Josh Beckett appeared rejuvenated in 2011, as his numbers made us think of his glory years (as inconsistent as those have been):
175 Strikeouts (8.16 K/9)
52 Walks (2.42 BB/9)
Before we start assuming that he is going to be an ace pitcher once again in 2012, I already noted that he has never been the most consistent pitcher from year-to-year. He hasn’t posted an ERA under 4.00 in back-to-back seasons since he came to Boston, trading good years with bad. He’s spent six seasons in Boston and he has posted ERAs above 4.00 three times (including two years above 5.00).
That history alone makes him a risky option, but the underlying numbers also scream for a potential regression. The BABIP is clearly a lucky number. It was actually only the second time since 2002 that he has posted a mark better than .283 (he had a .262 mark in ’06). In other words, does anyone believe there is any chance that he gets this lucky once again?
The same thing can be said for his strand rate, which was at 80.0% in ’11. Since 2004 he only had one other season with a mark better than 72.1% (he had a 75.2% mark in 2007). When you have that track record over a length of time that someone like Beckett does, certain things become easy to predict. It should be a pretty clear assumption that Beckett is going to regress here as well.
You put those two numbers together and it is easy to think that his ERA is going to rise, and potentially significantly. That said I also wouldn’t go into the season assuming that it is going to surpass 4.00 once again either. With his tremendous control (2.73 BB/9 for his career) and consistent strikeout rate (which we will discuss in a minute), he should post one of the better WHIPs in the league. Since 2007 he has been above 1.19 just once, which speaks volumes.
As for the strikeouts, it is a number that we can predict fairly easily. The only time he has been below the 8.16 K/9 that he posted in ’11 was in ’06, when he posted a poor 6.95 mark. He has consistently been in the low-to-mid eight range, a number that is more than usable.
Obviously pitching in the AL East is not going to be an easy task, especially with the Blue Jays trying to improve and become a competitive force. Of course, he went 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA in five starts against the Yankees in ’11 (a year after posting a 10.04 ERA in five starts against them). The bottom line is that when Beckett is on, the opponent doesn’t really matter.
Pitching in Boston brings plenty of win potential, something that we are all aware of. You can’t look at his 13 wins for 2011, because if the rest of the team had been playing well he easily could’ve won at least 17 or 18.
You put it all together and get the following projection for 2012:
200.0 IP, 16 W, 3.78 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 182 K (8.19 K/9), 55 BB (2.48 BB/9)
Would anyone complain about those types of numbers? He’s obviously not a pitcher that you want to bank on as a fantasy ace, but if you can get him as a low-end SP2 or your SP3, you should be in pretty good shape. That’s not to say that there is no risk involved (as we know), but the upside outweighs the risk.
What are your thoughts of Beckett? Is he a player you will target in 2011? Why or why not?
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Make sure to check out our other 2012 projections: