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Beckett now looks powerless

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  October 12, 2008 02:57 AM

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Given the lateness of the hour, let's get right to the point: If you're not worried about Josh Beckett, you should be.

For all that took place in the Red Sox' 9-8 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series at Tropicana Field, the lasting impact is that the Red Sox have no idea what to expect from Josh Beckett if and when he pitches again. The most disturbing statistic from this game was that Beckett threw 93 pitches and managed just four swings-and-misses, only one of them coming on a fastball.

Let’s say that again.

Beckett threw 93 pitches and got one fastball by a Tampa hitter – a swinging strike by B.J. Upton in the first inning. Every other fastball was either put in play or fouled off.

The other swings-and-misses? Two were on curveballs, one on a cutter. And this was against a Tampa team that struck 1,224 times during the regular season, more than any AL club but the Oakland A’s (1,226). By all accounts, Beckett is now trying to rely on gimmicks and trickery to get through the postseason, largely because his pitches don’t have the same explosiveness – sometimes referred to as "finish" – through the strike zone.

For what it’s worth, Beckett continues to say he’s "fine" and pitching coach John Farrell said Beckett’s "stuff was consistent with what it has been through the last six, seven, eight weeks of the season." What Farrell did not say was that Beckett had his usual stuff, which means the right-hander has been pitching with diminished velocity for some time.

One other thing: When asked about teammate Jon Lester’s performance in the ALDS, Beckett said the following: "This is to take nothing away from him because I thought this last year: It's easy when you throw 95-97 [mph] with sink and movement." In retrospect, maybe we did not read enough into the remarks. What Beckett was saying perhaps, is that it is a great deal harder to dominate at 92-93 mph, which is precisely where he is pitching now.

Is that enough velocity for a major league pitcher to win? Certainly.

But when you’ve spent you whole life blowing pitches by the best hitters in the world, it’s tough to adopt an entirely new style overnight.

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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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