Theo Epstein And Starting Pitching

Theo Epstein was hired as GM of the Red Sox on November 25th, 2002, so he's coming up on nine years at the helm.  The fatal flaw with Epstein's disappointing 2011 club was starting pitching, which prompted me to investigate his work assembling rotations.

2003 – Won wild card.  4.30 rotation ERA ranked fifth in AL.

Epstein had nothing to do with the '03 rotation, so we can strike it from his record.

2004 – Won World Series.  4.31 rotation ERA ranked third in AL.

Epstein deserves credit for 40% of this group, and Schilling was of course crucial.

2005 – Won wild card.  4.56 rotation ERA ranked seventh in AL.

  • Tim Wakefield – He signed an extension in '05 with a recurring $4MM club option, so perhaps he became part of Epstein's ledger here or with the '06 season.
  • Bronson Arroyo
  • Matt Clement – signed by Epstein in '04
  • David Wells – signed by Epstein in '04.
  • Curt Schilling
  • Wade Miller – signed by Epstein in '04.

This was not an impressive group, and most of them can be attributed to Epstein.

2006 – Missed playoffs.  5.00 rotation ERA ranked 11th in AL.

  • Josh Beckett - Seth Mnookin's 2006 book Feeding the Monster mainly credits president Larry Lucchino for the November '05 Beckett trade, as Epstein was on hiatus.  The book says assistant GM Jed Hoyer was in constant consultation with Epstein at the time and was wary of making the deal.  Beckett had a rough '06 season, during which Epstein extended him potentially through 2010.
  • Curt Schilling
  • Tim Wakefield
  • Jon Lester – The 2002 draftee officially goes on the ledger of interim GM Mike Port, though Epstein was in the organization as assistant GM by that point.
  • Matt Clement
  • Kyle Snyder – claimed off waivers by Epstein in '06.

2007 – Won World Series.  4.21 rotation ERA ranked second in AL.

2008 – Won wild card.  4.02 rotation ERA ranked third in AL.

2009 – Won wild card.  4.63 rotation ERA ranked eighth in AL.

  • Josh Beckett
  • Jon Lester – Prior to this season, Epstein signed Lester potentially through 2014.
  • Brad Penny – signed by Epstein as a free agent in '08.
  • Tim Wakefield
  • Clay Buchholz – drafted by Epstein in '05.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka
  • John Smoltz – signed by Epstein as a free agent in '09.

2010 – Missed playoffs.  4.17 rotation ERA ranked sixth in AL.

  • John Lackey – signed by Epstein as a free agent in '09.
  • Jon Lester
  • Clay Buchholz
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka
  • Josh Beckett – A new extension for Beckett was completed by Epstein prior to this season, running through 2014.
  • Tim Wakefield – Wakefield's recurring option had been exercised three times.  Prior to this season, Epstein hammered out a new two-year extension.

2011 – Missed playoffs.  4.49 rotation ERA ranked ninth in AL.

  • Jon Lester
  • Josh Beckett
  • John Lackey
  • Tim Wakefield
  • Clay Buchholz
  • Andrew Miller – signed by Epstein as a free agent in '10.

Epstein has put together eight rotations in his time as Red Sox GM.  Three could comfortably be described as above-average.  Schilling and Arroyo, his best starting pitching acquisitions, came eight years ago.  So far Buchholz has been the only drafted starting pitcher to make an impact in one of Epstein's rotations, with '06 pick Justin Masterson becoming a major piece of the '09 trade for Victor Martinez.  While Matsuzaka has been disappointing as a whole, he made major contributions in '07 and '08.  Epstein also deserves credit for extending Wakefield, Beckett, and Lester.

Free agent starting pitchers have been a problem, with significant dollars spent on Lackey, Clement, Penny, and Smoltz.  And for a $103MM commitment, Dice-K has not paid off.

The Red Sox seem to have relative stability in their recent rotations, and Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz will be part of the 2012 group.  Still, a major acquisition seems likely this offseason.  For all of Epstein's positive contributions to the club, his ability to acquire good veteran starting pitching must be questioned.

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