I'm not a big believer in wins for a pitcher as a stat indicative of much other than decent pitching and lots of run support, but that said, its still nice for Josh Beckett to win his twentieth tonight versus Tampa. As mediocre and inconsistent as Beckett was last season, he has been as good and consistently so this season.
Looking at Beckett's splits from 2006 and comparing them to this season's numbers, three numbers jump out at me. The first is walks. Last season in 204.2 innings, Beckett walked 74 guys. This season in 203.1 innings he has given up 39 walks. Thats a decrease of about half (47%).
Often when you see a decrease in walks like this you see a corresponding decrease in strikeout rate. But Beckett has bucked that trend, striking out 154 last season and 193 this one. (Note: These numbers do not include tonight's game, wherein Beckett walked 2 and K'd 8 in 6.0 innings.)
And yes, he has also given up fewer homers, 36 last year to 17 this year. Take all of these improvements, add the 20 win season (a requisite flashing red light for the BBWA) and you have the bonafides of a Cy Young Award winner. Hopefully thats not the only hardware that Beckett will collect this season.
Its great that the Red Sox finally won a game. Of course it was only Tampa, but at this point and the way things have been going, a win is all that matters. Still, the team played very well, homering three times (Tek in the eighth, and Papi & Lowell back to back in the ninth) and holding the Rays to a single run.
The Sox have eight games to go. If they win seven, they win the division. By virtue of their recent slide, the Red Sox have ceded the best record in the AL and thus home field advantage throughout the playoffs to the Cleveland Indians. The standings for best record look like this:
LAA.............91-62 (pending the result of tonight's game vs. Seattle)
So you can see its not dires straights yet. As for your favorite villans, the Yankees entered the bottom of the ninth trailing Roy Halladay and the Blue Jays 4-0, but scored four runs to tie up the game. As of this writing the teams are about to begin the 14th inning with the same 4-4 score. A win keeps NY at 1.5 games back, while a loss pushes them to 2.5. Guess which one I'm rooting for. And while I was typing this, Gregg Zaun homered to put the Jays up 5-4. The game is in New York, so the Yankees will get one more shot. The Jays are still batting in the 14th.
AL East: Covered above. Go Blue Jays! [Edit: The Yankees lost in 14 innings, 5-4. They trail Boston by 2.5 games. Ha ha ha!]
Tomorrow (Saturday): The Sox get another in a never ending series of cracks at your favorite forgotten franchise and mine, the Tampa Devil Rays. Daisuke Matsuzaka tries to remember how to pitch versus Andy Sonnanstine. Festivities get underway at 7:10pm EST.