew, that's a lot of numbers. I'm not usually one to just spit them out like so many sunflower seeds, but these numbers say one thing: Josh Beckett is pitching well. Again, the long ball is absolutely killing him, but outside of that he has been, essentially, his dominant self. The strikeouts, while a smidge lower, are still there and the walks are down. Opponents are really having a tough time stringing hits together against him with regularity, it's just that when they do, they tend to be capped off by a big fly into the bleachers.
Just like everyone else, I was upset to see Beckett lose in another crucial game, especially when it meant that the Yankees moved into first place. I just can't say that he's a terrible pitcher. My eyes tell me he's a risk on the hill, but the numbers convince me that he's about as good as one can expect for the first year in a new, hitter-friendly league.
All I can say is, let's try and cut him some slack, and hope he can rack up a few more of those insignificant W's.