Analyzing the Struggles of Josh Beckett: It's Not the Curveball

Darryl JohnstonContributor IMay 5, 2009

Josh Beckett is not "overusing his curve ball."

This article is a response, in part, to a Boston Globe sports rumor asserting that Josh Beckett has become " Curveball Happy" and has changed his release point.

Neither of these are true.

Josh Beckett is not suddenly "afraid to throw his four-seam fastball" in on left-handed hitters. Critics and expert media personalities want to take casual game observations and summarize a player's problems.

Beckett has allowed too many men on base, by way of the walk and by hit.

Beckett and the Curve

The assertion that Josh Beckett is " curve ball happy" is foolish. Beckett will throw anywhere from 25-35 curve balls in a typical start where he makes around 100 pitches. The data does not lie.

2009 is no different than 2008. Although according to the Boston Globe, a "scout" believes as much.

Beckett's count of a specific pitch varies depending on the opponent. It depends a mountain of variables including the count of left-handed hitters. In some matchups, Beckett throws only four-seam fastballs and curve balls. No changeups, no cutters, and no two-seamers.

Against certain teams Beckett will feed a steady diet of 94-95 MPH fastballs. But against other teams like the Devil Rays, Beckett might work in more curve balls and a hand full more of his two-seam fastball or changeup.

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To make generalizing statements from half-hearted analysis only spawns over-reaction and more "sky is falling" mentalties.

Yet another assertion made from a "scout" surrounding Beckett's early season struggles is that he is releasing his curve ball from a lower point in 2009.

Looking at the data provided by Brooks Baseball's PitchFX tool, Beckett's release point is consistent with 2008 as well. In most starts, his release point on both fastballs and curve balls is about 5 feet 7 inches.

Obviously over the course of the season Beckett's release point might vary by an inch or so but this is not the culprit.

Here is a comparison of two starts:

April 25th, 2009 vs NYY

July 30, 2008 vs LAA

So what is the issue?

Well for starters, as discussed in a previous article on SoxTeaParty.com, Beckett has been plagued by balls in play falling for hits.

Most of the time, you'll get some breaks when a batter makes contact and the ball will find it's way to a fielder. Right now that is not happening as evidenced by Beckett's .398 BABIP. That is just ridiculous. His career BABIP is .301.

What is happening with Beckett is he is simply missing the strike zone and paying for it in spades. He has a little bit of a control problem right now that is being MAGNIFIED by a bloated BABIP.

So he is putting guys on via the walk and then getting bitten for it. Becket has a career strand rate (opposing hitters left on base) of 72%.

In 2009, he currently stranding just 58% of hitters.

Walks + Bloated BABIP = High ERA and Media Overreaction.

This is not the case of a guy with mental or mechanical problems. While it is possible that the incident of "head-hunting" involving Bobby Abreu is affecting him, it appears more that this is really just an elite pitcher who is missing his spots and paying for it with subsequent hitters.

This will change in a hurry. Bank on it.

Red Sox (16-10)

Darryl Johnston is the Red Sox correspondent for Fanball.com. He has many years of sports writing under his championship belts. Email him - redsoxdj@gmail.com