Josh Beckett should be right dab smack in the middle of a Hall of Fame career. He should be, but when he retires, whenever that day may come, he will not be a Hall of Famer. He will be a pitcher who had a very good career and was part of (at least) 2 World Series Championship teams. He’ll have an ALCS MVP on his resume’, along with a World Series MVP, and whether anyone else remembers it or not, I’ll remember how he was jobbed out of the 2007 Cy Young Award by C.C. Sabathia (yes, Cleveland fans, I remember how Beckett eviscerated Sabathia in games 1 and 5 of the ALCS. Just another reason voting should be held after the post-season.) Still, he is not an elite, all-time pitcher, because he is not consistent.
Now when consistency is talked about with regard to pitchers, it’s usually a start to start thing. Phrases such as “we just don’t know which Pitcher X is going to show up today” are bandied about. That’s not really been Josh Beckett’s problem throughout his career. For him, his inconsistency has been on a season to season basis, but he’s been so consistent with his inconsistencies it’s become a pattern.
Since his debut in 2001, Beckett has posted a 76-38 (.667) record, with a 3.17 ERA, and a 1.16 WHIP in odd-numbered years. On the flip side, in years that are even-numbered (stats current through 07.20.2012) he is 54-51, with a 4.54 ERA, and a 1.29 WHIP. His even-year won-loss totals are skewed by his 2006 season, the first that he spent with the Boston Red Sox. Due to a plethora of run support he managed to put up a 16-11 mark, despite a 5.01 ERA. That is the second-highest ERA he has posted in a single-season (he put up a 5.78 ERA in 2010.) In fact, his five worst ERA seasons have come in even-numbered years.
Since his much ballyhooed arrival in 2006, I have tried to figure out what was up with him. In 2006, I and many of my fellow Red Sox fans put the blame on the adjustment period from switching from the NL to the AL. Surely that was all it was, and the 2006 season would prove to be an aberration, a minor bump in the road on his way to a string of 20+ win seasons.
The 2007 season seemed to prove us correct, and fresh off of a World Series win, nothing less was expected out of Beckett or the Sox in 2008. Unfortunately, Red Sox Nation was in for disappointment that season, and for Beckett, it’s only been a downward slide in even-numbered years since.
There is no logical reasoning behind the pattern that has been Beckett’s career. There is no reason why he should show up one season as Dr. Beckett and carve the league up, and then the next season show up and look like nothing more than organizational depth. His stuff is the same, but he just doesn’t get the job done. Perhaps he’s a guy that baseball is something that he’s always been good at, and he simply doesn’t have it in him to push for greatness every season. Maybe he is a player that would perform more consistently if the Seitz decision had never come down. I’m open to pretty much any hypothesis at the moment, given Beckett’s performance in 2012, and where that has left the Boston Red Sox in the standings.
Or perhaps he’s just a guy who’s got a mental block against even numbers. Whatever the reason is, his roller coaster performance from season to season prevents him from ever entering the conversation about the greatest pitchers of all-timer, or even greatest active pitchers.
Any helpful hints for Beckett?
Let me know: