Josh Beckett and Chien-Ming Wang — the undisputed aces of the rivalry and not surprisingly the focus of many a debate here at YFSF since the beginning of 2006 — each won their 17th game yesterday. Wang did it in predictable fashion, allowing just eight baserunners in seven-plus innings, and wriggling out of jams via the double play.
Beckett, too, was characteristic, pitching the best game of any starter in the game last night, striking out seven in eight innings, limiting his hits and getting burned just once on a mistake pitch to Matt Stairs. For the record, here are their lines this season:
- Beckett: 17-6, 3.30 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 165 K, 36 BB
- Wang: 17-6, 3.68 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 87 K, 48 BB
It was surprising — at least, to me — that Wang snuck into tying Beckett for the league lead in wins (going 10-2 in your last 13 starts will do it), but there he is. Back into the conversation.
The aces, perhaps as dissimilar as two pitchers can be — the one cool and dispassionate, relying on the grounder and his defense; the other hotheaded and emotional, amping it up for the strikeout in key spots — nevertheless have put up similar numbers this season, with Beckett’s slightly better. The difference has been the role each has been called on to perform.
Wang has carried his team. Aside from Pettitte, and even he only in the second half, the Yanks have not been able to rely on any of their other starting pitchers. Take away the ace, and the Yankee starters’ line crumbles from bad to awful:
- 54-45, 4.77 ERA, 1.44 WHIP
- 37-39, 5.09 ERA, 1.49 WHIP
Beckett, on the other hand, has had far less pressure in compiling his career-high win total (and his second-lowest ERA, a far more impressive feat, considering the division). Matsuzaka and Wakefield have been as good as expected, if not better, Schilling has been solid though not as much as we’d hoped, and the supporting cast of Gabbard, Lester, Tavarez and Buchholz have provided far more out of the five spot than any other comparable starter in the league.
Consequently, removing Beckett from the Sox’ rotation hurts them (obviously), but not as much:
- 70-44, 4.09 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
- 54-51, 4.29 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
Given the choice between the two, I guess you could summarize it this way: Give Beckett a vote for Cy Young, but give Wang a vote for MVP.