With more than a month of baseball now in the books, analysts and fans alike can look at the sampling size available and make predictions on how individual players and teams will track throughout the remainder of the season.
Sure, anything can happen. Slumps and streaks are a part of the game, but if it’s not something related to a player’s mechanics, often times what you see is what you get.
In Boston, the question being asked is: What are we seeing with Josh Beckett and what are we going to get out of him for the rest of the year?
With seven starts already behind him, the remainder of the season is looking brighter than a Citgo sign in Kenmore Square, and here’s why.
Prior to the start of the season, everybody, including this Red Sox fan, had all but written off Josh Beckett and his ability to make a difference as part of the 2011 team.
Riding high on the offseason acquisitions, Boston-based media latched onto the new faces in the lineup and all but forgot about the former ace, particularly when he dropped down to the fourth spot in the rotation. This did not go unnoticed by Beckett.
Known for his passion and stubbornness on the mound, no one hated Beckett’s disastrous 2010 campaign more than Beckett himself. With a chip on his shoulder and a monkey on his back, he came into the season asking more from himself than even Terry Francona and the city of Boston could, and it has shown through with every start.
Unlike last year, Beckett has regained control of his fastball and he’s hitting his spots. With 40 punch-outs already under his belt, he’s on pace to flirt with his season high strikeout total of 199, which he registered in 2009.
Currently fifth in ERA in all of the Majors, his 1.99 earned run average is also proof that he’s back to painting like Picasso, averaging 5.4 hits per nine innings and keeping opponents from crossing home plate.
Passion and stubbornness have driven him to succeed, but it’s his skills that are paying the bills, or at the very least, making opponents pay.
While Beckett has been great all season long, he’s been absolutely fantastic in the confines of Fenway Park.
With a .034 ERA at home, the best in all of Major League Baseball, the reemerging ace is putting on a show for the hometown crowd.
In his Green Monster debut on April 5, Beckett squared off with the New York Yankees, giving up only two hits and not allowing a single run. Six days later he met the Blue Jays, giving up three hits and one earned run.
That’s ace-like production out of a fourth starter, particularly in the AL East where hitters feast on fastballs like sharks circling chum in the water.
Boston held its breath when Josh Beckett was beaned in the head during an early March spring training drill, but after skipping a start and chasing his headache away, the pitcher seemed fine and showed no sign of further injury.
Whether its blisters, back strains or elbow inflammation, Red Sox fans are used to Beckett hitting the DL.
A recent throwing session with Francona and GM Theo Epstein had many wondering if his early success was too good to be true, but then he came out and held the Minnesota Twins to zero runs in a seven inning performance, putting many worry warts’ fragile baseball anxiety at ease.
If Beckett can stay healthy for the remainder of 2011, there’s nothing keeping him from having a career year.
Yes, currently the Boston Red Sox offense has done little for its pitchers, hitting dismally with runners in scoring position and forcing the arms to keep the team in games, but that can not (and will not) last forever.
With a stacked lineup, this team is the perfect collection of run sorcerers and RBI men to help Beckett have an incredible year. Ellsbury and Crawford have already started to turn it around and Gonzalez is finally hitting the long balls everyone expected him to.
When the lineup gets hot, the pitchers backing them will benefit greatly. That’s something a lot of pitchers on a lot of offensively-anemic teams would give up their best breaking ball for.