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Last weekend’s two games against Yankees featured the Red Sox worst and best pitchers back to back, John Lackey and Josh Beckett, respectively. Not surprisingly, Beckett pitched better than Lackey, yet it was Lackey that racked up his 10th win of the year while Beckett was left with a no-decision.
As I wrote several weeks ago, this has been a common theme for Beckett throughout the season. Since then, Beckett has had 4 starts, each of which has been a “quality start” (6+ innings with 3 earned runs or less) and yet he was just 1-1 in that span. Beckett has recorded seven no-decisions, and twice he has lost in “quality starts.”
Many pitchers who have played better than their record been on teams with poor offenses. What is strange about Beckett’s case is the team he plays for. The Red Sox offense has been the best in baseball for most of the year. Currently they lead the majors in runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. They have scored enough runs for Lackey to win a respectable 10 games despite having an ERA of 6.14. And yet, the Sox score about as many runs per game as San Diego’s 27th ranked offense (3.77/game) when Josh Beckett starts. As a result, Beckett only has 9 wins despite an ERA of only 2.17 (3rd in the majors).
The question remains: why don’t the Red Sox score at their normal rate when Josh Beckett is pitching? One small part may be the fact that Jason Varitek has caught all of Beckett’s games instead of Jarod Saltalamacia. Saltalamacia has hit a bit better than Varitek, and while his absence can’t be the entire reason for the lack of runs, it might play a part.
A stat that supports the idea that the Red Sox are more lackadaisical while Beckett is pitching, is the fact that they only score 2.5 runs per game while he is actually in the game. This means that to get a win Beckett has almost no room for error, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it could be the driving factor behind Beckett’s terrific season. The Red Sox are 16-6 in Beckett’s starts, and as long as they continue to win, this lack of support shouldn’t be a major issue. But once the playoffs come, the Sox shouldn’t bank on their ability to score once Beckett leaves to win games.