So you turned on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball last week expecting to see a high scoring affair between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. But as you're watching the game progress, you become confused at what you are seeing.
You check the program to make sure it isn't a 2007 replay, which it surely must be because Josh Beckett is looking like an ace. He's locating his fastball in the corners and snapping his curveball over the plate, enticing batters to swing through again and again. Once you assured yourself that it was indeed 2011, you wonder to yourself if Beckett can return to the pitcher who led the Red Sox to a World Series Championship in 2007.
Yes, this is a slight exaggeration of what was running through baseball fans' minds on that Sunday but it left a lot of people curious as to which Beckett they can expect to see this year. This is especially true for fantasy owners trying to figure out what version of Beckett they have on their roster. If you are not sure whether you should sell high or ride the hot hand, I'm here to tell you that Josh is back to his old ways.
The difference Beckett has shown this year that makes me a strong believer once again is the command he has shown with all of his pitches. He has left batters off balance, mixing his fastball with a sharp breaking ball. Beckett has also thrown the highest percentage of change ups (15.5 percent) in his Red Sox career to give hitters a different look. The command and bite of his curveball is extremely encouraging and has been his best weapon thus far.
His FIP currently sits at a very strong 1.96, a hair's breadth higher than his ERA stands (1.80). If Beckett is able to avoid the disabled list for a long period of time, I expect his numbers to fall somewhere between his 2007 and 2009 totals.
My prediction: 16 wins, 3.56 ERA, 190 K's, 1.20 WHIP.
These type of numbers should make any fantasy owner happy based on his Average Draft Position on both Yahoo! and ESPN.
Red Hot Lowrie
Jed Lowrie continued to be the spark plug the Sox needed, recording 4 hits, including a home run, against the Blue Jays on Monday. Jed has as many hits in the past three games as Carl Crawford has had all season. Manager Terry Francona has been riding his hot bat lately and it only seems to be getting hotter.
Lowrie is only owned in 4.3 percent of ESPN leagues and 27 percent in Yahoo!. He is at least worth an add as a bench candidate on your team as he fills both middle infield positions and may even gain eligibility at 3B at some point this year.
It will be very hard for Francona to start Marco Scutaro in favor of Lowrie at this point, and I expect to see Lowrie named the Red Sox starting shortstop very soon. He has showed great extra-base power during the last few months of 2010 and the start of this year, something the shortstop position lacks.