Key Stats: Despite the up down up down ERA problems that have been plaguing Beckett the last six years, 2011 was as good as any he has had. His best K:BB ratio in 3 years paired with his highest fly ball rate since his 2002 rookie season paved the way for a ridiculously low .207 opponent batting average.
Skeptics Say: Despite the great season, there are a lot of signs that point to him being lucky. Exhibt A – His 2.89 ERA is accompanied by a FIP and xFIP of 3.57 and 3.58 and his tERA and SIERA were 3.82 and 3.42, respectively. While half run differentials aren’t deal breakers, they do show that for once Beckett had some good luck on his side. The aforementioned .207 opponent AVG was aided by a career best .242 BABIP. The high fly ball rate also came with a HR/FB rate of 9.6, his lowest since 2007. While the 13-7 record isn’t sparkling, all the rest of the numbers point to 2011 being a “career” year for Beckett, and those types of seasons are tough to replicate.
Peer Comparison: Since 2006, Beckett has battled injury and bad luck and made a combined 173 starts. One start behind him over that time period is Aaron Harang. Stop here. I’m not saying that Harang is just as good as Beckett. But looking at their numbers over that time…
Harang spent five years with the Reds and 1 with the Padres in that span, not the Red Sox, so I can forgive the Win/Loss record, however Harang also not been the perfect picture of health having not reached the 30 start mark since 2007. Scary how similar they are. Is Harang that good or is Beckett that bad? Both guys had bounce back 2011 seasons as well. Their ERA/FIP difference in 2011 was also similar, with Beckett at -0.60 and Harang at -0.53. I mentioned the career year 2011 that I claimed Beckett had, but maybe we should be looking at Harang as an under the radar sleeper type? He is in LA now, not San Diego, but that heavy SoCal air still plays well for pitchers…
Rotation Outlook: Boston has a group of good pitchers, but with the exception of Lester, they all have question marks. Will Beckett maintain his ace like performance in 2012 or revert to the up/down roller coaster pitcher he has been for 6 years? Can Clay Buchholz come back from injury and find his 2010 form? Can Daniel Bard successfully switch from setup man to starter. Lackey is out for the year and Matsuzaka (who has largely been a “bust” anyway) is missing a few months and is being replaced in that time by Alfredo Aceves, who has nine career starts in four years.
Projection: Despite the overall vibe of this piece being kinda negative, I’m not totally against Beckett this year. I’m against him repeating his successes from 2011, but I don’t think he’ll be the pitcher he was in 2010 either. He’ll regress some, but still put up numbers worthy of a SP 2 or 3 in your leagues.
14 W, 3.80 ERA, 170 K, 1.14 WHIP in 180 IP