Josh Beckett is now 31-years old. His fastball tops out around 91 miles-per-hour, and he is far from the overpowering pitcher he was just a few years ago. Yet in today's 12-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox starter threw eight innings, giving up just five hits and walking one.
How did the same guy who gave up five home runs last week against the Detroit Tigers turn around and put in this type of performance? Beckett did what most great pitchers do on the down slope of their career—he adjusted.
Instead of challenging hitters with his fastball, Beckett was able to throw it in a way that creates contact and gets outs. Power has been replaced by command, challenge has been replaced by confidence in his stuff and it showed.
Beckett induced 14 fly-ball outs, nine ground outs and struck out just one batter (Carlos Pena, 8th Inning) in what should become the blueprint for Beckett going forward.
Beckett has averaged at least 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings every season since coming to Boston in 2006. While this has contributed to both his and the team's success, it is clear that the days of 95=mile-per-hour fastballs from Beckett are gone.
Instead, Beckett must utilize his change up and curve ball, both of which are among the best in the league, to keep hitters guessing. This might sound like a given, but for older pitchers who lose that four-to-five miles per hour off their fastball it becomes a necessary part of staying successful.
It is unrealistic to expect Beckett to replicate this performance every five days, but if he can give us even 80 percent of this (around 7 innings, 4-8 hits, 0-3 runs) it will go a long way to getting the Red Sox back into the playoffs for the first time since 2009.