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Josh Beckett can’t understand the obsession with how hard he throws

04.24.12 at 11:43 am ET
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Josh Beckett says his fastball velocity shouldn't be concern. (AP)

Josh Beckett doesn’t understand the fuss regarding his velocity (or perceived lack thereof).

“I didn’t feel like I was throwing that slow the start before (appearance vs. Texas), but obviously it’s made a big deal out of,” he said. “Sometimes I guess winning isn’t the most important thing, it’s throwing hard. When I was younger it was all about winning, now it’s about throwing hard. I’m confused.”

Beckett is perplexed because he doesn’t view what he is offering now in terms of velocity as all that different from what it was before.

And, according to Pitch FX (a tool that measures pitchers’ velocity), he is justified in his confusion.

In his most recent start, a seven-inning, three-run outing against the Rangers, Beckett’s fastball topped out at 93 mph and averaged 92 mph. They were the same measurements found both in his third start a year ago, as well as the game he classified as the best performance of his career – a complete game, one-hitter against Tampa Bay on June 15, 2011.

“I think every year that’s kind of how I am,” Beckett explained. “I remember one year in A-Ball coming out of spring training I was 88-89 [mph], but by the end of the year I was back throwing at my normal velocity. Sometimes that’s the way it is. You can’t explain it. It is what it is. I don’t know if it’s scar tissue, or what.

“No matter what, you still have to locate the ball. I felt like I did that in both these last two starts. I stayed out of the middle of the plate against the Rangers, that was it. I wouldn’t say I had pinpoint control, but I felt like I had pretty good control against the Rays. With the Rangers I just stayed out of the middle of the plate with the exception of one pitch.”

While the velocity hasn’t changed as much as some might think, other parts of Beckett’s game have been tweaked As FanGraphs’ Chris Cwik points out, it’s the use (and effectiveness) of his cutter that has been changed.

Beckett’s cutter, which he used 31 times against the Rangers, has been getting more ground balls and swings and misses than ever before. Add in the fact that the righty is now using two different types of changeups (one that was uncharacteristically clocked at 86 mph against the Rangers), and it’s clear some minor changes have been made.

It’s just that, according to the pitcher, velocity hasn’t (and won’t be) one of those alterations.

“It’s more consistent,” said Beckett of his cutter. “I think it was just as good a few years ago, but now it’s consistently where I want to throw it. And that’s another thing that could drop my velocity down. My cutter is almost the same speed as my fastball. So if my fastball is 91 or 92, and my cutter is 90, some of the cutters may look like fastballs, too.

“They are so close together. It’s not like my cutter is 85. My cutter is 88-91. I looked up there a couple of times two days ago and it was 91.”

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