Is Josh Beckett Tipping his Pitches?

Today, Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett will make his second start  the since the ridiculous controversy surrounding his off-day golf game began. The Boston Red Sox are not concerned with the issue of Beckett playing golf after he was told to miss a start, but they are concerned about his performance. In his last start Beckett was roughed up for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Cleveland Indians, getting taken deep twice. On the season, Beckett has allowed nine home runs in just 34 1/3 innings. Though his fastball velocity is down, he is healthy by all accounts. Manager Bobby Valentine has an idea of what the problem may be; Josh Beckett may be tipping his pitches.

“there might be something that he’s doing that is signaling [oppenents] effectiveness, Valentine said following his short outing in Cleveland. He was even specific about what led him to this conclusion. “When the cutter came in to the left-hander, they always were out in front of it. That’s suspicious,” Valentine observed. Pitching Coach Bob McClure was not so sure. “Like [Beckett] said, he made some bad pitches and they whacked ‘em” McClure said. Beckett was also skeptical, though he did feel that the Indians were “on him” more than other teams.

I think there could be something to this, though it is probably not the root of Beckett’s problems. His declining fastball velocity is a far bigger issue and more likely to be the cause of his long-ball-itis. His cutter and curveball have been reasonably effective pitches for him but his straighter offerings, his fastball and his change have been hit hard. Beckett is the type of pitcher who throws strikes in high volume and when he is missing, especially up in the zone, he gets taken deep. It will be interesting to see if he and Kelly Shoppach (who appears to be his personal catcher) change up anything tonight, but it is unlikely to make much difference.

If Beckett has good command and can stay on the edges of the zone, he should be fine. I expect him to lean more on his cutter at least until his velocity climbs up. That strategy has worked for him in his better starts this year and facing the punchless Seattle Mariners he can attack the zone more and depend on his defense as Jon Lester did last night.  

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