Friday, June 20, 2008

First Impressions of Josh Beckett

From the Archive:4/17/06

I watched Josh Beckett pitch today. First time I saw him pitch since game 6 of the 03 World Series, I think. This was, as you may recall, shortly after the Grady debacle. Speaking of that Greek philosopher Debacles... see, that gag doesn’t work as well in writing. You gotta say 'de-bah-clees'. Nothing like a little phonetic rendering to excite the ladies.

Anyway, Beckett. I gotta say I was quite impressed. Having only seen the stat line from his prior starts, I wasn't excited by the last one, because he only had 2 K's in 7 innings, and although he only had allowed 3 hits, K’s are more projectible than hits.

So at first I was a little surprised by how many fastballs he was throwing. Over the first 5 or 6 innings or so he had absolutely no command of his curveball, which he only attempted half a dozen times or so, most of which ended up high above the letters. I liked that split change dill he mixed in, but he only threw a couple, and the slider was tight the few times he threw it, but he didn't throw it much; it was really all fastballs. I liked how he'd go down the middle early in the count or on the first pitch, perhaps hoping for some quick contact and some quick outs, and then expand the zone and work off the corners with the fastball as he went deeper in the count. Generally a good strategy.

But this was no real test, as he was just relying on his gas, and I couldn't say I was learning all that much about his style and makeup guts and all that crap that working class people talk about, as of yet. But then I think it was Ibanez hit the triple in the 6th, and he was the tying run on 3rd with 1 out, with Sexson and Beltre coming up. So this is a huge situation. Schilling had k'ed Ichiro in a similar situation on Friday, with a great sequence of fastballs up and away then finishing with a split low and away, which was pretty cool. Now it was time to see how Beckett adapted to the situation. And after not having coming close to having thrown a decent curveball all day, and needing a big strikeout to prevent any contact- sac fly or whatnot- he went not once but twice with the old aunt sally, the deuce, the curveball, getting a called strike two down and away and a swinging strike 3 with two great breaking balls. That was really impressive- to trust that pitch that hadn't worked for him all day in that pressure need a k scenario, but knowing he had to use it to change up the sequence in this Sexson's 3rd or 4th AB, and to actually execute it against their best power threat. And then not losing focus and going right after Beltre, and setting him up with breaking stuff away before overpowering him inside for another k. it was awesome. That was post-season stuff. Real Deal Holyfield and whatnot.

And if you're not impressed by that sort of thing, watch matt clement pitch some time. That’ll teach you perspective.

On the other hand, I was slightly putt off by the number of times Beckett shook off Varitek, particularly given that he threw so many fastballs overall. But maybe that'll work itself out.

Also, Papelbon must have some crazy movement because he didn't change speeds or hit his spots consistently today, but he still gets outs.

Mike Lowell looks like he's 42 years old. I haven't seen Youkilis hit the ball hard yet. That lefty who struck out Ortiz in the 8th was impressive- he brushed him back with only 87 mph cheese, but it was enough to get Papi to wave at the next one outside instead of him leaning over and nailing it. He eventually whiffed.

[the next morning, after Mark Loretta's Patriot's Day walk-off]

…Get back, Loretter.

That’s what they say. 2-0 fastball right down the shoot, and he shot it.

Pretty neat, pretty neat.

I think Trot came to bat with Cash's 'I walk the line' playing. As in Trot walks the line between roster and disabled list.

He was clutch today, though.

I thought Foulke looked ok, could have had Beltre struck out on a flip a coin call. Bad luck.

Why was trot going flap-style, i.e. two earflaps on the helmet? Bellhorn didn't die, did he? I only caught the game from the 6th.

Maybe they explained it. Oh yeah. Did anybody catch in yesterday's game when a ball girl went to pick up an errant foul, and Remy says 'mm mm mmm', as if he were ogling her? It was awkward and weird. Maybe he was eating a donut or something.

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