After defeating the Yankees in 2003 as a member of the Florida Marlins, Josh Beckett officially became an ace. While his ’03 season was impressive in its own right (3.04 ERA, 142 IP), his dominant post-season performance gave him the stage he needed to show the world how great he could be.
Two more solid seasons with the Marlins only reinforced this, and then the Red Sox came calling. Boston agreed to part with its best prospect, Hanley Ramirez (probably the best prospect since Nomar Garciaparra), to make Beckett their number one starter…a Yankee killer.
Five up-and-down seasons later, Beckett hasn’t live up to that potential. Only one of those five seasons could truly be called ace-worthy (2007), and he’s actually had an ERA over 5.00 in two of them (2006, 2010). All of this begs the question, “Is Beckett really that good?”
I’m not going to sit here and pretend to tell you how awesome Beckett is and how I think he’ll rebound in 2011 to become the front line starter we peg him as every season (much like Zack Greinke). At this point in his career he has shown us he can be great or he can be terrible. The trick is finding where in the draft it’s worth taking the risk. I wouldn’t want Beckett to be my team’s number one starter any more than I'd want Michael Vick to be my dog walker.
Now in his 10th season, Beckett has developed some definite strengths and weaknesses, so what should we know before getting involved with this perennial heartbreaker?
Beckett finished with WHIPs of 1.14, 1.19 and 1.19 in the three years prior to 2010, respectively, due in part to underrated control (again, prior to 2010) and a better-than-league-average opponents’ average (.249 career). He's a good strikeout pitcher, averaging 188 Ks from 2007-2009, and he's maintained low fly ball rates and a career GB:FB ratio of 1.25. His first-pitch strike rate was up each year from 2007-2009.
Beckett only started 30-plus games in three of nine full seasons, he's allowed 45 home runs in last two seasons combined and 36 in 2006 alone, and his career 4.59 ERA at Fenway Park is way too high (career 3.68 everywhere else).
What we notice from this quick exercise is that Beckett was actually fairly reliable in the three years prior to last season’s injury-induced meltdown. He’s hardly durable, and Fenway hasn’t been his friend, but Beckett has solid peripherals that indicate he still has what it takes to be a successful starter. Unlike Florida’s newest acquisition, Javier Vazquez, Beckett’s velocity didn’t drop suddenly, so we have little reason to expect a serious injury is lurking out of sight.
From a fantasy perspective, I currently have Beckett ranked as the 27th best starter just behind Dan Haren, Roy Oswalt, Shaun Marcum and Matt Garza and just ahead of Tim Hudson, Ryan Dempster, Jonathan Sanchez, and Ricky Nolasco. Given his talent, win potential, and Boston’s improved bullpen, I think Beckett is a good risk to take for 2010.
16-8 | 3.55 ERA | 1.17 WHIP | 186 K | 8.60 K/9 |195 IP