From the Boston Herald on Tuesday:
Pitching coach John Farrell recently said a video breakdown of (Josh) Beckett’s motion, as well as discussions with the right-hander, revealed he isn’t creating enough of a downhill plane on his fastball. He has allowed 10 home runs in his past 18 1/3 innings.
“The one thing that he won’t back away from is a challenge,” Farrell said. “This isn’t a health-related issue. This isn’t a fatigue-related issue. This is a little bit more just some timing in his delivery to allow that execution at the bottom of the strike zone to be more consistent.”
OK, well, that's an interesting idea. Beckett isn't pitching effectively because he's not getting enough downward motion on his fastball.
You know what we do here at OneIf land. We go to the charts. As we go through the charts, check out the cluster of green dots -- Beckett's fastball.
Here's Beckett on July 12, his best start of the season:
Vertical movement: Between 5 and 14 inches, clustered around 10.
Here's Beckett on Aug. 12, his last good start before this latest slump:
Vertical movement: Between 2 and 11 inches, clustered around 8.
Here's Beckett on Aug. 28, the start in which he walked five and didn't reach the sixth inning for the first time since April:
Vertical movement: Between 3 and 10 inches, clustered around 9.
There certainly has been a loss in vertical movement since July -- but if you look at Beckett's seven-inning effort against Detroit on Aug. 12, the vertical movement already was diminished.
What else could it be, then?
Could it be his curveball?
If we go back to the charts, Beckett has seen the horizontal movement in his curveball tick upward steadily over the course of the season. Rather than going to the charts, we'll go straight to the numbers:
May 23 (8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER)
Curveball horizontal movement: 4.97
June 20 (complete-game shutout)
Curveball horizontal movement: 5.48
July 12 (complete-game shutout)
Curveball horizontal movement: 6.38
Aug. 12 (7 IP, 3 H, 2 ER)
Curveball horizontal movement: 7.35
Aug. 28 (5 IP, 5 ER, 5 BB)
Curveball horizontal movement: 7.29
(Thanks once again to brooksbaseball.net for compiling the data.)
Check out that progression. Beckett's curveball is getting less and less 12-to-6 (fast-forward to the 0:28 mark on this video) and looking more and more like a slurve or a slider (fast-forward to the 0:16 mark on this video).
There are no pitching coaches around this part of the blogosphere, but when a trend like that coincides with a downturn in production, well, it raises an eyebrow.