Just about one year ago the Red Sox announced that they had signed Josh Beckett to a four-year $68 million contract extension.
At the time it looked like a good move. After all, Beckett was a World Series hero in 2007, the same year he won 20 games and came in second in the Cy Young voting. He was also coming off what was possibly his second best season of his career in 2009 where he put up a 122 ERA+ as a 29 year old.
Fast forward to today and there are big question marks surrounding Beckett. Last year he missed about two months with a lower back strain that limited him to just 127.2 innings. Presumably the rest of the season he was healthy though and still put up absolutely terrible numbers. Over that span he had a 5.78 ERA, his K/9 was a career low and his BB/9 was the highest it’s been since 2006.
If that information isn’t alarming maybe this is. John Tomase of the Boston Herald checked Baseball-Reference.com for pitchers in their 30’s who have had a season where they put up ERAs of at least 5.75 over at least 125 innings and almost none of them ever bounced back to have a productive season again in their careers:
Virtually every pitcher to struggle like Beckett did last season not only was never the same, but almost to a man failed to produce a single, solitary above-average season thereafter…
…The search returned 69 such seasons by 66 different pitchers…
…Of those 66 pitchers, only three managed to regain something even remotely approximating their form, at least as starters.
A lot of Yankees fans who are predicting gloom and doom for their team in 2011 are counting on a bounce back year from Beckett, but it might not come. None of what Tomase wrote necessarily means that Beckett will not bounce back, but it does point out that the odds are extremely against him of ever being the same again.
Why is this something to be thankful for? For one it means the Red Sox could be hoping for the next four seasons that Beckett comes back to form and be disappointed every year between now and then.
But mostly we should be thankful for the fact that just about a year ago the Red Sox signed Beckett to that four year extension. If they hadn’t he would have been the biggest free agent starter behind Cliff Lee and the Yankees probably would have been aggressive in signing him.
After all, the Red Sox are usually pretty good at knowing when to say good bye to their players. In contrast the Yankees general manager Brian Cashman doesn’t exactly have the greatest track record of signing starting pitchers (outside of CC Sabathia there aren’t too many to brag about).
If not for that extension the Yankees could very easily be the ones cursing Beckett’s contract for the next four years (with a slight chance, very slim, of missing out on his bounce back years).