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   1. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: June 10, 2011 at 12:40 PM (#3850073)
When Roger Clemens had his bad 1993 season I remember Bill James writing a fairly interesting piece about power pitchers who had bad years at roughly the same age. My recollection has always been that he theorized that at that age they had to learn not to be throwers but pitchers. Beckett is not the caliber of the guys James talked about (besides Clemens I remember Palmer being mentioned) but in terms of style he has the same issues.

One pitch from last night, the 93 MPH fastball to strike out Swisher, really got my attention. It was just a single pitch but he put it in a perfect spot with a lot of movement. Last year I feel like he would have fired that pitch down the middle and said "hit this #######\" and Swisher would have sent it into orbit. It's like he has figured out he can't just chuck it up there and dominate hitters with raw stuff.
   2. Dale Sams Posted: June 10, 2011 at 01:08 PM (#3850084)
I always thought his two-seamer was the money pitch.
   3. tfbg9 Posted: June 10, 2011 at 04:31 PM (#3850257)
The 88 mph, sinking, swing and miss K pitch to Grandy in the 7th was nice as well.

Beckett was trying to pitch hurt most of last year. He's awfully good when he's healthy.
   4. RJ in TO Posted: June 10, 2011 at 04:46 PM (#3850271)
When Roger Clemens had his bad 1993 season I remember Bill James writing a fairly interesting piece about power pitchers who had bad years at roughly the same age. My recollection has always been that he theorized that at that age they had to learn not to be throwers but pitchers.

Was that piece based on age, or on innings pitched in the majors? I seem to remember Dave Stieb's 1986 season being discussed in a similar manner, but he was only 28 in that unpleasant year, whereas Clemens was 30 in 1993.
   5. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: June 10, 2011 at 05:06 PM (#3850295)
In my head it was age but I say that with no certainty at all.
   6. RJ in TO Posted: June 10, 2011 at 05:10 PM (#3850300)
You're almost certainly right that it was age, and I'm getting confused with another study referencing IP. I'm sure that both have been looked at, at one point or another.
   7. Dread Pirate Dave Roberts Posted: June 10, 2011 at 05:42 PM (#3850346)
Interesting and timely -- there was an article in this week's Sports Illustrated on this (yes, some people still read this magazine...).

Specifically, it was an article on the cutter. According to their stats, Beckett is throwing about 40 - 45% cutters this year, well above the 10-15% of 2010. Beckett was also quoted as saying that he's gotten older, his fastball isn't what it was anymore and that he needed to make adjustments.

I think this article is on-line but it's subscription only.
   8. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: June 10, 2011 at 05:45 PM (#3850348)
One pitch from last night, the 93 MPH fastball to strike out Swisher, really got my attention. It was just a single pitch but he put it in a perfect spot with a lot of movement. Last year I feel like he would have fired that pitch down the middle and said "hit this #######\" and Swisher would have sent it into orbit. It's like he has figured out he can't just chuck it up there and dominate hitters with raw stuff.


Totally, although Swisher's a little out of sorts this year himself. For whatever reason though, Beckett's either traded some velocity for better command, or realized that he needs to better command his limited stuff. The fact that he could be smart or mature enough to realize that astounds me.

Is that graph really his fastball velocity? At the risk of interpreting a change in measurement methodology rather than the true velocity, what interests me there, in addition to the decreasing mean velocity, is the decrease in range of fastball speed. If you look at his progress, you see a guy who was throwing really hard in his youth, but who had a lot of misfires. He threw a lot of <90MPH fastballs. His mean velocities are closer to the high end of his range, so he was usually throwing the gas, but he screwed up a bunch of times. Now look how tight his range is in 2011. That's a guy who's consistent. The range is smaller, and the means are right in the middle of the range. He's not wildly overthrowing or underthrowing stuff. His mechanics are probably more consistent, and while he may be issuing more walks, he's not making the terrible mistakes he used to.
   9. plim Posted: June 10, 2011 at 07:35 PM (#3850438)
@Dale - you're right. he could get the 2 seamer up to 94mph. but the years he didn't do so well, he always tried to overpower batters, fastball after fastball (2 or 4 seam, didn't matter), and hitters caught up to him. in 2007, he would mix in his curveball to do exactly what a curveball should do: freeze the batter and buckle their knees. looks like it's back to form.
   10. Darren Posted: June 12, 2011 at 10:22 PM (#3851548)
When Roger Clemens had his bad 1993 season I remember Bill James writing a fairly interesting piece about power pitchers who had bad years at roughly the same age. My recollection has always been that he theorized that at that age they had to learn not to be throwers but pitchers.


James must not have been following Clemens closely to have thought this. As early as 1988, by my recollection, Clemens was already talking about "learning how to pitch instead of just throwing," or something like that. To this end, he worked on developing his splitter and making it his featured pitch. The funny thing was that Clemens really, really should not have been doing that yet. He was dominating hitters so thoroughly that he should have just stuck with that. His numbers were, by his standards, mediocre in 1989, which has been chalked up to the severe abuse he suffered in mid-1988. But by 1990, he had found a way to make the splitter/fastball (and no more curve to save his elbow) work for him very well.

1993 was a terrible season but there was no reason for him to reinvent himself. His stuff was still good, he just wasn't doing anything with it. I remember suffering through it wondering what the heck happened. After the season, Clemens shared that his mom had been having some health problems that consumed. He then went back to being the HOF pitcher he'd always been.

What all that means for Beckett, I don't know. But it was a discussion of Clemens, so I had to shoot my mouth off.
   11. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 16, 2011 at 03:48 AM (#3854538)
Tonight is my vision of Future Beckett. He had command of multiple pitches, worked quickly and pitched to contact, but had swing and miss stuff when he wanted it.

Just a super fun game to watch. Pitching, defense, and the three run homer.
   12. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 16, 2011 at 04:02 AM (#3854554)
Is that graph really his fastball velocity? At the risk of interpreting a change in measurement methodology rather than the true velocity, what interests me there, in addition to the decreasing mean velocity, is the decrease in range of fastball speed. If you look at his progress, you see a guy who was throwing really hard in his youth, but who had a lot of misfires. He threw a lot of <90MPH fastballs. His mean velocities are closer to the high end of his range, so he was usually throwing the gas, but he screwed up a bunch of times. Now look how tight his range is in 2011.
Yeah, that's just weird. I wanted to address it in the post, but it would have taken too long. My best guess is that the pitch/fx system misidentified one or two of his "changeups" every game as a fastball. I don't remember Beckett ever throwing 89 mph fastballs at his peak, but I remember quite a few straight changes at that velocity. My guess is that if the graph plotted every fastball he threw in the game, you'd see just one or two in the 88-90 range, and the rest 93-97.

I guess that could also have been a two-seamer or a cutter. I don't remember his pitching well enough to say if he was using either pitch, though I thought he mostly wasn't.
   13. Dan Posted: June 16, 2011 at 06:00 AM (#3854607)
Josh Beckett sucks. A truly good pitcher would've allowed Brignac's grounder to be hit hard enough to make a play at first and get the perfect game.
   14. Dan Posted: June 16, 2011 at 06:04 AM (#3854608)
The really weird thing about Beckett is that right now his fastball is basically 95% of the time between 92 and 94 MPH, yet his changeup is still ~89 MPH. It's surprising that it's been an effective pitch with that little of a speed differential.
   15. villageidiom Posted: June 16, 2011 at 01:18 PM (#3854690)
The really weird thing about Beckett is that right now his fastball is basically 95% of the time between 92 and 94 MPH, yet his changeup is still ~89 MPH. It's surprising that it's been an effective pitch with that little of a speed differential.
I am not a pitching coach. However, perhaps one problem with Beckett back in the 95+ MPH days was that his delivery was different enough between his FB and change that the hitter knew what the pitch was at the release point. If that was happening, maybe the reduction in velocity is a byproduct of gaining more consistency in delivery between FB and change, allowing him to deceive the batters long enough that they can't do anything with either pitch by the time they know what it is. Yes, it's a small differential; but maybe that translates into weak contact rather than Ks.

Complete speculation, of course. I'm just trying to make the pieces fit... He's more effective, despite his fastball and changeup speeds starting to converge. His LD% is down to levels he's not had other than 2007. His FB% is up a lot, but (a) mostly due to infield popups, and (b) it hasn't translated to HR. Could be luck, but whatever, it's a thing of beauty right now.

EDIT: The theme of the thread is "inconclusive ramblings". Finally, a topic in which I excel!
   16. Dan Posted: June 16, 2011 at 05:36 PM (#3854913)
Complete speculation, of course. I'm just trying to make the pieces fit... He's more effective, despite his fastball and changeup speeds starting to converge. His LD% is down to levels he's not had other than 2007. His FB% is up a lot, but (a) mostly due to infield popups, and (b) it hasn't translated to HR. Could be luck, but whatever, it's a thing of beauty right now.


I think he's also getting a lot of weak contact because his fastball has better movement with him throwing it at 92-94 rather than trying to throw as hard as he can. Add in the fact that he's throwing a lot of cutters and you have a recipe for contact off the sweet spot and weak popups and weak groundouts. His cutter definitely has better movement this year than it has had in the past as well.
   17. Norcan Posted: June 17, 2011 at 06:54 AM (#3855592)
Beckett’s curve is one of the great pitches of our era, the perfect platonic form of the hard breaker.


Really? I think you're taking it a bit too far. I'd grant you that it's been of the best pitches of THIS season but it's been too erratic over his career to be "one of the great pitches of our era." If you were to take the most perfectly executed ones, sure, but under those conditions, that moniker could be placed on countless pitches: Wakefield's knuckler, Papelpon's splitter, Bard's slider, Joba's slider, Kyle Farnsworth's slider and so on. I'm glad his curve has finally shown up this season. I've been waiting for it ever since he arrived and it's been worth the wait finally this season. It hasn't been quite as good as Pedro's curve, which I loved and consider very historically underrated and overshadowed by his fastball and change, but it's been very close.

While breaking balls are said to potentially improve if a pitchers increases his velocity, I think quixotically, Beckett's curve might have improved because his arm speed has decreased. Before this season, I would categorize Beckett's curve in three ways: great (like this season, but infrequent), in the dirt (without drawing swings and misses and the most common) and rolling hangers that were belted hard. I think it's possible that because he's lost some of his ridiculous arm speed, he's not overspinning and overpowering the curve too much to where he's found the right balance of not putting it in the dirt but sharply in the mitt.
   18. Dave Cyprian Posted: June 17, 2011 at 06:19 PM (#3855977)
FanGraphs predicts a regression to the mean for Beckett:

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/josh-beckett-and-dips-theory/
   19. Dan Posted: June 17, 2011 at 06:47 PM (#3856030)
Dave Cameron wrote that.

Josh Beckett might not allow another run all season.

In all seriousness, obviously he's going to regress at least a little. His ERA won't be under 2 on September 30th, but it will likely still be pretty damn good. But Cameron's "analysis" is pretty ####### weak.

Beckett (and Haren, and James Shields, and many of the other names on the list of guys we noted who were hit hard last year) are seeing dramatically different results this year than they did last year. In a few cases, they are pitching better, though the improvements aren’t anywhere close to the same scale as ERA would suggest. Beckett, though, looks to be almost exactly the same pitcher as he was a year ago, just now he’s on the other side of the results fence.

If you look at Beckett’s 2010-2011 data as one complete season, as he’s started 35 games since the beginning of last year, his line for that “season” has him putting up a .292 BABIP and a 9.8% HR/FB rate, almost exactly average in both categories. For his career, Beckett has right around average marks in both categories.

Besides the sequencing, there’s nothing all that weird about the last 35 starts of Josh Beckett’s career. He had a run of bad luck and a run of good luck, but they’ve nearly canceled each other out, and over the course of 220 innings, his line looks to be pretty close to what you’d expect given his underlying walk rate, strikeout rate, and batted ball stats.

Josh Beckett was never terrible, and he’s not amazing now. More than anything else, he’s an example of why ERA isn’t a good tool for projecting future pitching performances.


Thank you for reinforcing the "get your head out of the spreadsheets and watch a game" mentality, Dave. You're a real shining example to sabermetric writers everywhere. No, really.

Fangraphs has all kinds of data to show the difference in Beckett's performance. Linear weights by pitch type, Pitch F/X changes to show his cutter, changeup, and curveball moving more, discipline changes (higher swinging strike rate, etc), and Cameron simply looks at BABIP, HR%, and xFIP compared to ERA. What a half-assed effort at analysis.
   20. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: June 17, 2011 at 07:26 PM (#3856097)
The easy sabermetric answer to any question about how good a player is is they'll eventually regress to the mean. You don't even have to really have to look at what the player is doing. If you always say "they'll probably average out to about how they've always done" then you'll probably be right 75% of the time, but you haven't really added any information than that above what would be expected by chance. Your kappa sucks.
   21. Dave Cyprian Posted: June 17, 2011 at 07:48 PM (#3856132)
Yeah I meant #18 as a joke. Alas, deadpan is often difficult to convey online.
   22. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: June 18, 2011 at 01:02 PM (#3856692)
No one ever accused Dave Cameron of being terribly bright or diligent.
   23. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: June 18, 2011 at 03:23 PM (#3856734)
and Cameron simply looks at BABIP, HR%, and xFIP compared to ERA. What a half-assed effort at analysis.
Man, that shows where baseball analysis has gotten to, doesn't it? The stuff Dan is calling half-assed would have been generally considered cutting-edge geekery as recently as, what 5-7 years ago? Less?

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