Data: 1-1, 7.29 ERA, 1.66 WHIP
Malfunction: The Red Sox have had a disappointing season, and you don't have to look any further than this Slumpbot column: I've already written about David Ortiz and Jon Lester, though Lester has been more reliable of late.
But just as Lester has gotten better, Beckett has fallen off a cliff, giving up seven or more runs in three of his last five starts, and he's currently leading the league in earned runs allowed.
So the Red Sox award Beckett a nice new contract extension and this is how he repays them? Yeah, that hurts ... it hurts a lot.
Diagnosis: Let's get this out of the way: Beckett has been unlucky. As Fangraphs' David Golebiewski notes, his .365 BABIP and 56.9 percent strand rate are both well off his career averages — he's simply been giving up more hits — and allowing more of those baserunners to score — than usual. As soon as those numbers return to his career average, he'll look a lot better.
On the other hand, he hasn't struck out quite as many people as usual (7.9 K/9, below his career rate of 8.5), and his walk rate is one of the highest of his career (3.7 BB/9, well above his career rate of 2.8).
The last time he walked more than three men per nine innings, it was 2006, when he posted a 5.01 ERA in his first season in the Hub. (He gave up seven earned runs in consecutive starts at one point that year.) He's been getting unlucky, but his control is off again.
Reboot Directions: Well, it's easy for me to say, but the answer's clear: Beckett needs to get healthy and to throw more strikes. Some of those crooked numbers will start to cancel out with time, but his control problems need to be addressed if they're not a byproduct of the back tightness that knocked him from Tuesday night's game. Sitting in fourth place in the toughest division in baseball, the Sox are fast approaching an event horizon for their playoff hopes, and over the coming weeks they'll come to a determination of whether they're buyers or sellers. Beckett's performance at the top of their rotation will help them make that decision.
Mark Buehrle(notes), Chicago White Sox 2-5, 5.26 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
Buehrle has been fairly consistent this year, just not in a good way. Since pitching a gem on opening day, he's given up between three and six earned runs in each of his subsequent seven starts. He has also given up at least one home run in each of his last four. Though his 2.1 BB/9 is right at his career level, his 3.5 K/9 is distressingly low. Buehrle has always pitched to contact, but even he usually gets more swings and misses than this. He needs to start adding more K's to his stat line, pronto.
Adam Lind(notes), Toronto Blue Jays .231/.305/.385, 6 HR, 22 RBI
Lind sort of flew under the radar last year, but he had an absolutely monster year, hitting 35 HR and 114 RBI with a .305 average and a 144 OPS+, finishing 15th in the MVP vote. It was the best offensive year by a Blue Jay since Carlos Delgado's(notes) heyday. Remarkably, Lind has been all but absent from the Jays' surprising 24-17 start to the year, as the team has been led by a resurgent Vernon Wells(notes) and dominating starting pitching. His strikeouts are up and power is down, and he's been victimized by a low BABIP. He won't put up 2009 numbers in 2010, but he'll come around sooner or later.
Austin Jackson(notes), Detroit Tigers .329/.383/.447, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 6 SB
Jackson has led the league in strikeouts nearly all year. He struck out in 20 consecutive games to begin the season, and still leads the AL with 46 strikeouts. He's been raking almost everything he's managed to connect with, but lately he's started to cool down, mired in a 4-for-29 slump over the past eight games. If he can't cut down on his strikeouts, he'll have to keep paying the piper.