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Beckett's Bad Spring


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#1 SMU_Sox


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Posted 20 March 2011 - 01:43 PM

Josh Beckett has not had a pleasant spring training. He has been hit by balls twice and was struck once by lightning. His pitching performances have been reminiscent of last year and that is not a good thing.

Here is a quick recap of what has happened so far. Beckett has made 4 starts so far. Obviously in spring training starters don't go for 7+ innings their first few starts so his innings pitched per start number is low. This also gives us a small sample size to look at which is troubling in and of itself. However his results are pretty terrible so far.

14.1 inning pitched (14 and a 1/3), 16 hits, 4 walks, 1.40 WHIP, 2HR, .271 average against, 12 runs given up, 8 of them earned for a nifty 5.02 ERA. His K/9 is 6.91 and he is throwing 81.81% strikes. Beckett's K/9 last year 8.18 and his career average is 8.51.
I can't find an easy way to figure out his strand rate without going through better box scores for each game (yahoo's isn't detailed enough in spring training). I'd guess by eyeballing his runs scored and base-runners allowed that it is low, probably in the 60%-70% range, so it should regress to the mean which would help his ERA. He also has allowed 1.25 HR/9 which is high for him, 1.01 career average, although last year it was worse, 1.41.
What worries me though is that his problems from last year, effectiveness when his pitch counts rise and big innings, remain this year in spring training. Both games against the pirates Beckett has struggled at the 60 pitch mark and after. In his first game against the pirates he allowed one run in the first 4 innings, and then was lit up for 4 in the fifth. He was not able to record a single out in the 5th as he allowed a solo homer and then proceeded to load the bases for Scotty Atchinson. Scott Atchinson allowed all of those runs to score. If I am doing this right, according to fair runs, you would subtract 1.20 from Beckett's earned runs.
The second game against the Pirates was more of the same. For the first 3 innings he shut the Pirates down. After that he allowed 5 runs, 1 earned, and was not effective. He was pulled after 4 and 2/3s.


So what are everyones thoughts here? I'm not hitting the panic button yet, but I'm not too happy about his spring so far. Is this bad luck? Is this legitimate and foreshadowing what will pass in the regular season? Or is this just spring training and it doesn't really matter? (Or of course something between those two poles).

#2 SoxScout


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Posted 20 March 2011 - 01:48 PM

I can't find an easy way to figure out his strand rate without going through better box scores for each game (yahoo's isn't detailed enough in spring training). I'd guess by eyeballing his runs scored and base-runners allowed that it is low, probably in the 60%-70% range, so it should regress to the mean which would help his ERA.

49%

#3 SMU_Sox


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Posted 20 March 2011 - 01:51 PM

49%


Thanks - that's terrible and it explains a lot. If you don't mind me asking, how did you, or where did you, find that number?

#4 SoxScout


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Posted 20 March 2011 - 01:54 PM

Thanks - that's terrible and it explains a lot. If you don't mind me asking, how did you, or where did you, find that number?


http://www.hardballt...s/glossary/#lob
http://www.hardballt...e/left-on-base/

One of the statistics that Shandler invented and tracks is called "Strand Rate." We have our own version of Strand Rate at THT, called LOB% (percent of baserunners left on base). Our formula differs a bit from Strand Rate; ours is (H+BB+HBP-R)/(H+BB+HBP-(1.4*HR)). Essentially, it's the number of baserunners who didn't score divided by the total number of baserunners (except those who scored on a home run). We exclude home runs from the base because we want to measure things a pitcher is less likely to control.

The average LOB% was 71% in the American League last year and 72% in the National League.


So they are actually two different formulas, but LOB% is what people seems to be using even though it gets called Strand Rate a lot of the time.

Edited by SoxScout, 20 March 2011 - 02:16 PM.


#5 mfried

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 02:18 PM

Josh Beckett has not had a pleasant spring training. He has been hit by balls twice and was struck once by lightning. His pitching performances have been reminiscent of last year and that is not a good thing.

Here is a quick recap of what has happened so far. Beckett has made 4 starts so far. Obviously in spring training starters don't go for 7+ innings their first few starts so his innings pitched per start number is low. This also gives us a small sample size to look at which is troubling in and of itself. However his results are pretty terrible so far.

14.1 inning pitched (14 and a 1/3), 16 hits, 4 walks, 1.40 WHIP, 2HR, .271 average against, 12 runs given up, 8 of them earned for a nifty 5.02 ERA. His K/9 is 6.91 and he is throwing 81.81% strikes. Beckett's K/9 last year 8.18 and his career average is 8.51.
I can't find an easy way to figure out his strand rate without going through better box scores for each game (yahoo's isn't detailed enough in spring training). I'd guess by eyeballing his runs scored and base-runners allowed that it is low, probably in the 60%-70% range, so it should regress to the mean which would help his ERA. He also has allowed 1.25 HR/9 which is high for him, 1.01 career average, although last year it was worse, 1.41.
What worries me though is that his problems from last year, effectiveness when his pitch counts rise and big innings, remain this year in spring training. Both games against the pirates Beckett has struggled at the 60 pitch mark and after. In his first game against the pirates he allowed one run in the first 4 innings, and then was lit up for 4 in the fifth. He was not able to record a single out in the 5th as he allowed a solo homer and then proceeded to load the bases for Scotty Atchinson. Scott Atchinson allowed all of those runs to score. If I am doing this right, according to fair runs, you would subtract 1.20 from Beckett's earned runs.
The second game against the Pirates was more of the same. For the first 3 innings he shut the Pirates down. After that he allowed 5 runs, 1 earned, and was not effective. He was pulled after 4 and 2/3s.


So what are everyones thoughts here? I'm not hitting the panic button yet, but I'm not too happy about his spring so far. Is this bad luck? Is this legitimate and foreshadowing what will pass in the regular season? Or is this just spring training and it doesn't really matter? (Or of course something between those two poles).



#6 mfried

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 02:20 PM

I have a bad feeling about Beckett and (injuries absent) will predict that both Lackey and DiceK (!!) have better years measured in ERA, or any more legitimate metric.

#7 glennhoffmania


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Posted 20 March 2011 - 03:43 PM

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/statpages/glossary/#lob
http://www.hardballt...e/left-on-base/



So they are actually two different formulas, but LOB% is what people seems to be using even though it gets called Strand Rate a lot of the time.


Just out of curiosity, why aren't HRs excluded from the numerator, and why is it minus 1.4 times HRs in the denominator?

#8 SoxScout


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Posted 20 March 2011 - 07:35 PM

Just out of curiosity, why aren't HRs excluded from the numerator, and why is it minus 1.4 times HRs in the denominator?


If you added them into the numerator they would be counted double because they are already included in runs. And I believe 1.4 is what the average is of runs scored per home run.

#9 koufax32


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Posted 20 March 2011 - 08:07 PM

Stuff wise, in just the two games I've seen, he seems to have two problems.

1. FB velocity - He's been 90-91 on the tv guns. We're close enough to the season that this should be a concern.
2. Curveball location - whenever he's been effective he's been able to get this over for strikes. Batters have been able to spit on it and wait for the mediocre fb.

If this continues it will basically be a whole season of 2008 alcs Beckett.

#10 Rough Carrigan


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Posted 20 March 2011 - 08:28 PM

Stuff wise, in just the two games I've seen, he seems to have two problems.

1. FB velocity - He's been 90-91 on the tv guns. We're close enough to the season that this should be a concern.
2. Curveball location - whenever he's been effective he's been able to get this over for strikes. Batters have been able to spit on it and wait for the mediocre fb.

If this continues it will basically be a whole season of 2008 alcs Beckett.

re #1, throwing 2 seam or 4 seam fastballs? Doesn't he throw his 2 seamer a couple mph slower than his 4 seamer?

#11 koufax32


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Posted 20 March 2011 - 09:20 PM

re #1, throwing 2 seam or 4 seam fastballs? Doesn't he throw his 2 seamer a couple mph slower than his 4 seamer?


After a quick and very dirty pitchfx search I didn't find spring training games. If Sprowl or the like read this thread they would know much more about if spring stuff is even available let alone where to find it.

From last year his avg. four seamer was 93.2 mph. His avg. 2 seamer was 93.0.


Something else to take away from his spring. He has really been throwing alot more changeups. Without someone asking him straight up we could speculate that he knows he's never getting that 96+ 4 seamer back and is in the process of reinventing himself. That nothing but pure specualtion. I'd love for someone who is not me ask him about it.

#12 wutang112878


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Posted 20 March 2011 - 09:48 PM

Obviously this isnt a good sign, we would have all liked to see him dominating in spring training. But I am hopeful that he is working his pitches trying to mix more off-speed stuff in, and doing this work before the season starts.. So I will hold off on a prediction or concern until we are 3-4 starts into the season....

Because beyond injuries I think what has held back his performance the last 2 years was his inability to keep batters off balance. So 4 starts into the year if he is down in velocity or continues to throw mainly fastballs I will be concerned or he is unable to throw changes/cuves, I will be concerned. But until then I may be overly optimistic that this isnt a big deal.

#13 Jnai


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Posted 20 March 2011 - 10:23 PM

After a quick and very dirty pitchfx search I didn't find spring training games. If Sprowl or the like read this thread they would know much more about if spring stuff is even available let alone where to find it.


Spring stuff is available at my site, but only a small number of locations have cameras during the spring. And, I don't think Beckett has hit one of those yet.

So, it looks like we'll just have to wait until the season to find out.

#14 Sprowl


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Posted 20 March 2011 - 11:07 PM

Something else to take away from his spring. He has really been throwing alot more changeups. Without someone asking him straight up we could speculate that he knows he's never getting that 96+ 4 seamer back and is in the process of reinventing himself. That nothing but pure specualtion. I'd love for someone who is not me ask him about it.


Velocity for many pitchers doesn't pick up until May -- Lester often has a slow April, so I'm not so worried about Beckett's velocity.

I agree about Beckett attempting a re-invention. He was been re-inventing himself over the course of 2010 to deal with his gradually lowering arm angle: de-emphasizing the curve that he can no longer command (too slurvy), boosting the cutter and changing speeds often. It's his habit of grooving fastballs that he needs to de-invent, and it sounds like that's been a problem in spring training.

#15 glennhoffmania


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 08:31 AM

If you added them into the numerator they would be counted double because they are already included in runs. And I believe 1.4 is what the average is of runs scored per home run.


After thinking about it some more, and PMing with lurker FanRoy, I agree about the numerator. That was a stupid question on my part. I still don't agree with the denominator though.

#16 pokey_reese


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 08:42 AM

There has been talk this spring of Beckett working on a more traditional change-up, as in one that doesn't come in at 87-90 mph. He always got away with that change because his fastball was 94-96 so there was still enough difference between them to fool hitters, but I wonder if he has had to work on slowing the change down because of the loss of velocity on the fastball.

Beckett was always a classic power pitcher in his good seasons, and if he can't blow high FBs past hitters anymore, than he needs to reinvent himself a splitter or slider, something down to get ground balls. His curve hasn't been effective in a while, and the change-up was more of a 'show me' pitch than anything else. God knows the cutter experiment didn't go well last year. Let's get the Rocket and Schilling down to Florida immediately and luck them all up in a room until the season starts.

#17 geoduck no quahog


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 08:51 AM

Just out of curiosity, why are we paying attention to Spring Training statistics for anyone, particularly a veteran pitcher?

I guess we're entering that black period every year when there's nothing left to talk about but the season still hasn't started.

#18 SMU_Sox


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 09:00 AM

Just out of curiosity, why are we paying attention to Spring Training statistics for anyone, particularly a veteran pitcher?

I guess we're entering that black period every year when there's nothing left to talk about but the season still hasn't started.


Completely valid opinion. Beckett's coming off of a terrible year so I thought it might be worthwhile to look at how he has done so far in ST. He is reinventing himself and ST might be a preview of what is to come. Then again he might be much better when the games matter. I don't have much confidence in the guy but I'd be happy to eat crow later.

#19 mr guido

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 09:04 AM

14.1 inning pitched (14 and a 1/3), 16 hits, 4 walks, 1.40 WHIP, 2HR, .271 average against, 12 runs given up, 8 of them earned for a nifty 5.02 ERA. His K/9 is 6.91 and he is throwing 81.81% strikes. Beckett's K/9 last year 8.18 and his career average is 8.51.

Another year, another chance to point out the complete worthlessness of spring training results.

Last year Buchholz allowed 14 runs and 27 baserunners in 17.1 spring innings. "Oh no, will Buchholz ever live up to his talent levels?" you might have said. Then he went out and led the league in ERA+.

Jeremy Hermida hit .450 and slugged .650 last spring. "Oh good, he's finally delivering on his pedigree," you might have said. Then he hit .203 and was DFAd by midseason.

Stop doing this to yourselves, people.

#20 TheoShmeo


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 09:18 AM

Just out of curiosity, why are we paying attention to Spring Training statistics for anyone, particularly a veteran pitcher?

I guess we're entering that black period every year when there's nothing left to talk about but the season still hasn't started.

John responded but I would add that, in my view, the biggest open question facing the Sox as they enter the season is how Beckett, DiceK and Lackey will perform. The line-up and pen have, at least on paper, been upgraded, and just getting Youks and Pedroia back is an upgrade. The rotation is the one place where no changes have been made, and three of the starters had mediocre to bad years in 2010. We can argue about Lackey but there isn't much to debate regarding Dice and Beckett.

Now it's of course true that Spring Training results often don't translate (in either direction). But like John, I think focusing on how Beckett is doing this Spring is worthwhile, as his performance could turn out to be one of the bigger keys for this season, and his 2010 was about as bad as it gets.

I'm just glad that we don't have a similar thread for David Ortiz.

#21 wutang112878


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 09:53 AM

In Mazz like full disclosure I havent been able to catch any of his games yet, but if we are going to look at effectiveness through a scouts eyes these are the things I would think about:
  • Fastball - Does he have command of it and can he maintain the velocity throughout the game? This is still 'training mode' so he wont let loose until the season starts, then if we are seeing 90 and 91s we should worry. If he cant maintain whatever velocity he has, he had some serious physical training to do. And if he cant command it, there may be arm slot or injury issues going on.
  • ChangeUp - is he throwing it more than before, does it look good and in what counts is he throwing it? If he is throwing it more, he is probably working on the pitch, and thats a good thing. If it looks good, but is getting hammered, is he always throwing it in 0-2 or 1-2 counts and the batter knows its coming? If so this might improve when he really mixed this in during the season.
  • Curve - can he locate it and/or does he give up on it? I remember recently if he started throwing this in the dirt he would just stop throwing it. Even if this becomes a Schilling like loopy slow catch you off speed curve he needs to use it to keep hitters off balance.
  • Tipping pitches - if he is throwing his pitches in non-predictable counts, do the batters still seem to know what is coming? Josh has had issues with this before, and I wonder if this could be part of his problem.


#22 InstantKarmma


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 10:31 AM

Another year, another chance to point out the complete worthlessness of spring training results.

Last year Buchholz allowed 14 runs and 27 baserunners in 17.1 spring innings. "Oh no, will Buchholz ever live up to his talent levels?" you might have said. Then he went out and led the league in ERA+.

Jeremy Hermida hit .450 and slugged .650 last spring. "Oh good, he's finally delivering on his pedigree," you might have said. Then he hit .203 and was DFAd by midseason.

Stop doing this to yourselves, people.


Quoted for awesomeness.

The only group of people who should be sweating spring training are the guys trying to win a roster spot.

#23 Harry Hooper


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 10:35 AM

Yes, we're talking about ST results, and I only saw Lackey & Beckett's most recent starts in person. Having said that, I have to say both pitchers looked way too much like their 2010 selves.

Lackey generally looked fine, but when he put pitches over the heart of the plate he got hammered. He threw too many fat pitches, but got away with it on 3/17 with a bunch of liners finding gloves.

Beckett on Saturday looked to be missing a couple of MPH off his best stuff. He couldn't get the opposing pitcher out, and eventually succumbed to the Pirates' less-than-stellar offense.

#24 geoduck no quahog


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 10:44 AM

Yes, we're talking about ST results, and I only saw Lackey & Beckett's most recent starts in person. Having said that, I have to say both pitchers looked way too much like their 2010 selves.

Lackey generally looked fine, but when he put pitches over the heart of the plate he got hammered. He threw too many fat pitches, but got away with it on 3/17 with a bunch of liners finding gloves.

Beckett on Saturday looked to be missing a couple of MPH off his best stuff. He couldn't get the opposing pitcher out, and eventually succumbed to the Pirates' less-than-stellar offense.


Harry, you're way too smart for this. Pitching to an opposing pitcher in a Spring Training game and not bringing the "good stuff"? Pitching to anyone in a Spring Training game? At least wait until the last two tune-ups before the season...

Much more telling to me (and not brought up here) is Francona's dropping Beckett to #4 in the rotation. Put the public relations crap about Texas aside and this response by the party that has the real dope on the guy has me more concerned about him than stats or speed and that maybe an injury is being masked. Even then I'm not so concerned. I find it hard to believe the Red Sox intelligentsia would extend a "washed up #4 pitcher" last year.

#25 TheoShmeo


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 10:49 AM

Quoted for awesomeness.

The only group of people who should be sweating spring training are the guys trying to win a roster spot.

Is it really that limited? I'd add guys who had a down year in 2010 and who are ticketed for an important role on the 2011 team to the category of players for whom Spring Training should count a bit more. I don't mean that anyone should be worried about the results per se; I just think that guys like Beckett should be concerned about how they're pitching as Spring Training winds down.

Put it this way: Someone like Beckett struggling in the spring is, all things considered, noteworthy in my view. A bad outing or two (or even more) by someone like Lester or Buchholz is to be ignored.

#26 RingoOSU


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 10:55 AM

Is it really that limited? I'd add guys who had a down year in 2010 and who are ticketed for an important role on the 2011 team to the category of players for whom Spring Training should count a bit more. I don't mean that anyone should be worried about the results per se; I just think that guys like Beckett should be concerned about how they're pitching as Spring Training winds down.

Put it this way: Someone like Beckett struggling in the spring is, all things considered, noteworthy in my view. A bad outing or two (or even more) by someone like Lester or Buchholz is to be ignored.

Why do you think Beckett has to prove himself in ST instead of the regular season? Is he in danger of getting cut like Oliver Perez? He knows more than any of us that his role on the team will not change. Tito wasn't going to make him OD starter after a bad 2010 because he wowed people in ST.

#27 TheoShmeo


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 11:09 AM

Why do you think Beckett has to prove himself in ST instead of the regular season? Is he in danger of getting cut like Oliver Perez? He knows more than any of us that his role on the team will not change. Tito wasn't going to make him OD starter after a bad 2010 because he wowed people in ST.

I'm not suggesting that Beckett needs to prove himself. He's not trying out for a job. His contract virtually guarantees that he'll be in the rotation in April.

I am saying that coming off a bad 2010, it's probably more important for his self-confidence that he pitch reasonably well in ST than someone like Lester. To be clear, I wholeheartedly agree that what Beckett does in the beginning of the season matters much more than what he does in Florida. And I appreciate that he could be just working things out and getting ready for the season, making the results not that relevant.

Still, Beckett is one of the players whose performance I'm paying more attention to. Not Tobin Bridge attention, but a level of concern nonetheless. And part of it is for exactly the reason you mentioned: He's going to be part of the equation for a good amount of time this season, and that will only change with truly craptastic level performance.

#28 phrenile


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 11:22 AM

Now it's of course true that Spring Training results often don't translate (in either direction).

You could say that.

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#29 Rasputin


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 11:44 AM

I'm not suggesting that Beckett needs to prove himself. He's not trying out for a job. His contract virtually guarantees that he'll be in the rotation in April.

I am saying that coming off a bad 2010, it's probably more important for his self-confidence that he pitch reasonably well in ST than someone like Lester. To be clear, I wholeheartedly agree that what Beckett does in the beginning of the season matters much more than what he does in Florida. And I appreciate that he could be just working things out and getting ready for the season, making the results not that relevant.

Still, Beckett is one of the players whose performance I'm paying more attention to. Not Tobin Bridge attention, but a level of concern nonetheless. And part of it is for exactly the reason you mentioned: He's going to be part of the equation for a good amount of time this season, and that will only change with truly craptastic level performance.


What you're saying is that it's more important for Beckett to pitch well in spring so you can feel better.

People who aren't reactionary nitwits are waiting for games that actually count where getting guys out it actually the pitcher's first priority.

#30 TomRicardo


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 11:50 AM

I am not sure why anyone would fault a pitcher who admitted to not throwing enough secondary pitches last year to use spring training and overwork his secondary pitches.

#31 Red(s)HawksFan

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 11:53 AM

Much more telling to me (and not brought up here) is Francona's dropping Beckett to #4 in the rotation. Put the public relations crap about Texas aside and this response by the party that has the real dope on the guy has me more concerned about him than stats or speed and that maybe an injury is being masked. Even then I'm not so concerned. I find it hard to believe the Red Sox intelligentsia would extend a "washed up #4 pitcher" last year.

Couldn't the simplest explanation of his being tabbed the "#4 starter" be that the ball to the head set him back just enough that Tito would rather give him an extra ST start on a regular schedule over skipping or pushing up his schedule just to line him up for game 2 or 3 in Texas? Is Tito quoted somewhere saying specifically that he doesn't want Beckett pitching against the Rangers line-up or is that just a media-contrived rationalization?

I don't read anything into his being "dropped" in the rotation order, certainly not that they might be masking an injury. If he was injured, even something minor, he would not be making regular starts in spring training. This team is way too cautious with its players to let Beckett pitch through an injury in meaningless games. He got slightly sidetracked after being concussed by Ino Guerrero. I don't think Tito needs any more reason than that for Beckett being the fourth starter out of the gate.

#32 TheoShmeo


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 12:40 PM

What you're saying is that it's more important for Beckett to pitch well in spring so you can feel better.

People who aren't reactionary nitwits are waiting for games that actually count where getting guys out it actually the pitcher's first priority.

You seem to be an expert in reactionary.

Sure, I'd like to feel better about Beckett but it's infinitely more important to me how Beckett views Beckett. You and others might be right that there is little or nothing to be gleaned from how Josh pitches in ST. Maybe all he's doing now is refining his pitches, delivery, mechanics, etc.

But I don't think it's all or nothing. In addition to the importance of just getting his work in, after a season like 2010, I think Beckett would benefit from enjoying a modicum of success in Florida.

Edited by TheoShmeo, 21 March 2011 - 12:52 PM.


#33 Rasputin


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 12:43 PM

You seem to be an expert in reationary.

Sure, I'd like to feel better about Beckett but it's infinitely more important to me how Beckett views Beckett. You and others might be right that there is little or nothing to be gleaned from how Josh pitches in ST. Maybe all he's doing now is refining his pitches, delivery, mechanics, etc.

But I don't think it's all or nothing. In addition to the importance of just getting his work in, after a season like 2010, I think Beckett would benefit from enjoying a modicum of success in Florida.


What Tom Ricardo said.

#34 effectivelywild

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 01:48 PM

You seem to be an expert in reactionary.

Sure, I'd like to feel better about Beckett but it's infinitely more important to me how Beckett views Beckett. You and others might be right that there is little or nothing to be gleaned from how Josh pitches in ST. Maybe all he's doing now is refining his pitches, delivery, mechanics, etc.

But I don't think it's all or nothing. In addition to the importance of just getting his work in, after a season like 2010, I think Beckett would benefit from enjoying a modicum of success in Florida.


I agree that its important for Beckett to view himself in a positive light. But I would also think that Beckett is aware that performance in ST doesn't really carry over into the regular season. And I'd rather have a pitcher tinkering with mechanics and working on his stuff rather than going out there and thinking "Man, if I can't blow away the Pirate's ST lineup, I'm nothing! I'm finished! I gotta strike em out!"

I guess what I'm saying is I hope Beckett knows enough to not obsess as much over his ST results as we are.

Edited by effectivelywild, 21 March 2011 - 01:49 PM.


#35 Crazy Puppy

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 02:09 PM

Couldn't the simplest explanation of his being tabbed the "#4 starter" be that the ball to the head set him back just enough that Tito would rather give him an extra ST start on a regular schedule over skipping or pushing up his schedule just to line him up for game 2 or 3 in Texas? Is Tito quoted somewhere saying specifically that he doesn't want Beckett pitching against the Rangers line-up or is that just a media-contrived rationalization?

Seems like Francona comes pretty close to saying that in the quotes below, and both he and Beckett say the head injury aren't a factor in which game he starts.

As for Beckett, few would've batted an eye if he'd been named the No. 2. Francona said Beckett's in the fourth spot because he feels better about Beckett pitching against the Indians than the American League champion Rangers.

"Just watching the way last year unfolded, we want to get him off to a good start," Francona said. "We'll pitch him that game in Cleveland. I think that's a good place for him to start."

Beckett's struggled this spring: despite nine strikeouts, he's also let up seven runs and two homers in 9 2/3 innings. He suffered a mild concussion at the end of February when a stray ball hit him, but that minor setback, Francona said, didn't play into the decision to push him toward the back of the rotation.

Even if that were Francona's thinking, Beckett feels the extra time before making his first regular-season start would not be of any tangible benefit.

"I don't know. I don't think it gets me any extra innings or any extra bullpen [sessions] or anything like that," Beckett said. "I don't know that the extra days really help."



#36 TheoShmeo


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 02:49 PM

I agree that its important for Beckett to view himself in a positive light. But I would also think that Beckett is aware that performance in ST doesn't really carry over into the regular season. And I'd rather have a pitcher tinkering with mechanics and working on his stuff rather than going out there and thinking "Man, if I can't blow away the Pirate's ST lineup, I'm nothing! I'm finished! I gotta strike em out!"

I guess what I'm saying is I hope Beckett knows enough to not obsess as much over his ST results as we are.

I hear you and my focus isn't on Beckett's results. It's on how he's pitching. Is he able to locate? Is he pounding the strike zone? Does he have control of his secondary pitches? Is he getting comfortable and seeing progress with respect to the things he's working on?

For example, Lester's line today wasn't particularly good but from what I saw, I thought that he pitched well. He seemed to have good command and be hitting his spots until he seemingly tired in the 6th inning. In my view, wins, losses, ERA and other stats aren't particularly important and it's more about performing well and seeing some progress by the end of Spring Training.

#37 redsox2020

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 04:29 PM

Practice. We're sitting here talking about practice. Not a game, not a game, but we're talking about practice.

#38 SMU_Sox


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 08:46 PM

I don't think any of us are reactionary nitwits for wanting to look at Beckett and his performance in spring training this year. That being said I usually don't pay ST much attention whatsoever. In fact I can't remember a time since I gained sports consciousness 16 years ago that I cared at all about how a player performed in ST. I never posted about ST results on the main board before or in the Sandbox. For 99% of veterans ballplayers ST results don't translate well to regular season results. I bet the r-squared value is way below .50. For example I couldn't care any less that Carl Crawford is having a miserable spring training. That doesn't bother me at all. I also have been a believer in and a proponent for Clay Buchholz. But I think in Beckett's somewhat *unique* case you can differentiate him from the rest of the veteran ball players. He is coming off an injury plagued season and he is reinventing himself as a pitcher. Do I think his ST is going to predict his regular season? No, and I don't think anyone else here believes that. But part of reinventing himself is developing and perfecting his arsenal. We get an early look at some of his new arsenal in ST. Don't we? If he hasn't developed sufficient and effective off-speed pitches yet and his fastball is becoming more hittable that spells trouble doesn't it? He is going to look different on opening day. That we can agree on, but to what degree and magnitude? How much different is his stuff going to be? I don't know. Sure he is experimenting now, but I'm not sure what his finalized 2011 pitch repertoire is going to look like.
I was thinking of an analogy that made some sense to me. I don't usually care about a pitcher's bullpen session. I was interested in one particular players bullpen session though. Curt Schilling in the 2004 ALCS after his surgery. Obviously Schilling's situation was different than what Beckett is experiencing now. The point is though that sometimes a player's unique circumstances differentiates his particular analysis from the rest of the team. I'm taking a middle road here. I don't think Beckett's ST is entire indicative of his future performance in the regular season. On the other hand I don't think in his unique case you can dismiss his ST altogether.
The key to me is differentiating Beckett from 99% of MLB vets in ST. I think his case is significantly different.

#39 Sprowl


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 09:00 PM

God knows the cutter experiment didn't go well last year.

er, how's that again? The cutter was Beckett's best pitch last year. His problem wasn't the cutter -- it was everything else. Most of all, it was fastball command. If anything, he needs to throw more cutters.

#40 luckysox


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 09:32 PM

I saw him pitch in person on Saturday against the Pirates. He had pretty good fastball command and he was throwing it by guys when he threw it to Salty's glove. His curveball sucked. He threw it quite a bit more than he would (I suspect) in a regular season game - clearly trying to find his release point by working on it no matter what the outcome. But not finding the curve on March 19 did not concern me. I liked what I saw of him in the bullpen pre-game, and on the mound during the game. I came away thinking that he's probably going to be closer to 2007 Beckett than 2010 Beckett. His "bad spring" amounts to a few bad innings when he was working on stuff - no worse than a few of Lester's starts, including one crap inning by him today at the Phillies. Saw that, too. It did not make me think he's having a bad spring, or that he'll stink this year because Roy Halliday broke up his 5 inning no-hitter. I think Beckett needs a few good starts - not great - to start the season and then he'll roll. His confidence took a hit last year, and he needs to find his bad-attitude self again. When he does, and when he pitches "smart" (doesn't get stubborn with the fastball) I think we'll see the Beckett of old.

Edited by luckysox, 21 March 2011 - 09:35 PM.


#41 pokey_reese


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 10:25 PM

er, how's that again? The cutter was Beckett's best pitch last year. His problem wasn't the cutter -- it was everything else. Most of all, it was fastball command. If anything, he needs to throw more cutters.


I was unclear, sorry. What I meant was that throwing the cutter over 15% of the time (compared to about 2% of the time in previous seasons), was not a solution to his woes. Whatever you think about the pitch-type values, pitching is about more than the sum of its parts, and as a whole, relying heavily on the cutter did not help him last season.

Additionally, it was his 'best' pitch last year only in that it was his least bad pitch by that measure, as all of his pitches had negative values, and over his career the cutter is in fact his only pitch that is below average by the Fangraphs weighted runs statistic. He tried throwing more cutters, and it resulted in his overall results getting worse (obviously, injuries were involved as well), so I don't really know how much faith to put in that stat, or how to use it appropriately, or even how big a sample size is required to make it valuable. Is it like UZR in that you want several seasons worth of data before you can trust it? I have no idea.

Actually, I will see if I can get a guy at Fangraphs to do something on that stat, because I am interested. My point is just that on a simple level, throwing more cutters did not help Beckett in 2010. Maybe he would have had an ERA of 9.60 if he hadn't been using it so much, but we will never know that.

#42 Sprowl


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Posted 21 March 2011 - 10:44 PM

I was unclear, sorry. What I meant was that throwing the cutter over 15% of the time (compared to about 2% of the time in previous seasons), was not a solution to his woes. Whatever you think about the pitch-type values, pitching is about more than the sum of its parts, and as a whole, relying heavily on the cutter did not help him last season.

Additionally, it was his 'best' pitch last year only in that it was his least bad pitch by that measure, as all of his pitches had negative values, and over his career the cutter is in fact his only pitch that is below average by the Fangraphs weighted runs statistic. He tried throwing more cutters, and it resulted in his overall results getting worse (obviously, injuries were involved as well), so I don't really know how much faith to put in that stat, or how to use it appropriately, or even how big a sample size is required to make it valuable. Is it like UZR in that you want several seasons worth of data before you can trust it? I have no idea.

Actually, I will see if I can get a guy at Fangraphs to do something on that stat, because I am interested. My point is just that on a simple level, throwing more cutters did not help Beckett in 2010. Maybe he would have had an ERA of 9.60 if he hadn't been using it so much, but we will never know that.


I disagree with this assessment, particularly the attribution of bad results to an increased reliance on the cutter. Blame belongs with the fastball, where it was primarily responsible for that 1.4 HR/9. No secondary pitch can be blamed for missing location with the fastball, and if he had thrown fewer cutters and more fastballs, I think his performance would have been more disastrous than it was. He simply didn't hit his spots, and he doesn't have the velocity anymore to get away with poorly placed heat.

This is an old discussion, especially from this last summer (2010 was the year of the cutter for many Red Sox pitchers, who always seemed to specialize in adding one pitch per year to everybody's repertoire). Beckett's cutter was substantially positive on Fangraphs Pitch Values until very late in the season, and that merely confirmed what so many observers saw in game threads: Beckett rarely got hurt on his cutter. Sure pitching is more complicated than pitch values alone can capture, but in this case the numbers confirm observation. The same was true in Buchholz's 2008: his changeup was great, and his fastball sucked. The problem was lack of fastball command, which no secondary pitch can truly overcome -- but that doesn't justify blaming the use of the secondary pitch, just because both pitchers used what worked more often than they would have if they could have located the fastball. Using the cutter more is a response to bad velocity and command of the fastball, not a cause of it.

I expect Beckett to throw more cutters this year again, and I expect they'll work better than his other pitches again. He had bad luck last year (BABIP .338; HR/FB 14.2%; LOB 65.3%), and that should improve, but his arm slot change looks permanent and I don't think his curve will ever be the same.

#43 Rasputin


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Posted 22 March 2011 - 12:01 AM

I don't think any of us are reactionary nitwits for wanting to look at Beckett and his performance in spring training this year.


Of course not, more knowledge is better.

That being said I usually don't pay ST much attention whatsoever. In fact I can't remember a time since I gained sports consciousness 16 years ago that I cared at all about how a player performed in ST. I never posted about ST results on the main board before or in the Sandbox. For 99% of veterans ballplayers ST results don't translate well to regular season results. I bet the r-squared value is way below .50. For example I couldn't care any less that Carl Crawford is having a miserable spring training. That doesn't bother me at all. I also have been a believer in and a proponent for Clay Buchholz. But I think in Beckett's somewhat *unique* case you can differentiate him from the rest of the veteran ball players. He is coming off an injury plagued season and he is reinventing himself as a pitcher.



There is nothing unique about injury plagued pitchers trying to reinvent themselves. There's probably at least fifty guys trying to reinvent themselves in camp as we speak.

Do I think his ST is going to predict his regular season? No, and I don't think anyone else here believes that. But part of reinventing himself is developing and perfecting his arsenal. We get an early look at some of his new arsenal in ST. Don't we? If he hasn't developed sufficient and effective off-speed pitches yet and his fastball is becoming more hittable that spells trouble doesn't it? He is going to look different on opening day. That we can agree on, but to what degree and magnitude? How much different is his stuff going to be? I don't know. Sure he is experimenting now, but I'm not sure what his finalized 2011 pitch repertoire is going to look like.


There is almost nobody on this planet who wants more information more immediately than me but what you're getting now isn't information that has value. You don't cut into a steak four seconds after you put it on the grill and bitch that it isn't done enough. It isn't done enough becuase IT ISN'T DONE.

Beckett isn't done reinventing himself. He won't be done on April 1 either but at least then his top priority will be getting outs.

I was thinking of an analogy that made some sense to me. I don't usually care about a pitcher's bullpen session. I was interested in one particular players bullpen session though. Curt Schilling in the 2004 ALCS after his surgery. Obviously Schilling's situation was different than what Beckett is experiencing now

.

That was literally the first time that surgery had been performed on a live person. That's unique and the information you were looking for wasn't about pitch speed and it wasn't about location it wasn't about anything pitching related. It was about the ankle being pain free enough for him to perform normally.

The point is though that sometimes a player's unique circumstances differentiates his particular analysis from the rest of the team. I'm taking a middle road here. I don't think Beckett's ST is entire indicative of his future performance in the regular season. On the other hand I don't think in his unique case you can dismiss his ST altogether.



I don't dismiss his ST altogether. Is he healthy? Is he in shape? Is he getting enough work to be ready for his first start?

The answers to all of these questions appear to be yes so let's get the season started and see what's what.

The key to me is differentiating Beckett from 99% of MLB vets in ST. I think his case is significantly different.


I don't mean this to be as condescending as it sounds but this is something that should be said by someone who hasn't followed baseball more than two or three years.

Pitchers attempt to reinvent themselves all the time. Schilling did it. Dice-K has done it every single year. I dare say that damn near every pitcher does it at some point.

#44 SMU_Sox


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Posted 22 March 2011 - 12:36 AM

You're right. There are many examples of pitchers who have been in Beckett's place trying to reinvent themselves after an injury plagued year. On second thought, or third, fourth, fifth, he isn't in as a unique position as I thought. I mean anyone who plays fantasy baseball can tell you at least 2 or 3 pitchers in his position this year in the AL alone. What I would like to do to satisfy my curiosity is to look at pitchers in his position in the past and see if there is any correlation with their spring training performance to their regular season results. That could be interesting.
After reading some good posts above I think I put too much stock in his performance so far. I guess all we have to do is wait right? But if he does turn out to have a continuation of his poor performance into the regular season can we then draw anything from his 2011 spring training? Or is that still not a useful/good metric to look at? And BTW I appreciate the civility. I think this is a fascinating topic. Edit: you were right to call me out on this being a unique situation. I got caught up in my pet theory and had tunnel vision. But I would rather be wrong about something and change my mind after a discussion than not speak up and continue to believe something that is logically flawed or flat out wrong or untrue. Can the season take any longer to start?

Edited by johnlimberakis, 22 March 2011 - 01:14 AM.


#45 yecul


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Posted 22 March 2011 - 07:06 AM

After his 2010 campaign Beckett was going to be one to keep an eye on whether spring went well or poorly. It would be nicer to see him succeeding from the start, but ultimately it doesn't mean much either way.

The final start is the only one you might want to key in on.

#46 TheoShmeo


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Posted 22 March 2011 - 07:16 AM

John, I think the "Bad Spring" title is off, but I also continue to think that paying special attention to Beckett makes sense in light of how he performed in 2010 and his apparent importance to the Sox prospects in 2011. It's true, as Rasputin wrote, that we can't put much stock into how a steak tastes right after it is put on the grill. But reading the tea leaves in the latter stages of Spring Training and in the early stages of the regular season might have some predictive value. And even if it doesn't, nothing is lost by trying to make some sense of what we're seeing during those times, even while we take heed of the fact that such performances are often misleading. In short, as I wrote earlier, I don't see why this should be all or nothing or why analyzing what's happening with Beckett in Florida is immediately thought of as panicking.

#47 SMU_Sox


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Posted 22 March 2011 - 08:09 AM

Theo or anyone else... if you could pm me, or post here, with a list or even one or two guys, who are/were in the same position as Beckett, coming off of an injury plagued year, reinventing themselves as a pitcher (changing their arsenal significantly), and preferably but not necessarily who also are or were changing their arm slot, I will put together a simple linear regression in Excel.

The guys I thought of off the top of my head were Carlos Zambrano last year, and Dice-K last year. Scott Kazmir the past two years is a candidate too. I will be able to access if they changed their arsenal via fangraphs so if possible keep the selections as current as possible. I can't wait to see what we get.

#48 Shelterdog


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Posted 22 March 2011 - 08:10 AM

John, I think the "Bad Spring" title is off, but I also continue to think that paying special attention to Beckett makes sense in light of how he performed in 2010 and his apparent importance to the Sox prospects in 2011. It's true, as Rasputin wrote, that we can't put much stock into how a steak tastes right after it is put on the grill. But reading the tea leaves in the latter stages of Spring Training and in the early stages of the regular season might have some predictive value. And even if it doesn't, nothing is lost by trying to make some sense of what we're seeing during those times, even while we take heed of the fact that such performances are often misleading. In short, as I wrote earlier, I don't see why this should be all or nothing or why analyzing what's happening with Beckett in Florida is immediately thought of as panicking.


The fundamental question is is there a good reason to think Beckett's spring training will have predictive value, when we acknowledge that spring is useless for 99% of players? Why is Beckett's spring different?

Edited by Shelterdog, 22 March 2011 - 08:11 AM.


#49 joe dokes

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Posted 22 March 2011 - 09:48 AM

The fundamental question is is there a good reason to think Beckett's spring training will have predictive value, when we acknowledge that spring is useless for 99% of players? Why is Beckett's spring different?


I can readily think of only two reasons why ST performance might be predictive: 1)a player learning a new position. ST might tell you if he's got half a chance to be competent at it; 2) player coming off injury. I haven't really been paying close attention to the results that Pedroia & Youkilis have had, but by all accounts they are unhindered by their injuries. I suppose that's predictive of a reasonable probability that they will return to their career norms.

Beckett might fit into the injury category (ie, he might "be different"), but its far from clear cut whether he's still suffering somehow; or whether his back issues have resolved, but have caused him to experiment with things to ensure against reoccurrence; or whether neither of those is true and he's just meaninglessly getting the snot kicked out of him in ST like Dallas Braden or Mark Buehrle.

#50 pokey_reese


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Posted 22 March 2011 - 11:11 AM

I disagree with this assessment, particularly the attribution of bad results to an increased reliance on the cutter. Blame belongs with the fastball, where it was primarily responsible for that 1.4 HR/9. No secondary pitch can be blamed for missing location with the fastball, and if he had thrown fewer cutters and more fastballs, I think his performance would have been more disastrous than it was. He simply didn't hit his spots, and he doesn't have the velocity anymore to get away with poorly placed heat.

This is an old discussion, especially from this last summer (2010 was the year of the cutter for many Red Sox pitchers, who always seemed to specialize in adding one pitch per year to everybody's repertoire). Beckett's cutter was substantially positive on Fangraphs Pitch Values until very late in the season, and that merely confirmed what so many observers saw in game threads: Beckett rarely got hurt on his cutter. Sure pitching is more complicated than pitch values alone can capture, but in this case the numbers confirm observation. The same was true in Buchholz's 2008: his changeup was great, and his fastball sucked. The problem was lack of fastball command, which no secondary pitch can truly overcome -- but that doesn't justify blaming the use of the secondary pitch, just because both pitchers used what worked more often than they would have if they could have located the fastball. Using the cutter more is a response to bad velocity and command of the fastball, not a cause of it.

I expect Beckett to throw more cutters this year again, and I expect they'll work better than his other pitches again. He had bad luck last year (BABIP .338; HR/FB 14.2%; LOB 65.3%), and that should improve, but his arm slot change looks permanent and I don't think his curve will ever be the same.


My point wasn't that the increased reliance on the cutter led to his poor results, but rather than increased reliance on the cutter didn't improve his results. I agree that his fastball got hammered, but I am not so ready to isolate each pitch type and judge them independently as the pitch value metric does. It would be easy enough to make the (illustratively spurious) argument that looking at Fangraphs, when Beckett throws a greater percentage of fastballs relative to cutters, his fastball performance is much better. I can't say whether he is throwing more cutters to compensate for his different arm angle, or whether he changed his arm angle because he was throwing more cutters. If he had to drop his arm angle due to injury, and the cutter is the only pitch that he can throw very effectively from that angle, then we have a whole other problem to deal with.

I don't necessarily blame the cutter for his struggles, but his vastly increased reliance on it may be indicative of a problem that it can't mask by itself, even if it is his "best" pitch. His best seasons were all when he was a FB/CB/CH pitcher (heavier on the CH than in his down seasons, actually), if throwing the cutter so much more is affecting his other pitches, or if his arm slot is so changed by injuries that he has no choice but to throw the cutter more, then we have to hope that something else changes.

We are certainly in complete agreement that he was unlucky last year, and I expect his numbers to improve somewhat just with that regression, I just don't feel certain that normal luck alone along with the cutter equals an effectively re-invented Beckett.