Sorry Josh, Tito has spoken
I don't think I am going out on a limb at all when I say that Josh Beckett is the biggest key for the Red Sox championship dreams in 2011. From the looks of it, the Sox have a big time lineup, highlighted by Gonzalez, Crawford, Youk and Pedroia. They have two strong starting pitchers in Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. They also have a strong bullpen, with the likes of Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks and Daniel Wheeler. If they can have a strong season out of Josh Beckett, they'd have to be the favorites in the AL. However, that is something that no one can be sure about.
Josh Beckett has been a very interesting player throughout his career. Beckett started his career in Florida. His first full time season in the majors was 2002, where he showed promise but had a typical up and down rookie season. The next year, he became the Josh Beckett the baseball world knows today. 2003 was one of the best postseasons in recent memory, and Beckett was a huge part of that. He led the Florida Marlins all the way to the promised land. He led the attack and the team beat the Yankees in the Series. In that series, Beckett capped off a beautiful postseason with a brilliant World Series, in which he had a 1.10 ERA and walked away with the World Series MVP. Before the 2006 season, the Red Sox decided that they needed a pitcher like him, and traded top prospect and current fantasy baseball all star Hanley Ramirez for him.
That trade payed off big time in 2007. In that year, Beckett acted as the ace the Red Sox always hoped he'd be and won 20 games with a 2nd place Cy Young finish for the regular season. After that, in the playoffs, he pitched even better. He gave up just four runs in the 30 innings he pitched in the postseason. He led the team with two big wins in the seven game ALCS with the Indians, then pitched brilliantly in the one game he pitched in for the World Series. While Mike Lowell, who the Sox also got in the Ramirez trade, won World Series MVP, one could argue that Beckett was the playoffs MVP.
It is after this where Beckett's situation starts to fall downhill. In 2008 and 2009, Beckett had some great outings, and some frustrating ones. He was never again the ace that the team could rely on to stop losing streaks. It's a mystery as to what has happened since the World Series run, but Beckett is not the first pitcher to fall off out of nowhere. That being said, I find it difficult to believe that last season could possibly be a precursor for this year. Beckett finished last year with a 6-6 record and a 5.78 ERA. I don't believe he will pitch that bad in 2011. Here are my predicted stats for Beckett.
16-10, 4.11 ERA, 200 IP, 174 K, 2.9 WAR