Teeing Off on Josh Beckett

In case you had not heard, there is great tumult within Red Sox Nation. As we discussed on the Getting Blanked show yesterday, the current scorn target is Josh Beckett, who had the temerity to GOLF two days before missing start to do injury. With the Red Sox scuffling and the media horde already feasting on the corpse of Adrian Gonzalez, Beckett’s quoteunquote misstep provides ample fodder.

Despite golfing on off-days being a birthright of starting pitchers since the dawn of time, Beckett only created greater controversy by making his belated start last night against the Cleveland Indians a short one. Beckett only recorded seven outs, surrendering seven runs on seven hits – two of them homers – and two walks. It was ugly.

While Josh Beckett isn’t contrite enough for the braying Boston Media mass, the real cause of worry should be the results, not the window dressing. Beckett was bad last night and probably still hurt.


Something isn’t right with Josh Beckett. Despite experiencing up and down years since he came to Boston, Josh Beckett is a better pitcher than we see right now. Looking at his pitch f/x charts from recent years, the first thing that jumps out at me is the drop in velocity.

Click twice to make much larger

Looking at this spin versus velocity chart, it appears many of his pitches, most notably his cutter, is moving less this season than last. The lost velocity seems like the most likely culprit for his early season struggles.

According to Brooks Baseball, Becket is no longer getting the defensive swings (fouls) and whiffs with his fastball that he experienced as recently as last season. Velocity is one thing, location and situation surely another.

A lot of fastballs, even when ahead. The cutter got hit hard last night as did…well just about everything. After working around a double in the first inning, Beckett struggled to throw strikes in the second and third, falling behind and getting generally smacked around.

Becket hasn’t even been that bad in 2012. Last night was an ugly start after a brief injury layoff. Far too many people want us to believe that IN NO WAY ARE THESE TWO THINGS RELATED. While his velocity is down across the board, last night was the first stinker of the season for the Red Sox ace since an ugly outing during the first series of the season in Detroit.

Velocity matters and last night it was lacking. A more hittable fastball makes everything difficult for a player who works off a mid-90s offering most of the time. After sitting over 93 mph average last year, Beckett is down more than a full MPH in 2012. The combination of missing velocity and flatter pitches (by observation and Beckett’s own admission) is a recipe for bad outings.

Josh Beckett had a bad outing. Though he claimed to “feel good” after his last bullpen session three days ago, he didn’t exactly imbue those willing to look for real reasons for his struggles with confidence. Distractions? Sure. You better believe watching a middling power team take you deep twice in less than three innings serves as a distraction. If anything, a nice round of golf might help clear his mind. Always works for me…

Pitch f/x data from Joe Lefkowitz and Brooks Baseball.