Raise your hand if you though Josh Beckett’s career was over? Yeah, you’re not the only one. I thought so too. Although Stacie thought he might surprise this year. She got the brains in the family for sure.
Beckett hasn’t been one of the most popular Dodgers over the last couple of years. However he’s surprising and delighting us all with a very strong start to the 2014 season.
Beckett was not initially impressive in his first season with the Dodgers in 2012. That year he only pitched in seven games for the Dodgers after being traded in late August. He was 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA, and whiffed 38 and walked 14 in 43 innings. But he gave up as many hits as innings pitched. That’s never a good sign.
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But Beckett was having injury problems, and has been since he was traded to the Dodgers. Last year he battled thoracic outlet syndrome. The injury caused him to go win-less in 2013. That year he was 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA in eight starts. He allowed 50 hits in 43 innings, and posted a 10.4 hits per nine rate. Beckett pitched past the sixth inning only once in 2013. He didn’t pitch at all after May 13th.
Coming into this year there were major question marks surrounding the 33-year old veteran’s health. But after having surgery to correct the TOS during winter, Beckett reported feeling great coming into spring training.
Unfortunately, a thumb injury suffered after slamming his digit into a clubhouse door delayed his return. The Dodgers placed Beckett on the DL, and he did not make the trip to Sydney, Australia for the opening series against the Dbacks. Although Beckett looked pretty good in spring.
So Beckett stayed home and continued to rehab his thumb, and build more arm strength. And thus far he has been very solid this season. His first start against the Tigers on April 9th was a bit shaky. Beckett tossed four innings, and allowed four earned runs on five hits. But he whiffed five and walked just one. He made 85 pitches, and didn’t look terrible.
His next start he pitched five shutout innings against the Giants on April 15th. In that start he allowed just two hits, and whiffed four. Although he did walk five, his stuff looked good. His best start came on April 25th against Colorado. He threw eight innings, allowed just two runs on four hits, and whiffed six without a walk.
All total Beckett is 0-1 with a 3.14 ERA in 28.2 innings pitched in 2014. He’s posted impressive strikeout numbers early on. What’s impressed me most is how he has limited hits and base runners. He’s allowed just 20 hits, and nine walks. That’s a 6.3 hits per nine rate. Limiting hits and base runners is very important for a starting pitcher. This could tell us that Beckett is possibly back.
His strikeouts are back up again too. He’s whiffed 30 this year, for a 9.4 whiff per nine rate. He can’t throw as hard as used to, so this year he’s had to become more of a finesse pitcher. But who says he can’t strike guys out anymore? His breaking balls have looked sharp, and seem to have that bite back on them. Beckett has allowed just ten earned runs all season.
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Having Beckett healthy for the postseason could prove to be very valuable for the Dodgers. Beckett has excelled in the playoffs during his career. The former World Series MVP has seven wins, and a 3.07 career Postseason ERA. The veteran has three postseason complete game shutouts, and has whiffed 99 in 93 Postseason innings. Beckett has always been a big game pitcher.
Everyone was skeptical of Beckett’s return this year. But the veteran has said that he feels really good this season, and his arm feels great. It helps that he’s limiting line drives too. Beckett’s opponents are hitting line drives at an 18% clip this year, That’s his lowest clip since 17.6% in 2011. Last year it was at 24%. That’s a big difference.
He’s also been mixing his pitches better. Last year he threw his fastball 45% of the time. This year he’s mixing that sharp breaking ball, and cutter in with the heaters. His fastball percentage this year is 35.7%, with his cutter being put into the mix at 20%. He’s thrown his curve 28% of the time, up from 19% last season, and his changeup has been used over 15% of the time. That’s a big indicator that he is healthy, and feeling better.
All that has made for a strong return to form from Beckett. The reports of Josh Beckett’s Baseball demise have been greatly exaggerated. He’s not the dominating pitcher he once was, but he is still pretty effective when healthy. The Dodgers job is to squeeze the last bit of Baseball juice from his body before his career ends. But judging by Beckett’s new found health, that won’t be for quite a while.