A lot of attention has been given to the Red Sox’s three MVP candidates: Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, and Dustin Pedroia. And while they deserve every bit of the attention they’ve been given, Josh Beckett could and should win the Cy Young award.
Josh Beckett went from a power pitcher to a complete pitcher this season. His average fastball velocity has dropped 0.7 MPH since last year and 1.5 MPH since 2007. Last season he threw a fastball 36.3% of the time. Yet, so far this season he has thrown it 34.6% of the time.
Beckett threw his cutter just 0.1% of the time back in 2007 and last season 16.2% of the time. This season though, Beckett has thrown it 20.4% of the time. As for his changeup, he threw it 3.8% of the time in 2007, 11.5% of the time in 2010, and so far 15% of the time in this season. For more, see the data bellow from Fan Graphs.
While people have been noticing Beckett’s bounce back season, it doesn’t seem like people are putting him in the same class with C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander, and Jered Weaver. But, Beckett’s numbers are equal to Sabathia’s , Verlander’s, and Weaver’s.
Some voters don’t seem to care about wins anymore. Felix Hernandez won the A.L. Cy Young award last year with a thirteen and twelve record. In my opinion the best stats to judge a pitcher on are ERA, WHIP, Batting Average Against, Quality Starts, and K/9. Strikeouts per nine innings is a better stat than strikeouts, but isn’t as important as the other four stats.
Here are the four Cy Young candidates’ stats as well as where their stats rank among American League starting pitchers.
When you average their stat ranks, including wins and K/9, Beckett’s average is eight, Sabathia’s is 8.67, Verlander’s average is 1.83, while Weaver’s is 4.5.
Yet, when you average their stat ranks, without wins and K/9, Beckett’s average is three, Sabathia’s is 10.5, Verlander’s average is 1.5, and Weaver’s is two.
But, when you average their stat ranks, not including wins, Beckett’s average is a five, Sabathia is a 10.2, Verlander’s average is a two, and lastly, Weaver has an average on 4.8.
However, when you average their stat ranks, not including K/9, Beckett is a seven, Sabathia is an 8.6, while Verlander’s average is 1.4, and Weaver has an average of 2.2.
What can you take away from this? Well, Sabathia hasn’t been as good as he has been subscribed. He is just benefiting from playing in a large market. Verlander is first, every time you do it, but Weaver follows in at a close second and Beckett is at a somewhat distant third. If you value any three of the stats used above, than it is clear that Sabathia shouldn’t win the award.
Yet, the voters look at more than stats. If you happen to be a big game pitcher that sure helps. When the Angels played in Detroit recently, Weaver and Verlander went head to head. Verlander carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Weaver on the other hand, gave up two home runs, lost his cool, got ejected and subsequently suspended. Weaver cracked under the pressure of having his team no-hit and going up against one of the best. To me, that moment showed that Jered Weaver is not a big game pitcher.
Josh Beckett on the other hand, has a record of three and zero in four starts against the rival, New York Yankees. In those four starts (twenty-seven innings) he has an ERA of 1.00 and an opponent batting average of just .170. Also, against the rival Tampa Bay Rays, Beckett has an ERA of 0.00 and the Rays are hitting just .038 off him this season.
So that leaves Beckett and Verlander. One thing that will help Verlander’s case is his no-hitter this season against the Blue Jays (I guess Toronto forgot to steal signs that day). Yet, if I’m a voter I think the fact that Beckett has reinvented himself as a pitcher will impact my vote. Ohh, and pitching in a bigger market than your “opponent” doesn’t hurt your case.
While the numbers say Verlander should win it, stats can’t tell everything and besides, we still have over seven weeks of baseball to decide on who will be the 2011 A.L. Cy Young award winner.
* All stats as of Thursday, Aug. 11
3.1 innings, four hits, five earned runs, four walks, one home run (Will Venable’s first of the year), a wild pitch, two hit batters, and a big “L” in the loss column. How is it that a man can have those stats against the team that scores the least runs per game? Yet, he can pitch eight “solid” (four earned runs) innings against the N.L. Central leading Brewers.
Maybe, physically something is wrong. He did go on the D.L. on May 17th due to a right elbow strain.
However, manager Terry Francona said, “He’s more than willing to pitch through anything. He said he’s pitched through this before, and worse. But it’s May, not September. If we don’t do something now it might not get better. We talked with the medical staff. I don’t think he’s too happy about it. He’s such a competitor. But it’s the right thing to do.”
The fact that Lackey was willing to pitch through it shows that the injury was relatively minor. A big factor in Lackey’s most recent poor outing was definitely the weather though. The game had a total of four rain delays and two while Lackey was still in.
Catcher Jason Varitek said, “With the delay, it might have shown more maybe in the second inning after he sat down. It looked like he couldn’t get as loose, then once he did, it was pretty wet. It was wet and it was obvious that he was loosing some feel. There was a fastball that shot away from him, some changeups. Couldn’t quite figure out what was the best pitch to get him in the zone with in that situation. It’s a tough one for him to have to wear because he has been throwing the ball well. It was sloppy out there. It was even hard for me to throw balls back to the mound. It was that entire game.”
But, the weather on Wednesday doesn’t fully explain his 7.26 ERA. Maybe something bigger than the game of baseball is affecting Lackey. I think Chris Jones best explained it when he said, “His wife, Krista, has been fighting breast cancer. And now his right arm had failed him, too.”
When Tiger Woods went on his, “leave of absence,” many wondered why Phil Mickelson didn’t go on a tear and start racking up wins. Mickelson’s mother and wife were both fighting breast cancer.
One in two men will get cancer and one in three women will get cancer. It just so happens that his wife is one of those one in three women. When Lackey is pitching it seems to me like his body is on the pitching mound, but his mind is with his wife, wherever she may be.
Lackey is the eighth highest paid pitcher in baseball and signed a five year, $82.5 million contract on December 16, 2009. In Lackey’s last five starts against the Blue Jays, the A’s, the Blue Jays again, the Brewers, and the Padres, Lackey has an ERA of 7.89 with thirteen walks, twenty strikeouts, a record of three and two, and a whip of 1.51.
On the season Lackey is five and six, with a 7.36 ERA, a WHIP of 1.60, has given up eight home runs, and has struck out 38.