Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Josh Beckett's 4.08 ERA

What can we expect from Josh Beckett? Some say he's an injury prone youngster who is never going to reach his potential. Some say there are a lot of factors working against him in the move to Boston. Some say he's an ace and that he's going to lead the team to a damn good season in 2006. What do I think? As a Sox fan I'm a bit biased and more inclined to think that he's going to have a hell of a year (and possibly a hell of a career) for the Sox, but there really are some things working against the guy. The way I see it, there are two big things that are working against Beckett next year. One, he's moving to the AL and two, he's leaving a pitcher's park. You'd think that going from Florida's defense to Boston's defense would also negatively affect him, but based on the number of balls in play turned into outs last year, Boston's defense was only very slightly worse than Florida's. The change shouldn't be significant enough to affect Beckett all that much.

Let's take a look at a few numbers to see how Josh Beckett would've done if he had pitched for the Red Sox in 2005. First, let's see some real numbers. In 2005 he had a 3.38 ERA, a 3.08 ERC, a 3.42 dERA, and a 3.45 RCERA. ERA is the normal measure of earned runs given up over 9 innings pitched that we all know and love. ERC is a statistic that measures what a pitcher's ERA is expected to be based on the hits and walks he gives up. dERA is based on the work done by Voros McCracken and measures a pitcher's ERA based entirely on the statistics that a pitcher controls and the defense does not (K's, BB's, HR's, and HBP's). RCERA is a pitcher's ERA based on the Runs Created by the batters facing the pitcher. All four are relatively close to each other and it should be possible to tailor the last three stats to see how he would've performed in the AL in a hitter's park.

I started off by park adjusting the number of doubles, triples, home runs, and hits that Beckett allowed at home. I used the park indices in the Bill James Handbook to calculate the number of those four stats that he would've allowed had he pitched half his games in Fenway instead of in Dolphins Stadium. Then I plugged those new numbers into the formulas for ERC, dERA, and RCERA. His numbers for those three went up to an ERC of 3.25, a dERA of 3.46, and a RCERA of 3.68; an increase of 0.17, 0.04, and 0.23 respectively. Judging by those three numbers we could probably expect Beckett's ERA to increase anywhere between 0.04 and 0.23 points giving him an ERA anywhere between 3.42 and 3.61 had he pitched in Fenway park. But what about the effects of the DH?

In 2005 Beckett held number 9 hitters to a .121/.188/.172, very similar to the line NL pitchers combined for in 2005, .150/.180/.190. My methods are far from perfect, but just for fun let's replace the 63 pitcher plate appearances against Josh Beckett with 80 DH appearances, assuming that the DH would be batting higher in the order, therefore getting more plate appearances. The average DH in the AL put up a .260/.335/.444 line in 2005. As a little side note, Baltimore DH's, lead mostly by Jay Gibbons, Sammy Sosa, Javy Lopez, and Raphael Palmeiro, had a .210/.277/.362 line. That was, by far, the worst in the AL despite the fact that they outslugged Oakland DH's by .010. But anyways, let's figure out ERC, dERA, and RCERA while keeping his stats park adjusted for Fenway, but adding in the effects of a DH. Doing that changes his numbers more than I expected. His ERC jumped to 3.87, his dERA to 3.82, and his RCERA to 4.36; a change over his original numbers by 0.79, 0.40, and 0.91 respectively.

The average change in the three stats I looked at and adjusted was 0.70 after adjusting for Fenway and replacing 63 pitcher plate appearances with 80 DH ones. What do all these numbers mean? Well, going by my math (which, I'll admit is a little bit shaky, but it might be a good estimation), Josh Beckett would've had a 4.08 ERA had he been with the Red Sox last year. Also, the Red Sox scored 5.62 runs per game last year which is actually lower than the 5.89 run support over nine innings that Beckett got. With the jump in ERA, support of one of the worst bullpens in baseball, and not much of a difference in run support it's probably a safe bet to say that had Beckett been in Boston last year his record would've been worse than the 15-8 he had in Florida.

This was by no means a way to try and prove that the Beckett trade was a bad one. I still love that trade. Beckett is going to get better as he matures and the rest of the deal still works out in Boston's favor. Beckett will be a great number 2 starter for the Red Sox over the next few years.

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