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Don’t count on Josh Beckett bouncing back

Jan 13, 2011, 8:25 AM EDT

Josh Beckett

John Tomase of the Boston Herald has some bad news for Sox fans who are counting on Josh Beckett bouncing back in 2011:

Virtually every pitcher to struggle like Beckett did last season not only was never the same, but almost to a man failed to produce a single, solitary above-average season thereafter. …

… Thanks to the magic of baseball-reference.com, it was easy to sort for pitchers in their 30s who posted ERAs above 5.75 while pitching at least 125 innings. The search returned 69 such seasons by 66 different pitchers … Of those 66 pitchers, only three managed to regain something even remotely approximating their form, at least as starters.

One small quibble: Baseball-Reference.com isn’t magic. It’s unadulterated genius.  Otherwise: whoa. Tomase acknowledges that such results don’t mean that Beckett can’t buck it. But it does show that hardly anyone ever does. Whether a pitcher Beckett simply ages quickly or whether he stumbles because of injury, bouncing back is exceedingly uncommon.

But hey: at least that contract extension was well-timed.

  1. bobwsc - Jan 13, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    Tomase should know, as he’s never bounced back from his bullsh|t story of the Pats taping the Rams pre-Super Bowl practice. if anyone could be perceived as a lower form of Boston-media life than Dan Shaughnessey, Tomase takes the cake (and eats one a day too)

  2. phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    i read the title and then the first line and i got so excited that i had to change my shorts. then i read the rest and i say WTF! i hate stupid stats like that. while i HOPE and Believe that Beckett will not be anything close to his former self i would not bet on it due to “all the others that were in his situation”. ive said since the Crawford trade that the Sox rotation isnt anything special. all they got is Lester and Bucholtz. after that they got 2 walking ER’s in Josh and Dice-K and and over paid and overrated Lackey. Granted the Yanks aint looking too much better but still the Crawford/Gonzalez upgrade does not make the Sox all that much better than the 2010 Sox.

    • Lukehart80 - Jan 13, 2011 at 9:30 AM

      You hate precedent? Okay, I agree that the study has some holes Tomase doesn’t point out (how many of those 66 pitchers had seasons as good as Beckett before their bad season???), but I don’t think it’s a “stupid” list either.

      Also, I disagree: Crawford and Gonzalez DO make the team better, even factoring in the loss of Beltre. Plus, improved health would be a key factor in the improvement many expect to see from the Red Sox. I still expect the Yankees to win the division, but you seem to be selling Boston short.

      • bigharold - Jan 13, 2011 at 1:32 PM

        If you check the last year’s stats for offense of Beltre/Martinez .vs Gonzalez/Crawford you will find them nearly identical. And, keep in mind that Martinez’s production was based on only 127 games. So, last year’s RS combo played in 10% fewer games than their replacements but got just about the same results. The widely suggested improvement in Gonzalez’ offensive numbers resulting in playing in Fenway vs SD’s might only make them even. One could argue that while the OF defense is improved you would have to concede that the infield defense is slightly worse, but not by much.

        The best thing about the RS acquisitions this off season is that it made the RS younger and locked in talent for a long period of time, (assuming the signing of Gonzalez goes through after the first of the year). The notion that it in and of makes the RS better is tenuous at best. Until proven otherwise all the RS did was replace talent that they let walk after last season.

  3. phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    ok first of all i said that they were better just not MUCH better. im not getting into it but quite a few ppl have posted the numbers and the Beltre/Vmart numbers were not that much worse then the Gonzolez/Crawford and Gonzolez has never really been on a competing team for the most part. and yes the fact the half the Sox were injured last yr and assuming that they are all back to good health the sox will def be in the playoffs. it truly depends on what the Yanks pick up in regards to pitching. im not worried about the Yankees lineup in that Jeter and Arod will probably be back in form. the Sox and Yanks will be batteling the whole season im sure but if they dont make a move by the deadline the Sox will win the division.

  4. BC - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    I think Lackey will be better this year, but I think Beckett is losing it. He can look dominating for 3 innings and then can’t find the plate and starts giving up bombs. I’m wondering if there isn’t something wrong with his back or something and he just has his mechanics all dgfzfidugisfhafhafhi up.

    • lardin - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:35 AM

      Thats what happens when a pitcher only has two pitches and cant throw his curveball for strikes.

  5. thinman61 - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    2010 was Josh’s worst major league season measured by ERA, but not by FIP or xFIP. That distinction belongs to 2006.

    2006: 5.01 ERA, 5.12 FIP, 4.39 xFIP
    2010: 5.78 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 4.01 xFIP

    Josh followed that injury plagued 2006 season with the following:

    2007: 3.27 ERA, 3.08 FIP, 3.43 xFIP

    Then again, expecting Tomase to grok stats like FIP or xFIP is probably asking way too much. Cue tired overworked cliche about basement dwellers and slide rules.

    • Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:12 AM

      Thanks, you made me feel better. I don’t think he’s bouncing back to an ’07 line, but even if he isn’t a Cy Young candidate ever again, putting up numbers more in line with his peripherals would be huge.

      • thinman61 - Jan 13, 2011 at 12:40 PM

        Yeah, but at this point I don’t think we need him to bounce back to an ’07 line. If he can get to where he’s a decent #3, that should be good enough.

  6. proudlycanadian - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    As a Jay’s fan, I am counting on both Beckett and Burnett not bouncing back.

  7. phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    well if i were a betting man i would say your AJ comment is a good bet. trade him for Ollie.

    • pisano - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:06 AM

      Trade for anyone breathing!

    • Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:10 AM

      Besides the fact that I disagree with you on everything ever, PY, could you start using the reply button? kthxbai

      • phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:48 AM

        i cannot make promises but i will try. what exactly do you disagree with me on here? seriously? forget for a second that you are the son of Satan (read Red Sox fan) and tell me what im wrong about.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 12:22 PM

        Haha, I’m kidding on the “everything ever”. But actually I’m among the few that think Burnett can bounce back decently next year. I don’t think he’ll be the pitcher he was three or four years ago, but the chances he can be above-average again are better than I think some people think.

        I also disagree (again) with your idea that 2010 Crawford/Gonzalez are a wash for Beltre/Martinez.

        By old-school (i.e. NOT GOOD) statistics:

        Beltre/Martinez: 48 HRs, 148 Rs, 181 RBIs, 3 SBs
        Crawford/Gonzalez: 50 HRs, 197 RBIs, 47 SBs

        And then remember that Beltre/Martinez were hitting in Fenway, while Crawford/Gonzalez were hitting in two pitcher’s parks (one an EXTREME pitcher’s park).

        By a more overall not-junk set of stats, Crawford and Gonzalez produced 12.2 WAR last to Beltre/Martinez’s 11.1.

        And, of course, that’s LAST year. Moving forward, the difference between a younger Crawford/Gonzalez and an older Beltre/Martinez just gets bigger.

        Plus, of course, they missed half a season each of their two best players last year. Off a team that scored the second most runs in the majors.

        So tell me, by what measurement are they close?

        P.S. Thanks for using the reply button! Otherwise things get really messy.

      • hackerjay - Jan 13, 2011 at 2:24 PM

        Ari, it kind of seems like your stats are backing up exactly the opposite of what you were trying to say. phukyouk said that Gonzalez/Crawford wouldn’t be a huge step up from where the Sox were last year with Beltre/Martinez, and you’ve just shown that (by war) the new duo is only worth another 1.1 wins over what they did last year. In other words, they would have still missed the playoffs by five to six games.

        I think the Crawford/Gonzalez move was the right one, especially since they have a better chance of continued production then Beltre/Martinez do, but I think that putting hope in those two getting the team back to the playoffs by themselves is silly. If the Red Sox don’t have a better rotation and better health next year, they will be on the outside looking in again.

      • phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 2:32 PM

        GAHHHHH! i never said wash. i said NOT MUCH BETTER. there is a difference and if you look at the numbers that you posted only the SB’s are huge and to be honest while SB’s are nice they are not as big a game changer as RBI, ERA or Runs. yes the two of them are an upgrade. you would be an idiot not to see that but its going from a Camry to a Lexus not a Corolla to a Lexus and certainly not to a Jag. im just saying for all they hype over the last 6 weeks the Sox did not become this awesome unstoppable powerhouse. Like i said 6 weeks ago they got themselves another 5 or 6 wins which probably puts them in First place with the Yanks in their current form in second and the jays/Rays and yes even the O’s fighting for 3rd. i think the AL east will be alot of fun this yr. keep in mind that IF the Yankees get a solid starter between now and July 31 and thats a HUGE IF then everything changes. the Sox rotation is still pretty crappy in its current form and if Josh/Dice-K and Lackey dont show up its a 3 way race for first.

        also dont give me that pitchers bullcrap. i cannot stand it. Gonzolez is coming from a team that 3 yrs ago finished with 99 losses, 2 yrs ago finished with 87 losses and then last yr blew a 10 game lead to not make the playoffs. lets see how he does in the AL east when every gddamn day the press is up his *ss for not running something out fast enough or not making a good play. and Crawford is coming from a team that had TWO good seasons in it entire existence.

        All i am saying is lets see these guys perform on the REALLY big stage and then we can talk.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 2:46 PM

        The other thing that makes it more of a difference than that 1 win is who the players are replacing. It’s not really Crawford/Gonzalez versus Beltre/Martinez, it’s Crawford/Gonzales/Saltalamacchia versus Beltre/Martinez/McDonald. The output the Sox got from the OF was replacement level last year, and adding Crawford (and a healthier Ellsbury/Cameron platoon) makes for a much bigger difference than the difference between an older injured Victor last year and Saltalamacchia this year (who’s projected to be an average ML catcher, with of course plenty of downside and upside).

        But the important thing really is that this comparison comes from PY’s earlier argument that 2010 Crawford/Gonzalez is no better than 2010 Beltre/Martinez. I thought I’d tackle him on his own ground, but for sure the more important thing is whether 2011 Crawford/Gonzalez is better than 2011 Beltre/Martinez. And given the age differences, the chances are the difference will widen to more than a single win.

        (Plus, of course, Boston netted 3 extra draft picks through the exchange, thanks to an entirely broken compensation system.)

        And yeah, like you said, health is a big part of it too. The Sox practically have to be healthier than last year. But PY has been saying that the health bounceback will add wins but the FA moves the Sox have done are a wash for what they had. The truth is that the health bounceback will be huge, but that the FA moves have added account for probably two or three additional wins over what Boston had last year. And that’s without getting into the bullpen, which is hard to quantify, but given that Boston had two serviceable relievers all year last year, adding Wheeler and Jenks (and assorted random other guys, one of which might turn into a serviceable reliever) has to make a decent difference itself.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 3:04 PM

        Sorry, PY, looks like I did misunderstand you! I do agree that over last year’s numbers, Crawford/Gonzalez are probably only a two or three win upgrade, but I think it could be more given the pitcher’s parks. I’m not sure how you can believe that Crawford and Gonzalez won’t do well on “the big stage,” or how that’s a bigger difference than what moving from pitcher’s parks to Fenway will do to their numbers.

        The “big stage” thing is a storyline that is only applied after the fact. If someone comes to the East Coast and does really well, we say they thrive on the big stage, and if they come to the East Coast and do poorly, we say it’s because they couldn’t handle the big stage, but isn’t it far more likely that they just did poorly or well for other reasons? We can’t say what difference the “big stage” even makes, let alone whether or not it actually makes any difference.

        Pitcher’s parks and hitter’s parks, on the other hand, make huge demonstrable differences to players’ performances, and you have to adjust for that. No one thinks that Carlos Gonzalez would have put up those numbers playing in Petco. Offenses in Petco score 20% fewer runs than those in average parks, and Fenway is a more than average park, offense-wise. That’s why Boston hitters and (especially) Padres pitchers are always a bit overrated, and you have to take that into account when comparing these guys. (Of course, the inverse is true, that Boston pitchers and Petco hitters are underrated if you just flat ignore context.) Honestly, if you think that Adrian Beltre would have had those numbers in Petco or Victor those numbers in TB, you’re just not fully aware of the differences in these stadiums.

      • phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 3:08 PM

        O.M.F.G. seriously bro learn to read. i NEVER SAID NO BETTER! I actually said
        first time : “he Crawford/Gonzalez upgrade does not make the Sox all that much better than the 2010 Sox.”
        Second time ” ok first of all i said that they were better just not MUCH better ”
        Third time ” GAHHHHH! i never said wash. i said NOT MUCH BETTER.”
        Fourth time: “O.M.F.G. seriously bro learn to read. i NEVER SAID NO BETTER! I actually said
        first time : “he Crawford/Gonzalez upgrade does not make the Sox all that much better than the 2010 Sox.”
        Second time ” ok first of all i said that they were better just not MUCH better ”
        Third time ” GAHHHHH! i never said wash. i said NOT MUCH BETTER.””

        and i also said that adding the two of them plus the health will add 5-6 wins. seriously.. i enjoy talking baseball with you but the whole not reading thing is pissing me off.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 5:56 PM

        Sorry, dude. Definitely misread you. Although, actually, I think what MIGHT have happened is conflating your “they didn’t get THAT much better” with bigharold’s “it’s a wash at best”. And also conflated your argument with uyf’s.

        Also, my last post took so long (way too long really) to write that you’d posted your next one before, making it look like I ignored you. I didn’t! I just hadn’t seen it yet.

        P.S. Did you make that last post fold back in on itself like that on purpose? That’s pretty sweet, dude.

      • phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 8:25 PM

        LOL yea.. i figured i would be covering my bases in case you misread/misquoted me again.

        oh and i honestly do not believe that AJ has a comeback in him. i would not be the least bit surprised if he has a HUGE april going like 5-0 with like a 1.5 ERA and then blows up in may/June just to be traded in the offseason. i would be on that happening more than the Pats beating the Jets this weekend.

      • phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 8:25 PM

        LOL yea.. i figured i would be covering my bases in case you misread/misquoted me again.

        oh and i honestly do not believe that AJ has a comeback in him. i would not be the least bit surprised if he has a HUGE april going like 5-0 with like a 1.5 ERA and then blows up in may/June just to be traded in the offseason. i would bet on that happening more than the Pats beating the Jets this weekend.

  8. billtpa - Jan 13, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    Good effort for a newspaper guy, but it just doesn’t hold up. The list is here (I get 77; I’m guessing he didn’t include 1876-1900 seasons): http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/wmfOh

    Almost all these guys were either no good in the first place (Brandon Backe, Pat Rapp) or were in their late 30s and clearly at the end of the line anyway (David Cone, Al Leiter). And as noted above, Beckett pitched much better than his ERA. I don’t think this tells us anything.

    • JBerardi - Jan 13, 2011 at 3:32 PM

      It’s a good effort in creating convincing lies, I guess. As I point out below, the age group he’s comparing Beckett to is completely inappropriate. He’s taking advantage of the physiologically satisfying concept of a decade. It’s the same as the the “Morris won the most games in the 80s” argument. It doesn’t really matter because the years 1980-89 aren’t any more or less significant than any other ten consecutive years, but it FEELS that way. Much in the same way that it FEELS appropriate to compare Beckett to others in the over-30 group. But in this case, that’s not just arbitrary, it’s totally inappropriate and wrong. It lumps him in with every good or great pitcher that ever lost it for good after the age of 30. Which, of course, is nearly all of them.

      It’s deeply flawed analysis, but boy, it sure does get you some of those delicious nutritious page views.

      • billtpa - Jan 13, 2011 at 3:46 PM

        Yeah. What I mean by “good effort” is that he used baseball-reference.com rather than straightoutofhisownass.com and actually tried to tell us something relevant using stats. It wasn’t good, but it’s better than they usually do.

  9. xmatt0926x - Jan 13, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    I don’t know why anyone automatically assumed he’d ever get it back anyway. He’s been bad for a while for no particular reason. That usually doesn’t mean good things.I couldn’t believe Boston gave him that extension at the time. I have to admit that I’m not upset about this. He’s a punk and always has been since his marlins days. He’s the guy that if he wasn’t playing baseball he’d be in some old man bar trying to pick fights with every other guy that walked in the door. here’s hoping for another upper 5 era season for him.

  10. JBerardi - Jan 13, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    This is a great example of how to lie with statistics.

    1. He compares Beckett to pitchers over 30. But Josh Beckett was just 30 years old last year. That means that you’re eliminating every 29 year old as a comparable to Beckett, but including every 37 year old. Bad sample. Why not use pitchers from, say, age 27 to 33? Well, it’s probably because you’d see a hell of a lot more career rebounds if you did that and then this article wouldn’t be so interesting or inflammatory.

    2. Tomase builds this whole case on ERA. Now, we all know (or should all know) that ERA is a deeply flawed stat in general, but in Beckett’s case, it’s even worse. Beckett’s FIP was nearly a run and a quarter lower than his ERA. This is the second biggest (ERA – FIP) number in baseball last year among pitchers with 130 innings. In other words, Beckett was extraordinary unlucky last year in terms of his ERA. Again, if Tomase had used FIP, or any of the many other superior alternatives to ERA, he probably would have seen a lot more rebounds and this article wouldn’t be so eye-catching.

    What seems like a statistical death sentence for Beckett here is really nothing more than statistical slight-of-hand using improper samples and metrics.

    Besides, if the whole point here is to examine Beckett’s statistical record to predict his future performance, there’s many actual projection systems out there to do just that! Systems that have consistent methodology and proven track records, rather than just some random statistical coincidence. Bill James, who knows something about baseball stats, has just such a system (found on Fangraphs). It projects Beckett for 168.0 IP with a 3.86 ERA next year. Now, what are you going to believe? That system, which accounts for all the statistical variables, or Tomase’s one cherry-picked observation?

    • JBerardi - Jan 13, 2011 at 3:23 PM

      I just want to add, I’m not trying to get all super Red Sox fanboy and paint Beckett as a perennial Cy Young contender here. I’m not that big of a fan of the guy or his recent contract extension. I just think that the the notion that Beckett is DOOOOOOOOOOOMED!!!!!!11!!!11!one!!!! because of what amounts to a random statistical (which also bypasses more robust methods of analysis for no good reason) quirk is ridiculous.

    • Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:24 PM

      Nice takedown.

      Also, I would be very very happy with 168 innings of 3.86 ERA ball. I think I’ve been more down on Beckett than I should’ve been; didn’t realize his periphs were that much better than his final line.

  11. frankvzappa - Jan 13, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    yay, 4 more years, theo really screwed the pooch on that one, even worse than Lugo…they should have traded his ass last offseason

    • JBerardi - Jan 13, 2011 at 6:25 PM

      Dude, it was a market-rate contract for a quality pitcher in his prime. What do you want, clairvoyance?

  12. billybeaneismyhero - Jan 13, 2011 at 7:51 PM

    The problem with Tomase’s argument is that he uses three pitchers (Cone, Stewart, and Morris) that were considerably older than Beckett when they had their “disaster” seasons. Secondly, he fails to discuss the poor luck Beckett received due to poor luck and several replacement level players on defense. His BABIP for the season was .349, while his xBABIP was .296. This resulted in 31 (yes, 31) additional unexpected hits. Let’s just say, the luck dragon was very unkind to Beckett in 2010.

    • Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 9:10 PM

      Is that a luck dragon in your pants or are you happy to see me?

    • JBerardi - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:25 PM

      Again, he uses “pitchers over 30″ as comps for a pitcher who was just 30 years old last year. Again, he’s excluding guys one year younger than Beckett but including guys ten years older. And again, again, if you want a good guess at Beckett’s performance, look at the Bill James projections. Look at the ZiPS projections, the Marcel projections, the PECOTA projections. Those systems look at the whole picture, not one stat against one poorly selected sample group.

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