Sunday, March 04, 2007

Pavano vs. Beckett

Carl Pavano and Josh Beckett were both important pitchers on the 2003 Florida Marlins championship teams. In recent years both have joined the most insane rivalry in sports, and have seen very disappointing results in doing so. Pavano's poor showing has as much to do with injury and the perception that he isn't serious about his work. Beckett's problems stem more from his skyrocketing HR rate and big mouth. I thought it might be interesting to look at their comparisons for both career and in their first season in the AL East. For Beckett that would be 2006, while Pavano would be the 17 games he managed in 2005 before sitting out with an assortment of odd ailments.

Josh Beckett (Career vs. 2006)

K/9 (8.46 vs. 6.95)
BB/9 (3.29 vs. 3.25)
H/9 (7.96 vs. 8.40)
HR/9 (1.01 vs. 1.58)
WHIP (1.250 vs. 1.295)
ERA (3.85 vs. 5.01)

The change in performance for Beckett, a young pitcher with a very live fastball, was most noticeable in the reduction of K-rate and jump in HR-rate. A blazing fastball in the NL East doesn't necessarily translate to the same success in the AL East, hence the big ERA last season. More often than not, Beckett challenged batters with that bread and butter heater and saw the ball land in the stands. The positives that you can take from his other ratios are the similar walk rate and WHIP. It's expected that he'd give up a few more hits, but he still stayed within himself enough to avoid the deadly walk. It seems as though the key to his success in 2007 will be to keep the ball in the park and diversify his arsenal enough to make sure he's ahead. If he gets behind in the count, and is intent on not walking anyone, that fastball has a bullseye on it.

Carl Pavano (Career vs. 2005)

K/9 (5.84 vs. 5.04)
BB/9 (2.51 vs. 1.62)
H/9 (9.66 vs. 11.61)
HR/9 (.971 vs. 1.53)
WHIP (1.352 vs. 1.470)
ERA (4.27 vs. 4.77)

Pavano's line is very different as would be expected given the differences in style between his younger, harder throwing former teammate. Pavano relies on ground balls for his success, and is likely to give up hits as he goes. He isn't ever going to overpower anyone, and you can see that his K-rate has never been remotely outstanding. The pitfall for Pavano is the slugging that batters were able to put up against him. His career mark of .427 turned into a big fat .513 when he joined the Yankees. This is evident in the big jump in HR-rate, although his ERA didn't take too big a hit. His BB-rate remained very good and helped him to perhaps avoid the even bigger inning that comes from 3-run home runs. Only once in his 17 appearances did the combination of walk and home run really bit him.

The positive to take for Pavano in 2007 is an improved defense behind him, especially at second, first, and CF. The Yankees had Rey Sanchez at 2B in a lot of Pavano's 2005 starts and his error cost Pavano one of his worst outings. Giambi and Tino split time at 1B, but you have to think that Mientkiewicz will contribute something to the starts that Pavano makes where the ball is scooting around the infield. Bernie and Tony Womack spent plenty of time behind Pavano that season as well. Damon's arm won't be an upgrade, but his instincts and legs certainly will. Melky could also see some time out there, and that would most assuredly be a big upgrade vs. Woe-mack. This is an optimistic outlook for Glass Carl, but I think there's at least some good reason for it should his health questions dissipate. No one expects him to be a front of the rotation guy, but in the 5th spot he might just be a big boost for the Yankees, especially considering the trouble we had in 2006 with names like Erickson, Ponson, Aaron Small, and Shawn Chacon.