Josh Beckett’s performance last night against the Yankees when he gave up seven runs over 4.2 innings for an extremely high 13.50 ERA should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed his career since he arrived in the American League East. During his five seasons in the American League, Beckett has faced the Yankees twenty-one times, including last night, and has a 6.23 ERA.
Only the Milwaukee Brewers (8.84 ERA in four starts), Toronto Blue Jays (7.34 ERA in thirteen starts), and Cincinnati Reds (7.07 ERA in three starts) have fared better against Beckett than the Yankees.
There is an old adage in baseball that good pitching always beats good hitting. Of course, that really only applies to pitchers who are really great. For just very good pitchers like Beckett, an offensive powerhouse team like the Yankees will be able to have success against him, which they certainly have.
Almost every time Josh Beckett pitches against the Yankees, you can expect he will fail to live up to his career numbers. He strikes out 7.73 Yankees per nine innings, walks 3.51 per nine innings, has a 2.20 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and gives up 1.43 home runs per nine innings to Yankee hitters. For his career, Beckett’s strikeout rate is 8.11 per nine innings, his walk rate is 3.17 per nine innings, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 3.09, and his home run rate is only 0.97 per nine innings.
Every time Beckett steps onto the mound against the Yankees, he becomes a little worse as a pitcher.
There is a silver lining to Beckett’s struggles, though, and the silver lining has to do with his luck. Beckett has had a fair amount of bad luck when it comes to seeing the fly balls he gives up leave the park. Against the Yankees, Beckett has a home run to fly ball ratio of 16.0%, far higher than his career mark of 10.6%. With such a great discrepancy between the two numbers, Beckett can expect to give up fewer home runs to the Yankees in the future.
In fact, he can expect to pitch better overall, or at least see his ERA decrease. I base that on Beckett’s expected fielding-independent ERA (xFIP), which is a good predictor of a pitcher’s future ERA. To calculate Beckett’s xFIP against the Yankees, I used this formula with a league constant of 3.2.
Using that formula, I found that Beckett has an xFIP of 4.12. Since his xFIP is so much lower than his ERA of 6.23, we can expect to see some improvement in his performances against the Yankees as long as his luck against them improves. Otherwise, it will be more of the same disappointing, underachieving pitching from him.