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May 08, 2010

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Sam

It's probably worth pointing out that if you count Dice K's Japan League numbers (even if you weight them less than his MLB numbers, but still have them in there), his lifetime WHIP is much better. And his last 3 years in Japan, he average 7.4, 7.7, and 6.3 innings per start, respectively.

He was also coming from a completely different style of pitcher coaching and has been trying, with varying success, to adapt to American pitcher use, something neither Lester nor Beckett has ever had to deal with.

I dunno if that works for or against him in terms of how we perceive his current performance, but there it is.

beth

Yeah, but around here it's all about "what have you done for me lately". That's why I just looked at the last 3-4 years in which these guys faced common opponents. There's also some uncertainty about whether Japan League numbers are apples and oranges vs. US major leagues. Realize Dice has made bigger baseball adjustment than Beckett / Lester, but Lester also had that whole, you know, lymphoma thing, and these more recent numbers put him at the top of this group right now. Not saying I want anybodys head on a pike, here, but I'm considerably more concerned about Beckett after last night's debacle and doing this post than I was before.

Pam

I think the amount of goodwill Josh has stored up among Red Sox fans is becoming used up. Dice K never had as much good will stored up which is why he isn't given as much slack. After Friday's performance though, I think Josh will be left hanging out to dry as much as Dice K is.

Did you think it was a physical problem? I am more inclined to go with a mental issue. I'm not sure what is is but to become so unglued so quickly seemed a little crazy.

lazyblue

I am way more emotionally invested in the success of Lester and Beckett than I have ever been in the success of two strangers in my life. When they struggle - especially when Josh struggles - it's painful to me. So I'm at least in the same zip code with you on this.

I agree for the most part with your conclusion about the differences between the two. I think we've just seen a year (maybe more) where they were basically equals. And i think we were seeing Beckett at his peak while Lester was just reaching full maturity. Which is a way of saying that Jon has a higher ceiling that Josh (I would say WAY higher).

Assuming everyone stays healthy and happy enough to finish out their contracts, this is what I see happening with the rotation. We're watching a transition. By the time Beckett and Lackey reach the back ends of their contracts, they are going be really good, interchangeable #2 or 3a starters who sit at 3 and 4 in the rotation. Lester will be the #1 and there will be no doubt in anyone's mind that he is a legitimate ace. Clay, if he keeps improving, will be the #2 and hope to eventually succeed Lester. If not Clay, they'll pick up a younger free agent pitcher to fill that role. Dice is the #5 -- a #5 with potential to perform at the level of a #3 and when he's gone it will be time for a prospect to take that slot and go through what Clay's been going through for the last couple 'o' years.

I think Lester has a good chance of turning into one of those guys who takes the mound every 5th day with the intention of finishing the game. He has the stuff, the smarts, and the economical style to be one of those guys.

I think Beckett is, and has been for a while, pressing very hard to be an ace. Sometimes he presses so hard he injures himself or screws up his mechanics, and that is why he is so inconsistent.

I think the "acting like a macho fool" comment from Finn goes a bit far, but I do think he lost his composure to the point of being unprofessional the other nite. I don't know why, of course. I read a comment somewhere speculating that maybe he lost his release point after the IBB. It's also possible, given his temperament, that he got so angry about being told to walk the guy he sort of went blind. Or maybe he was feeling something not right in his back and he was trying to just lower his head and bull his way through the rest of the outing.

I am hoping Beckett can find a way to settle down and be consistent, even if that means we never see another performance from him like we saw in some of those games in 07. But it's easy for me to hope that. I haven't ascended to the heights that he has and I don't have to live every day with the knowledge that I may never reach them again.

I do not think Dice has been as good as either Beckett or Lester, and the not going deep enough into games is a big factor in my opinion. I think he has the potential to be a top-of-the game starter, and I hope he finds a way to get there. I do think he gets a worse rap than he deserves, mainly because he's Japanese, he's perceived as too expensive, and he doesn't conform to the pitching style that we're taught is the "right way" to do things.

I think you are doing just fine with the stats here. I've struggled a bit with the stats myself, and they get less intimidating with practice. If you're still looking into this, it might be worth your while to fire up a search engine and read up on ERA+, because (if I understand it correctly) it allows you to get an idea of where they each rank in relation to an average pitcher in the league.

It's always a pleasure to read your take on the team and the game.

beth

Lazyblue, it made my day to get such a long and thoughtful comment. Thanks so much!

I think you're right about Lester becoming the eventual #1, though I hope Buch will be more like 1a than #2. He's got the stuff for it, I think.

What really touches me about the Beckett / Lester stuff is that Beckett seems to have recognized something in Lester very early on, and seems to have become a mentor to the younger guy. Meanwhile it seems obvious how Lester looks up to Beckett in the way he's adopted many of his mannerisms on the mound and even some of his style off the field (Hardy shirts, a sneer and hemp necklaces, specifically). It seems like Beckett saw Lester's raw talent and gave him the attitude to round out the whole picture -- a great story of teammates and pitchers bonding in their craft, IMO.

lazyblue

I am very happy my comment made your day. :) I did not realize I had so much to say until I reached the end of it.

I do not doubt that Buch has the talent to be a #1. I put him at 2 only as a way of saying Lester will be the one pitching on opening day and the first choice to start in big games in the medium term. I really hope they both remain in Boston for years to come.

My opinion is that Clay throwing the no-hitter when he did was a mixed blessing. It gave him glimpse of his full potential before he was mentally & emotionally prepared to face big league pitching every five days for weeks on end. So he went into 2008 with unreasonable expectations for himself and wasn't able to deal with being hit and scored upon.

I caught one of Buch's starts on TV earlier this year, and the sight of him taking a deep breath, setting his jaw, and going right back to work after giving up a hit warmed my heart. I think Clay has it in him to become a virtuoso, and I am glad Theo has stuck with him this far.

I get what you mean about the Beckett/Lester relationship. I hadn't thought about the Hardy shirts, but the sneer (and the swagger) are unmistakable. It is so awesome to look at the two of them now and think back to Beckett striding onto that mound in Cleveland for game 5 of the ALCS, and Lester getting the win to clinch the World Series.

This discussion has been in the back of my mind all day and evening, so when I finally got some free time I looked up a couple of additional stats. I'll try and add enough info to them to make them useful and post them into another comment later in the weekend.

And I have to say YAY! for Papi's 2HR tonight.

beth

@Pam I was remiss in not responding to your comment -- I am torn about the question of a physical problem. In that terrible inning in his last start, I recall seeing some body language that made me think he was stretching out or trying to loosen his right arm and shoulder, but that obviously doesn't prove anything.

My general theory is that he's been trying to force and bull his way through something, whether it's aging, or an ailment, that's only making him pitch worse. And the worse he gets, the more angry and determined he is to just force his way through, which is how you wind up with seasons like the one he had in 2006, where I remain convinced he simply refused to believe AL East hitters might be different than NL East hitters, and/or refused to believe he needed more than the heat to get guys out, but either way, it took until the next season for him to start mixing in the curveball with regularity. In his fascinating Jockbio, which is a must-read (http://www.jockbio.com/Bios/Beckett/Beckett_bio.html), there's an anecdote about his refusal to give up his weight training program while injured during his time with the Marlins, which weakened his shoulder.

So ultimately I think there is a blend of physical and mental problems, and it is chicken and egg where one starts and the other ends.

beth

@lazyblue I agree completely about Buchholz's no hitter as a mixed blessing.

And this --

//I caught one of Buch's starts on TV earlier this year, and the sight of him taking a deep breath, setting his jaw, and going right back to work after giving up a hit warmed my heart.//

I know exactly what you mean.

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