Yesterday I had a conversation with a fellow Twitterer about Beckett / Lester (Blester? Leckett?) vs. Daisuke. She pointed out that Lester and Beckett seemed to be getting a pass for their bad innings (this was before the sixth last night, when Beckett had only given up a three-run homer to Nick Swisher so far), while people seemed ready to run Daisuke out of town on a rail after his first inning Thursday night.
I did argue with her a bit, though I hope civilly, just because it was counter-intuitive to me, and because yeah, I am a Blester apologist. My stance was that past performance was dictating the different reaction to Lestett vs. Dice, that Dice has had more 'bad innings' than Leckett, and that there's more optimism that Blecker will be getting his collective shit together than Dice. There's also time spent on the DL and basically reshaping his game for Matsuzaka last year, which may be understandable given his unique biography, but obviously we are not renowned around here for our patience and kindly understanding.
"Josh had one dominant year with the Sox. So did Dice-K. He's not been any better or worse than Becks or Lester," was my counterpart's stance in this conversation.
Then I found myself asking for numbers, especially WHIP, because based on my limited understanding of such things, I would theorize that Daisuke's walks plus hits per innings pitched told a different story than Beckett or Lester.
Now, look. God knows I don't normally do stats. This is a tentative, terrified little foray into this for me, so if I need correcting, please be gentle. I'm just trying not to hurt myself, here.
Anyway. When I went and did a cursory search for WHIP, what I found surprised me.
Daisuke, career: 1.41I'm not familiar with what constitutes a significant statistical variation in this number, but that seems pretty close, actually. I told @shelley1005 she had a point, though I still felt innings pitched per start and time on the DL also factored in to the differing perceptions.
Beckett, career: 1.23
Lester, career: 1.33
Then I thought about it, and decided, what the hell, I'm going to look it up.
For 2008, 2009 and 2010 so far:
Daisuke 236.3 IP over 43 games = 5.49 innings per startThere's a major difference, as I was alluding to, in terms of innings pitched and starts made. Last year really sunk Daisuke -- he had just 59.1 innings pitched in 12 games. The goal for an elite starter should be somewhere around 200 innings pitched for the team in a year. That alone is going to put Dice behind the 8 ball compared to the others.
Lester 449.4 over 71 games = 6.32 innings per start
Beckett 427.2 over 66 games = 6.47 innings per start
But the more I look around the stats, especially over time, the more a picture emerges that Beckett and Lester are diverging, as much as they seem to have grown together in personality over the last few years.
K / BB
Where these measurements are concerned, I think we see a younger pitcher in Jon Lester starting to put it all together (especially that big jump in K/9 last year) and an older pitcher in Josh Beckett, who slipped in 2009 compared with the previous two years. Having broken into the bigs at the tender age of 21, Beckett has more major league pitches on his arm than most other pitchers his age, and certainly more than Lester.
Anyway, this is somewhat moot, because when it comes to that sixth inning last night, numbers aren't going to help explain it. I wonder if this is Josh's shoulder acting up -- he seemed to have some strange body language during that sixth inning, though it could've been from a number of causes (as Chad Finn put it, "This is Beckett at his absolute worst. No command, no poise, overthrowing, acting like a macho fool.").
Beckett is under more pressure to answer for the deviations of 2009 than Lester is, and while I still don't think he belongs in the same category as Daisuke, maybe it's time to admit Beckett is less like Lester, at least recently, than I had realized.