Monday, July 13, 2009

Will Josh Beckett Win 300 Games?

Beckett at the helm is a nice way to end the first half: three hits, no runs, no walks, seven strike outs, and a league-leading tie of 10 wins with teammate and fellow All-Star Tim Wakefield (himself the subject of a nice profile in today's Globe). Beckett's 2009 ERA+ is 140, 22 points higher than his career average; his WHIP is 1.149, well below his career average of 1.216, and overall he looks far more impressive than the 2 and 2 starter with the 7.50 ERA that started the year.

But yesterday's domination of the lowly Royals was more impressive than the piling up of some sweet statistics that pulled Boston to three games above New York in the AL East standings: after eight years at the major league level, Josh Beckett has amassed his 100th win. Such milestones lead to speculation, for even as we recognize that the win is a flawed statistic for measuring the value of a pitcher, we wonder - especially these days, when conventional wisdom suggests that we'll never see such winners again - whether or not Beckett will win 200 more and achieve the milestone that has helped 20 pitchers find their way into the Hall. So, will he?

First, a few assumptions:
  • I'm using Beckett's winning percentage in Boston (.656) because it seems likely that he'll continue to pitch for teams of Boston's caliber (providing the support necessary for amassing a large body of wins) for the productive portion of the rest of his career.
  • To be consistent, I'm using his 27 starts per year average from his four years in Boston, which is roughly consistent with what an adjusted starts per year average would be over his career.
  • Because Beckett is a power pitcher, I'm assuming "the productive portion of the rest of his career" means 10 years, when he's 39.
Now, the results:
  • 27 stars a year for 10 years is 270 starts.
  • With a .656 winning percentage, Beckett would need to make 305 more starts to win 200 games.
  • 305 is more than 270.
Not looking good, but there's some room for adjustment. For example, if you adjust the number of productive years to 12, you have 324 starts, which would be enough for more than 200 wins. If you upped the average number of starts a year to 31, you'd also have enough starts for 200 wins. If you changed the winning percentage to reflect the upcoming years of Beckett's prime, you might find enough 20 game-winning seasons to make a difference. It's a tough climb to a vaunted milestone, but Beckett might have the luck and the success to go the distance.