It hasn’t happened in his entire career. It hasn’t happened to a Dodgers pitcher since Hideo Nomo in 1996. But 34-year-old starter Josh Beckett finally threw a no-hitter on Sunday, against his former Marlins teammate A.J. Burnett of all people.
After the game, Becket credited his teammates for the historical feat, even though it’s the oldest and most redundant saying in sports at the time of individual accomplishment. This time, he may be onto something.
Beckett is still throwing heat, ranging between 91-93 mph. Nothing has changed in the way of pitching repertoire. What did change was one teammate’s attention to detail.
Catcher A.J. Ellis went through some data while recovering from knee surgery and showed Beckett that his curveball was very hard to hit. Whether it’s left-handed hitters or right-handed hitters, slugging percentages against Beckett’s curveball were low.
With a 2.89 ERA and an 8.9 K/9 in eight starts this season, Beckett is pitching like an ace again. Thanks to Ellis’ consoling, Beckett is throwing the curve at will, more than ever, more than anyone. Ahead of the count or behind, Beckett isn’t afraid of throwing his prized pitch.
Beckett threw 39 curveballs during his no-hitter against the Phillies, 21 for strikes. His performance brought joy to some of his former teammates, including Marlins manager Mike Redmond, who could use a bright spot after his sour Sunday against the Brewers.
The no-hitter came as a pleasant surprise to Redmond, but the former catcher isn’t surprised of his ability to still be successful.
When the two reunited in Los Angeles a week ago, Redmond told Beckett “this might end up being your best year cause you’re going out and having fun.”
“I sent him a text saying ‘hey man, at least you had a good catcher today,’” Redmond said referring to Drew Butera who previously caught Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter back in 2011.
Even tough his approach with the curveball is making him a star again, there’s still some Marlin in him. Even in his mid-thirties, Beckett is still that spunky Texas boy with a flamethrower for an arm.
“The only way I used to change speeds was throwing harder,” Beckett told the O.C. Register. “And I thought I could still do that. Maybe I knew I couldn’t, but my mind always went back to it. Even now, while I feel like I am making this adjustment, I still fight myself from time to time thinking this is 2003. Then I have to tell myself, ‘Wait, this isn’t 2003.’”
As analysts, we usually say something wont last forever because of a lack of a substantial sample size and not knowing the reason why. With Beckett, we know the source of his success and as long as he can pitch it, he’ll once again be a key cog in a championship rotation.