Josh Beckett is a big game pitcher. We all know that. But being able to summon his skills for a game here or there in October isn’t going to make him a worthy fantasy addition in 2013 is it? Will the move back to the NL to pitch for the Dodgers make him what he once was – a viable option on the hill in mixed leagues, a season after going 7-14 with a 4.65 ERA? Let’s investigate.
Dodger Stadium is a good place to pitch, always has been. Petco Park in San Diego, and AT & T Park in San Francisco, are also good places to pitch. That’s a solid foundation for Beckett, if the skills are still there. Are they?
Beckett has done the old Alex Rios, the up and down effort thing, in the ERA column. Look at his yearly marks since 2005:
Can’t explain that, it’s just the way it is.
His WHIP? From 2007-09 it was 1.14, 1.19 and 1.19. It then exploded in 2010 up to 1.54. He knocked it back down to 1.03 in 2011 before seeing it rise to 1.33 last season.
Let me take a step back for a moment. Did you notice that Beckett had a 2.89 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 2011? Two years ago he was an elite performer folks. Has the 32 year old lost it overnight? I find that hard to believe, don’t you?
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Lat season was the first time since 2006 that Beckett failed to strike out eight batters per nine innings as the mark fell to 6.97. That’s a concern. His fastball lost about two mph from his normal heater at 91.4 mph (career 93.7). Is that a blip on the radar or his new level? That’s a fair question to ask. It would seem that Beckett realized what was going on as he threw his fastball only 48 percent of the time, the first time that mark had ever dipped under 50 percent. It also marked a fourth straight season of a decline in the percentage of times he hucks the heater. He’s upped his use of the cutter in recent seasons moving from 15, to 18 to 21 percent the past three years. Are batters falling for it? Yes, they are. His 32.3 percent mark in pitches swung at by batters outside of the strike zone in 2012 was the second highest mark of his career. Batters also swung at 69.1 percent of the pitches he tossed up there in the strike zone, the highest that mark has been since 2004. That’s an odd coupling. However, given his 8.5 percent mark on swing and misses on strikes, he’d been in the 8′s in five of the previous six seasons, would seem to suggest that his “stuff” was still OK.
However, Beckett seems to be nibbling more than ever. His 43.3 percent mark in pitches thrown inside the strike zone last season was the lowest of his career an a third straight season of a mark under 50 percent. In fact, the mark has gone down 4-straight years, and no one likes to see that (what I would like to see is pictures of Olivia Wilde – that is one beautiful woman no matter what scale you are using. Hypnotic eyes wouldn’t you say? How the heck did funny man Jason Sudekis get her? What does that guy have on me? OK, maybe $20 million dollars helps.). Beckett walked 2.75 batters per nine innings last year, one hundredth higher than his career mark. Seems like all the nibbling didn’t lead to any increase in the free passes he issued.
Always a homer magnet, Beckett has a career mark of 1.01 which belies a couple of whopper seasons he’s had (1.58 in 2006 and 1.41 per nine in 2010 stand out). His new home in L.A. will help that. According to Park Indices the last three years, Dodgers Stadium is just three percent above the NL average. The park shouldn’t be much of a factor in 2013.
So where does that leave us with Beckett?
It seems like Beckett will slot in as the third starter for the Dodgers behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke (when healthy). That’s three potentially impressive arms at the top of the rotation, and the other two should hopefully allow Beckett to relax a bit. The full-time return to the NL will also help, as well pitching in Dodger Stadium. Given the downturn that Beckett offered last year in the mph and K columns, some trepidation is warranted. On the other hand he is a year removed from dominating batters, is only 32 years old, and would seem to profile as an arm that is going much later than he should in many drafts. In a standard mixed league how could you not be interested in a guy with the pedigree of Beckett as your 5th starter (see the ADP information)?
* Don’t forget to pick up your copy of the 2013 BaseballGuys Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide which is now available. Nearly 150 pages of insight to help you dominate the competition in 2013.
By Ray Flowers