2012 Red Sox Player Preview: Josh Beckett

Beckett is ready to put 2011 in the past

Josh Beckett pitched relatively well last year.  He was one of the better starters in the American League for the better part of the season.  He was pitching a gem in Toronto against the Blue Jays in early September when his foot gave way on the mound and he suffered a sprained ankle.  The Red Sox staff was worried that he might have had to undergo surgery but in the end all he did was miss one start.  He was not as effective however throughout the rest of the season during the Red Sox collapse.  I’m reminding everyone what he did on the field because all anyone seems to remember from last year was what he did off the field.

Here’s a look at Beckett’s 2011 stats (with career highs in parentheses)

Games Started: 30 (33, 2006)
Innings Pitched: 193.0 (212.1, 2009)
Win-Loss Record: 13-7 (20-7, 2007)
ERA: 2.89 (2.89, 2011)
WHIP: 1.026 (1.026, 2011)
Batting Average Against: .211 (.211, 2011)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 8.2 (9.6, 2003)
Walks/9 Innings: 2.4 (1.8, 2007 & 2008)

2012 Season Outlook:

I understand that everyone wants to put a pair of horns on Beckett’s head for what happened in the Red Sox clubhouse last year.  Was he out of shape towards the end of last season?  Of course he was.  Did he drink beer and chicken in the clubhouse last year while the Red Sox’ season spiraled down the drain?  Apparently so.  Is he being disingenuous about what happened last season?  I guess that depends on your view point of things.  Here is the bottom line – none of that really matters when he toes the rubber.  It’s all about the way he pitches and it’s important to look back and see that he pitched extremely well in 2011 before he sprained his ankle in Toronto.

Beckett did pitch effectively last season when healthy

Last season Josh Beckett had the lowest ERA, WHIP, and batting average against in his whole career.  That is surprising (and impressive) for a 31 year old pitcher who came into the league as a strikeout guy.  Beckett evolved last season.  He worked the plate and relied more on his breaking stuff and he pitched more to contact.  His strikeouts were down last year but so were his walks.  He became a more versatile pitcher last year and the results showed it.  Beckett went through stretches were his was one of the best pitchers in baseball.  And although he fell a bit out of shape towards the end of the season who knows how much affect the sprained ankle had on how he pitched late in September?  Beckett said that it was a non-issue but it’s not a minor injury, especially for a pitcher.

Obviously there was conditioning issues with Beckett last season, that much can’t be ignored.  Former strength coach Dave Page told WEEI last year that Beckett actually changed his workout schedule earlier in the season due to a string of successful starts.  The Red Sox brought in conditioning all-star Mike Boyle to be the new S&C coach and he should provide Beckett with a better conditioning program.  It should also be noted that Curt Young may have been a bit too laid back to keep Beckett and the other guys motivated to continue their conditioning.  Clay Buchholz said as much in an interview last year.  My guess is that new manager Bobby Valentine and new pitching coach Bob McClure are not going to let these guys slack on their training.  A better workout plan are more strict coaching should make for a healthier Beckett come September barring any unforeseen injuries.

Saltalamacchia will be Beckett's new battery mate

Beckett will be 32 years old this coming season.  He’s got the big pitcher’s frame that will allow him to pitch well into his 30’s.  His evolution last year was encouraging as it seems that as long as he stays healthy he should continue to be an effective pitcher at the top of the Red Sox’ rotation.  He’s also had a reputation of pitching angry in the past to sometimes mixed results.  It usually depends on how his stuff is going at the time.  Let’s hope that he has that good stuff going early in the season because my guess is that he will be pitching angry for much of the time.  He’s been sharp in two spring outings thus far for the Sox.  A lot has also been made about the loss of Jason Varitek and what it might do to Beckett’s effectiveness and psyche.  Beckett’s a big boy and he’s worked with other catchers before.  It sounds like Valentine is not going to match up pitchers and catchers this season so he should see time with both Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach.  One thing for certain is that should help the stolen base numbers while Beckett is on the mound.  Beckett is not very good at holding runners on and Varitek was one of the worst catcher’s at throwing runners out last year.  Shoppach and Salty were two of the better catchers in the American League at throwing guys out.

I know Beckett is supposed to be the “bad guy” but the truth is that he is as important as anyone if the Red Sox are going to bounce back and head to the playoffs.  The sooner that we all come to grips with it the better.  I hear that some people (mostly media members) are still upset that Josh Beckett hasn’t said the words “I’m sorry” for last season.  As far as I’m concerned he doesn’t have to say anything.  He just has to go out there and pitch well and lead the rotation and the Red Sox back to the post-season.  That should be apology enough for Red Sox Nation.

Previous Player Previews:

Jacoby Ellsbury

Carl Crawford

David Ortiz

Adrian Gonzalez

Dustin Pedroia

The 5th Starter

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Jon Lester

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