Monday, August 14, 2006
The homer prone Josh Beckett goes for the Sox tonight against the Tigers. It is kind of mystery as to why Beckett has given up so many more gopher balls than in previous seasons since his other peripherals (K/9, BB/9, GB%, LD%) are as expected. One factor has to be the park. The N.L. East is home to more pitching friendly environments like Shea, RKF and Beckett’s former home Dolphins Stadium, than the A.L. East.
Pitch selection could be an issue. As Jeff Bradley states for ESPN Magazine:
On the mound, when in doubt, he rears back and fires. “He’s never going to be a touch-and-feel guy,” says Red Sox pitching coach Al Nipper. “He will challenge hitters with his fastball.” But when hitter have worked the count to their favor this season, Beckett has paid the price.
“His fastball is pretty straight,” says a rival AL scout. “So on days he has been wild in the strike zone, he’s given up the long ball. I think over time, the curveball is going to be a more important pitch for him in this league. He may have to learn how to pitch backwards more, throwing breaking balls in the fastball counts, and vice versa. There’s no shame in that. Randy Johnson used that strategy to become an all-time great.”
The scout’s take is logical. We watched Arroyo pitch backwards, and Pedro throw anything in any count. But the first half of the excerpt is more interesting. Nipper seems to accept the fact that Beckett relies on his heater. So Nipper must feel that Beckett going with the fastball when in trouble is not the problem, thereby disagreeing with the scout’s analysis, or that he can’t change Beckett. Either way, I’m glad that Dave Wallace is back on the bench.