According to Baseball Prospectus, Josh Beckett is among the AL leaders in Quality Batters Faced (total OPS of the lineups he’s pitched to is 20 points higher than league average). That could explain some of his roller-coaster season, one in which he’s lately been on the upswing:
- 1st 3 starts: 3-0, 1.29 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 0 HR (Tex, Tor, Sea)
- Starts 4-6: 0-1, 9.56 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 6 HR (Tor, Cle, Tor)
- Starts 7-10: 4-0, 2.33 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 4 HR (NYY, Bal, Phi, TB)
- Starts 11-14: 0-2, 13.50 ERA, 2.47 WHIP, 7 HR (Tor, NYY, Tex)
- Starts 15-18: 3-0, 2.49 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 3 HR (Atl, Phi, NYM)
Beckett had first-time success against New York, Toronto and Texas, but those potent lineups lit him up the second time around. Tampa Bay is not quite in a league with those, but they’re not bad. Will they figure out Beckett (Philadelphia couldn’t, but being in the National League they don’t play against real teams as often as Tampa does)?
The Rays will counter with Scott Kazmir, who was lethal earlier this year, but has just one quality start since May 21 and was lit up by the Sox on May 26 (5.3 IP, 5 ER). So this could be a pitcher’s duel or a slugfest — or a rout. In any case, we’ll start to get an idea of whether the Sox are as good as their record shows, or if they’ve been merely feasting on a subpar league.