August 24, 2009

Media Created "Beckett Needs Tek" Silliness

Steve Buckley, August 24, 2009:
After Josh Beckett was lit up to the tune of seven runs in 5.1 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays last Tuesday at Rogers Centre, he refused to sign off on the glittering array of excuses that were placed at his feet.

Remember? His pregame routine had been spoiled, with Jason Varitek being pulled from the lineup because of neck spasms. He was working with newcomer Victor Martinez for the first time. The Red Sox were without pitching coach John Farrell, who had returned home to Cleveland on family business.

The Stat Police were brought into the discussion, pointing out that Beckett was 14-2 with a 2.52 ERA with 'Tek behind the dish, as opposed to an 0-2 record and 11.25 ERA with either Martinez or rookie George Kottaras doing the catching.
Umm, Steve?

Your condescending attitude is unwarranted because the first people who gave that stupid excuse any attention were your fellow media members. Using a term like "Stat Police" implies that it was those nerdy computer nerds who nerdily came up with this reason for Beckett's poor outing.

No, it was the media. Like your Herald-mate John Tomase, on August 19:
If nothing else, the Red Sox need Jason Varitek just to catch Josh Beckett. ...

[T]he numbers are hard to ignore. Beckett is 14-2 with a 2.52 ERA when Varitek is his catcher. When someone else catches him, Beckett is 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA. ...

[Tomase then gives three games, spread out over almost four months (April 30, June 14, August 18) as evidence. Three whole games!]

Beckett is never going to pin the blame on anyone but himself when he pitches poorly, but last night made it pretty clear that Varitek is a partner in his success.
And the normally progressive-minded Adam Kilgore at the Globe also floated that weak balloon:
Josh Beckett is a man who relies on habits. He follows a meticulous schedule ... always the same, every detail perfect and familiar. ...

At 4 p.m. yesterday, while Beckett glowered about the Red Sox clubhouse, his routine unraveled. ... With an untried formula last night, throwing to catcher Victor Martinez for the first time, Beckett produced his first clunker since June, allowing seven runs in 5.1 innings ...

He blamed only himself and not the circumstances. ... He believes when he takes the mound, he owns his results and who squats behind home plate is not a deterrent.

Numbers, though, suggest otherwise. ...
The Globe's Chad Finn shot this fish in a barrel later that day:
... the notion that the notoriously macho Texan might curl up into the Schiraldi position behind the mound if he has to throw to a backstop other than Varitek is ridiculous on the surface, and downright misleading if you have access to Beckett's career statistics.
Anyone who truly understands statistics would never think, let alone suggest, what the media trotted out last week.

Why did no one mention Varitek's seeming inability to influence Beckett back on April 25 (5-10-8-4-3 against the Yankees, the only other time this year he has allowed eight runs) or on July 1 (7-6-5-2-5 against the pathetic Orioles). Where were Varitek's special powers through all of 2006?

This latest "theory" is merely more fuel for the Myth of the Amazing Varitek, the man who makes every pitcher great, except when that pitcher get his ass kicked, then it's his fault.


Anonymous said...

I read stat sites like Beyond The Boxscore, The Hardball Times, Inside The Book, and FanGraphs often, and I'm still not sure there isn't something to the Beck-Tek thing.
Beck seems to be a creature of habit, and I wouldn't be surprised if not having Tek calling pitches messed with him and hampered his ability to place pitches.
Last night's issues were more about a bad curve ball - he's lost at least an inch, maybe two, of movement since 7/1.
- bs.uf15bosox9bears23
Author on Over the Monster

Iridescence said...

"0-2 record and 11.25 ERA"

Any member of the "stat police" who thinks this is a meaningful sample size needs to turn in their badge.

If Beckett wants Tek as his personal catcher because he feels more comfortable with him that's fine but the whole thing does just seem like media inspired silliness to me.

Woti-woti said...

I muted the TV and listened to Sox audio for the Jays games since MLB-tv blacks Sox out here and Buffy is not allowed on my air-waves. FOX and ESPN announcers are also not welcome in my no-fly zone so Sat. and Sun. were the same. The rancid O'Brien started in first inning Tues. nite obviously speculating about the whole "Becks misses tek" thing and simply would not shut up about it the whole game. Castig played along, although not as convinced as O'Brien. Thurs nite, O'Brien was at it again and Castig did nothing to shut him up. Saturday, Castig had the day off and Riche was in the booth. Again, O'Brien wouldn't shut up about it, obviously trying to win over Riche and trying to manufacture controversy in the best ESPN hyper-barker tradition. Riche wouldn't bite, but it still didn't shut O'Brien up. Last night? Not a fucking word. Nada. No mention of who 'Becks' might like catching him. It's maddening enough when these assholes careen down the road of pure speculation, but O'Brien has that authoritative, declarative tone which suggests fact. Time to simply watch in silence when the Jays, FOX and ESPN next visit, I guess.

SoSock said...

Hey, I like Tek. Always have. And I can see where a pitcher might have a favorite catcher. But bs-etc, I gotta disagree. To imply that a pro like Beckett would have his game negatively affected by having a different catcher is maligning Josh himself.
I mean, MAYBE if the catcher was a rank greenhorn who just couldn't do his end of the job. But probably not even then. Regardless, that's not the case here. Beckett just happens to be in a bit of a funk. Happens to pretty much every pitcher every year. I don't see him falling off the horse for the rest of the year. He'll work through it. Let's just hope it's soon.