Josh Beckett isn't the ace he was in 2007, but what about him has changed over the past five seasons?
In 2007, Josh Beckett finished second in the AL Cy Young voting. He led the league with 20 wins. He was a 4.8 PWARP player, good for third in MLB. He struck out 8.7 batters per nine innings and finished with 194 punchouts.
Fast forward to 2012. Beckett’s win-loss record is 5-9; more importantly, his walk rate is up, and his strikeout rate is down. He’s been worth 0.5 PWARP, good for 174th in baseball.
After changing his Sox, things are looking better for Kevin Youkilis.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Seeking an urgent upgrade at third base, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams rolled the dice on Kevin Youkilis, believing that all the former Red Sox infielder needed to get going again was a change of scenery. If the past two days are any indication, Williams was right.
After a 3-for-6 effort with a two-run homer off Roy Oswalt in Chicago’s 19-2 drubbing of the Rangers on Tuesday, Youkilis sent the U.S. Cellular Field crowd home happy with a walk-off single in the 10th inning of last night’s 5-4 victory. He has settled right in to the number-two spot of Robin Ventura’s lineup, and—in his first two games on the South Side—made an excellent first impression on his new fan base.
Josh Johnson's start against the Red Sox last night is a sign that he has recovered from his shoulder woes.
The Monday Takeaway
As the ESPN crew signed off from its Monday Night Baseball broadcast of the series opener between the Red Sox and Marlins, color man Rick Sutcliffe summed up the 4-1 Miami victory in four words: “Josh Johnson is back.”
Though Ozzie Guillen’s team won six consecutive Johnson starts between May 4 and May 30, the big right-hander struggled for two months to regain his dominant form of years past. His fastball velocity went in and out, and his command eluded him at times—such as the 2 2/3-inning, six-run clunker at Petco Park that, ironically, served as the springboard for the aforementioned winning streak.
The Tampa Bay Rays have managed to stay in second place in the AL East despite the second-smallest run differential in the division.
The Wednesday Takeaway
Remember when the Rangers seemed like a juggernaut after starting the season with 17 wins in their first 23 games? Well, 23 days later, Ron Washington’s team is now tied with the Rays for the second-best record in the American League at 27-18, tied in the loss column with the 25-18 Indians, and a game behind the 28-17 Orioles. Since the end of April, the Orioles have gone 14-8, the Indians 13-9, the Rays 12-10, and the Rangers 10-12—including a just-completed 6-7 run while facing the Angels, Royals, Athletics, Astros, and Mariners.
Think that’s confusing? Then try to figure out the American League East.
After looking like he was on his last legs in 2009 and again in 2010, David Ortiz has returned to near-peak form. How did he do it?
In the June 2009 issue of ESPN The Magazine, Bill Simmons wrote an obituary for the bat of David Ortiz. “Look, I’ve seen slumps,” Simmons wrote in reference to Ortiz’s awful April. “This was different. This was the collapse of a career.”
The Sports Guy can be excused for giving up on Ortiz too early. Ortiz was coming off a 2008 season in which he’d managed only a .293 True Average (TAv)—still a strong figure, but by far his worst with the Red Sox. His start to 2009 was far worse: Ortiz hit .185/.284/.287 with one home run through May. (That line translates to a .205 TAv, a near match for Albert Pujols’ .209 mark in 2012.) He was also 33 years old and stuck in the steepest part of the aging curve, which made his decline seem especially ominous. As Simmons wrote, “That’s what happens to beefy sluggers on their way out: Their knees go, they stiffen up, bat speed slows and, in the blink of an eye, they’re done.” Great hitters don’t often fade quite that quickly, but Simmons was hardly the only observer who thought Ortiz was over the hill. Nearly everyone who saw Ortiz early that season came away convinced that his bat had slowed significantly, and possibly permanently.
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Josh Beckett's alternating good and bad seasons resembles the career of a former major leaguer.
On Tuesday—his 32nd birthday, coincidentally—Josh Beckett fired seven innings of four-hit shutout ball against the Mariners, taking advantage of one of the league's weak-sister offenses to rack up a season-high nine strikeouts. The outing pared Beckett's ERA by exactly a run, from 5.97 to 4.97, and more importantly, it allowed him to put an embarrassing sequence of events in the rear-view mirror. The Red Sox had scratched Beckett from his May 5 start due to a stiff latissimus dorsi muscle; the decision was made three days in advance because the Sox wanted to prevent a minor injury from getting worse. On the day of his next turn, a report surfaced that Beckett had played a round of golf the day after the announcement—hardly beyond the pale for a pitcher between starts, but questionable conduct for a player who was supposed to be recuperating.
Fans were treated to weird baseball in Boston when the O's and Sox resorted to using position players as pitchers.
The Weekend Takeaway
Everyone loves a good dose of weird baseball, and that’s precisely what fans at Fenway Park were treated to on Sunday afternoon. The Orioles capped off their first sweep of the Red Sox in Boston since 1994, but that does not even begin to describe what transpired on Yawkey Way.
In one of the most bizarre goat-to-hero stories you will ever see, designated hitter Chris Davis hit like a pitcher… and then pitched like one, too. Davis began the afternoon by collecting a platinum sombrero, added a double-play ball in his sixth at-bat, and wound up 0-for-8 by the time the 17-inning marathon was over. But with the media preparing to make Davis the butt of many a Monday joke, Davis put the joke on the hometown nine, hurling two shutout innings to earn the win.