Beckett: Falling After The Fall Classic
July 6, 2004
Maybe it's just my frustration as a fantasy owner talking, but Josh Beckett is the most overrated pitcher in baseball, both in fantasy terms and in real terms. What he did last October was remarkable and he deserves all the credit he gets for helping the Marlins win the World Series, but his playoff performances appear to be the exception rather than the rule.
The second most important thing a pitcher provides his ballclub with is performance. The most important thing is health, because talent is nothing without health. Atlanta won division titles throughout the 90's partly because Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz performed well, but mostly because they took the mound every fifth day, year after year. Their health allowed GM John Shuerholtz to focus on other aspects of the club. It gave Bobby Cox one less thing to worry about. Pitching coach Leo Mazzone "rocked" away the decade in the dugout, always knowing who was going to toe the rubber the next day.
A team like the Yankees can afford to wait out the health issues by acquiring other pitchers until the real talent comes around. For New York, it matters not how Kevin Brown feels in July but how he's throwing in October, because they know, with or without him, they'll get to the playoffs, but it is then that they will need him. The Marlins, on the other hand, are cash strapped and happened to strike gold last year, sneaking in as a wildcard and riding Beckett and the others to victory. This year, a more realistic year, Florida let go of Ivan Rodriguez and Derrek Lee in favor of cheaper talent, hoping that the pitching would hold up.
So far, it has held up, but not by who you would expect. A.J. Burnett is always hurt and Josh Beckett is chronically bothered by blisters, among other things. That leaves Brad Penny, Dontrelle Willis, and Carl Pavano to shoulder the load, and while they are putting up solid stats and keeping their team in the race, everyone outside of Florida seems to remember Josh Beckett as the staff ace, even though he's seldom to be found in fair territory.
Players less heralded than Beckett are having better careers so far but are going unnoticed because their teams have not been seen on the national stage yet. Vincente Padilla and Jake Peavy, just to name two, are less popular pitchers with more regular season wins, and Montreal pitcher Zach Day is right on his heels and should pass Beckett by year's end.
For those of you who drafted Beckett several rounds ahead of Greg Maddux this year and probably a dozen rounds ahead of Tom Glavine, live and learn. You can't win on the bench. Beckett is a real talent who can mow down the best of them, but ask any pitching coach who they would rather have, and you would get a lot more "Jamie Moyer" types than "Josh Becketts."