Match up two is Josh Beckett vs. A.J. Burnett:
I figured the match up of former Marlins flame throwers was the best way to go with our second rotation spot. At first glance, this match up would seem to heavily favor the Red Sox with Burnett having a checkered past in regards to his injuries and inability to stay on the field. But each pitcher came to the American League in 2006 and their numbers over the past three years are remarkably similar.
Beckett has thrown more innings in the AL East, coming in at just under 580 innings, while Burnett has managed about 174 innings a year or 522 2/3 over the three years he was with the Jays. You may be surprised to find out that it is not Beckett but Burnett who has the better ERA over the past three years, beating out Beckett by 0.17.
Burnett also bests Beckett in the strike out department (both total Ks and K/9) and opponent batting average (.242 to .248). Where they differ and Beckett probably has the greatest advantage is in the control department. The Red Sox righty walked far fewer people per nine innings than Burnett.
Everyone knows that these two guys bring the heat and compliment their solid fastballs with hammer curves. Though some question Burnett’s desire to actually play and stay on the field, anyone who has seen him pitch against good teams on big settings knows that he can be tenacious on the mound, while Beckett has a Hall of Fame track record when it comes big games.
Verdict: Even though Burnett has shown flashes of being a comparable pitcher to Josh Beckett and at times has exceeded his counterpart, Beckett has a track record that cannot be ignored. Maybe Burnett has figured out how to stay healthy over the course of a full season, but the odds are against that. While Beckett had some injury issues last season, he has become a work horse over the past three and is a much more reliable bet to contribute over the course of 35 starts and 200 innings. We’re all tied up at 1.