In my mind, I'm looking for one major thing: Can he throw his curveball 12 to 6 with downward, swing-and-miss tilt? If he lives on the fastball alone this summer is going to get a whole lot worse for this team than it already is... It's not as if the entire season is in the hands of one guy with all the injuries, but Beckett and his big contract extension are very disconcerting if he cannot turn it around.
Lester is a stud on Cy Young pace, but is he as good as Cliff Lee, David Price or Carston Charles down the stretch with the current bullpen? That will be tough... Buchholz has some expected rust at present, but based on his first half, I think he bounces back with a very good season. Lackey has pitched well in the last week, and Dice K had a very nice game on Monday against the A's, but knowing how inconsistent they have both been, it's hard to know where they are heading.
As far as trade deadline stuff, the bullpen HAS to be dealt with as soon as freaking possible, please. The guy I think who is a probable target will be very unpopular with fans, but I think could make a nice splash with the team: Kyle Farnsworth. Yes, the goggle-guy and a former Yankee we all loved to watch implode. He has some of the best numbers for potentially available relievers on a team--the Royals-- that is not in the division, wants scrubs for their farm system and has a history of making deals with Theo and crew.
Don't believe me? Read Krasnick's (ESPN) take on the bullpen market and tell me Farnsworth's numbers are not the best choice here? At least he has playoff and Al East division experience and is a major upgrade over what is there now... Please send Ramon Ramirez away as soon as possible.
Make sure to read this very well done article by Jeremy Lundblad of ESPN on Beckett's stats. He contends it's the changeup that has been hurting Beckett in 2010, but Beckett has never been much of a changeup pitcher in my mind. Lundblad wrote:
In 2009, opponents hit just .191 on at-bats ending with a changeup. This season, it's up to .500. That includes a .563 mark against lefties, who hit just .171 against the pitch in 2009. Beckett allowed only four extra-base hits off his changeup last season, but has already allowed three in just eight starts in 2010. Meanwhile, after fanning 17 on the changeup in 2009, he's yet to do it once this season.
Hard to call a pitch in the 89 to 90 MPH range a changeup when the fastball is 94 to 95 on a good day. His curve has been his out pitch for a long time. But a flat pitch in the low 90s or a hanging breaking ball are too easy for major league hitters to blast, so whatever you want to call them, it simply cannot be those kind of pitches.
Until then, we watch nervously and see if Beckett can return to form. Please throw the curve and make their knees buckle.
[Image by SoxyLady via Flickr cc 3.0]