Sox Spring Round-Up II: More on Nick’s Favorite Human

Up late, catching up after a busy week.

Many people have sung the praises of Rob Bradford, the North Andover Eagle-Tribune’s Red Sox beat writer. His dual stories on J.D. Drew were excellent — far better than other "Hall of Fame" reporters we could name. Today, he has aa lengthy exclusive interview with Josh Beckett, future 30-game winner.

Let me regress by saying that after eight months of hearing everyone say Beckett should have thrown his curveball more, I was surprised to open my Bill James Abstract and find that Beckett actually threw a curveball on 20 percent of his pitches — fifth-most in the AL and above his career average. Unable to reconcile this discrepancy, I filed it away.

Now, lo and behold, here is Bradford with this tidbit:

In Beckett’s opinion, it was always his changeup which was his priority when setting up hitters. The statistics bear that out, with the righty throwing the pitch 13 percent of the time before he came to Boston. Despite Beckett throwing it faster than most traditional changeups (his ranges between 81 and 87 mph), hitters only managed a .198 batting average against the offspeed offering, while chasing (swinging at a pitch out of the strike zone) an impressive 34 percent of the time.

According to the article, Beckett’s resurgence in six of his seven final starts occurred because he threw the change more — enough to raise his season average to 10 percent. Beckett already had one of the three most effective curveballs in the league in 2006, measuring by BA plus SLG. If he improves on a similarly effective changeup, his fastball (third-fastest in the league in 2006) would presumably return to its devastating form. This is highly encouraging.

And incidentally, an 85-mph changeup is just fine when you’re averaging 95 mph on your fastball, like Beckett did last year.

More random notes from my late-night hours on the Interwebs after the jump

  • Bradford has a blog, which you should immediately bookmark.
  • Among the tidbits on that blog? Just two teams of the six to win the Series since 2001 have had the same closer at the end of the year as they did on Opening Day (’02 Angels and ’04 Sox). There’s plenty others, but you should read it yourself. 
  • Wondering what newly minted most-beloved Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn is up to? Now you know.
  • Keith Foulke, of course, has retired. The comments to Buster Olney’s ESPN story on this are just idiotic. Particularly when you consider that Foulke could have reported to spring training, retired and pocketed $5 million. Instead, he took the classy way out and retired and let the Indians keep their money.
  • Revenue sharing’s a bitch, eh, YFs? Just after the Texas Rangers reportedly say they plan to make a run at signing Teixiera, the Twinkies (and Dave Pinto) say they might have enough dough to lock up Johan Santana. And Zambrano says he’s close to a deal with the Cubs
  • This just in: Coco Crisp’s throwing arm? Not so great. Johnny Damon’s throwing arm? Even worse. But Manny Ramirez kicks butt out there in left. I suspect this is where the Monster helps rather than hurts him.
12 comments… add one
  • I was wondering if you’d point out that article, Paul. Thanks for not disappointing me. It could just be the February Kool-Aid, but I have a good feeling about Josh this year. Moreso than I did last year, actually.
    I do hope the Twins can somehow find the money to keep Santana (ditto the Cubs with Big Z). Not just to keep him away from the Yankees, mind, but because that’s what Minnesota fans deserve. They should get to see their franchise pitcher on the mound of their new stadium after it’s built. It only seems right.

    mouse - SF February 17, 2007, 4:22 am
  • I will pre-empt the Yankees fans who don’t get Paul’s joke:
    “30 wins? Yeah, over the next three seasons! OH, SNAP!”
    Now back to your regularly scheduled blogging. And I hope to God I am not right about this projection, either.

    SF February 17, 2007, 7:34 am
  • Great stuff Paul. That data is encouraging for Beckett.

    YF February 17, 2007, 9:44 am
  • “I do hope the Twins can somehow find the money to keep Santana”
    Oh, the Twins have the money. Twins owner Carl Pohlad is a billionaire banker/investor who has viewed the Twins as an investment and has been reluctant to pour anymore money into the franchise then is absolutely necessary.
    Pohlad is 89, and he can’t take it with him. Why not beef up the Twin’s payroll and improve their chances at another ring before he heads up to that big savings and loan in the sky? But that’s just me.
    The Twins did get a sweet deal recently with their signing of Joe Mauer to a 4 yr. 33 mil. contract extension. PECOTA projects Mauer to be worth 140 mil. over those 4 seasons.

    Whatever February 17, 2007, 10:33 am
  • The Bradford article on Beckett is a bit confusing. What does Beckett mean that he has to trust Varitek more? One of the implications of the article is that Varitek and whoever else was calling the pitches and misidentified Beckett as primarily as fastball-curve guy (with very little emphasis on the change). Beckett knew this in his heart but he didn’t speak up, presumably because he didn’t want to undermine Varitek, or maybe I’m misreading this. Beckett says in the article that if Varitek calls a fast ball twenty straight times, you should do it because the captain knows what he’s doing. But isn’t the basic idea of the article that Beckett was better served following his instinct?

    Nick-YF February 17, 2007, 10:36 am
  • “I will pre-empt the Yankees fans who don’t get Paul’s joke:
    “30 wins? Yeah, over the next three seasons! OH, SNAP”
    SF, thanks for spoiling my fun. I was going to say over the rest of his career, though.
    Seems to me that Beckett got hammered last year when he couldn’t throw his curve for a strike. Since I don’t have James yet, is there any data on the percentage of his curves which were called strikes?

    Andrews February 17, 2007, 11:17 am
  • I suppose that would be ok if his career lasted just one more year and he won 30 games in ’07 while leading the Sox to a title.

    SF February 17, 2007, 11:29 am
  • Uh, no it wouldn’t. 1 year? C’mon, he’s a youngster.I kind of like the prospect of a 5 wins/6yr finish.

    Andrews February 17, 2007, 11:34 am
  • How many of the dingers were on fastballs, how many on hanging heaters?

    YF February 17, 2007, 12:27 pm
  • My memory tells me he gave up many home runs on flat, high fastballs.
    I wonder how bad my memory is, though. Good question.

    SF February 17, 2007, 12:39 pm
  • Control is definitely the key to Beckett’s problems in 2006. He was among the best in the league in BAA, fastest fastballs, unhittable curveballs, etc etc etc. His walks were high and his home runs were atrocious.
    You have to assume that his poor control led to his home runs, but just 16 of his 36 home runs allowed were when the hitter was ahead or the count was full. Only two were on 3-1 counts, just one was on a 2-0 count, and none was on a 3-0 count. So, who knows? I can’t find any data as to what pitches the home runs were off of, or what Beckett;s strike percentage was for each pitch. Sure would be nice if those were available somewhere…

    Paul SF February 17, 2007, 2:05 pm
  • even i’ve admitted that beckett will probably have a better year this year…maybe another year under his belt, or the influence of a new pitching coach, less attention on him because of dm, whatever the reason, he’ll do better…
    foulke did show a lot of class…good to hear that acknowledged, especially since i sensed some animosity after he hinted that he didn’t really want to stay with the sox…he also could have kept boston’s money by exercising his player option…
    can’t believe you guys are still trying the “coco’s better than damon” angle…i’m sure he’s better than him at something, but give it up already…he got away from you and coco was the best available…could work out over the long haul, but you couldn’t tell that by the first year…
    revenue-sharing: not all of the yf’s think it’s a bad thing to even the playing field…especially if the other teams actually spend the money, something that’s not currently verified…a team signing a player to a long term contract doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t trade him anyway [look how many times you guys tried to trade manny]…you could argue that a signed player has more trade value than one with impending free agency…no, competition is good…if the yanks were free to just bully the rest of mlb for free agents, it wouldn’t be as sweet to win a ws…the whine about the yanks just buying the ws would have a truer ring to it than it does now…
    good sportswriting = optimistic puff pieces with strong pro-sox bias
    bad sportswriting = hall of fame credentials, sacrifices popularity for telling it like it is

    dc February 17, 2007, 6:52 pm

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