Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Josh Beckett is off the schneid!

Congratulations goes out to Josh Beckett, who finally, MERCIFULLY got a win on Tuesday night by beating the Marlins 7-1.  Just how long has it been since he has done the unthinkable?  September 30, 2012.  That's 14 starts ago.

But don't worry, it's hardly been his fault.  Not this season at least.

The 2014 version of Beckett is a heck of a lot better than 2013.  In eight starts last year, he was 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.  Quite simply, he was horrible, and was shelved in July for the rest of the season to rest his right arm, which had a tingling sensation in his fingers.

And guess what?  It worked.  This year he's 1-1 with a 2.36 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.  He came into this year with zero expectations, and was probably looking to be the odd man out when Chad Billingsley returned from his injury.  Well, these are the Dodgers, so inevitably there were more injuries to the starting rotation.  But not to Beckett, who's been fantastic in his seven starts.

So what's the reason for his effectiveness?  The curveball.  That's according to Beckett himself, who gave full credit to an injured A.J. Ellis:
"I've always had a good curveball, but never a good feel for it, never for strike one. But I threw it tonight [eight times on first pitch]. Guys don't hit it, maybe because it's dying anyway, nobody throws it, and hitters don't see them often. And A.J. said a 70-mph curve makes that 90-93-mph fastball look faster."

Even though it's only the difference of throwing one pitch more (curveball) and one pitch less (fastball), it's a pretty big change for Beckett.  It's almost like he had to stubbornly admit that he can't just blow it by everyone anymore.  He has to pick his spots and rely on the art of pitching.  Maybe he should pull Kenley Jansen aside and explain the same thing.

Even with the resurgence this season, it's hard to expect his ERA to remain in the low-mid 2's.  That's just very hard to do for anyone.  Still, his ERA can shoot up a full run and he'd still be having a great season.  That's how great he's been so far.

With Clayton Kershaw back and looking like his normal self, and with Hyun-Jin Ryu throwing bullpen sessions and on the verge of being back, the Dodgers may finally be able to ride a deep starting five with Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, and Beckett.  They already are third in baseball in starter's ERA at 2.94, and that's with a bunch of injuries.  It's not out of the question at all to see that number get even better when Ryu is back.

The Dodgers certainly can use a run or two of big wins, as they've been stuck in .500 mode for too long.  Two straight wins and 13 runs, even against the lowly Marlins, have put them in position for a sweep on Wednesday night.  It's the little things that add up, and this would be a good spot to start.

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