Is Theo to Blame for the State of the Rotation?

As the Red Sox have fallen into a deeper slump than most of us ever imagined possible, the “Chicken Little” mentality that was once prevalent throughout Red Sox Nation has slowly transformed into the “Mob” mentality.  Yes, that’s right folks.  People throughout New England have their pitchforks and torches lined up and ready to go should the once seemingly invincible Red Sox fully collapse and miss the playoffs.  When and if it does happen, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports will likely be unfairly marked as the man leading the charge.

On Monday morning, he released what some have described as a “scathing” article on the state of the Red Sox.  Though I’ll admit initially seeing the piece in an unfavorable light at first, it’s neither as damning nor outrageous as many have made it out to be.   While I disagreed with many points of his article, I feel as if I should give Passan some credit.  To date, he’s one of the few baseball writers who’s steered away from the tired, lazy, and baseless “Red Sox lack heart and motivation” meme.  In fact, he even took a moment during his latest piece to address this common misconception.

“What’s different isn’t a matter of heart or will or desire or want-to or any of the things that play so well on Boston talk radio. The Red Sox are choking because they are being outplayed, just like they were outplayed when they started the season 2-10 and sent the city into a panic, and they are being outplayed because that happens to even the best teams. It’s not a single, drastic failure as much as it is a compendium of little failures snowballing into an Indiana Jones-sized boulder of destruction.”

As someone who abhors formulaic non-sequitur arguments, I openly applaud Passan for portraying the basic reason for their struggles in a rational manner.  He’s absolutely correct in his assessment.  Just like at the beginning of the season, the Red Sox are being outplayed right now.  There are a lot of reasons for their September slump, the most prevalent being injuries; but we shouldn’t look at the last 20 games and draw erroneous conclusions.

Like most good writers, Passan went looking for answers.  While he found a few credible reasons, he fell flat on several others; thus weighing down whatever good he might have done with the piece.  At times, it almost seemed as if he was stretching to find enough reasons to create a top ten list; as if a top seven list wasn’t good enough.  For example, Theo Epstein was named as reason number one and number ten for why the Red Sox were struggling.  Secondly, Kyle Weiland’s pitching performances were discussed in detail in both number one and number nine.  These instances, in particular, made the article seem repetitive and overreaching

Chief among my (constructive) criticisms were his views on Epstein’s role in this whole debacle.

“Theo Epstein is facing criticism – all of it justified – for leaving his franchise shorthanded in the throes of a playoff race.

It is very simple: No team with the ability to spend $170 million on its payroll should be starting Kyle Weiland in September. Period. Weiland is the rookie starting the first game Monday againstBaltimore. He has allowed 34 baserunners in 19 innings while striking out six. He may be good someday. He may see the criticism descending on him now and throw a gem. Just like good teams can lose, bad pitchers can win.

Weiland simply represents a systematic failure in what to this point has been a peerlessly managed team. Epstein has run the Red Sox with efficiency and intelligence during his nine seasons as general manager. Which makes this all the more distressing for diehards and pink-hats alike.”

On the surface, it’s hard to find fault with Passan’s logic.  After all, Epstein was the architect of the team, so it stands to reason he deserves much of the blame.  This is especially true if you look at baseball on the macro level as opposed to the micro level.  Epstein was armed with a $170M payroll at his disposal, and now Tim Wakefield, Kyle Weiland, and Andrew Miller are receiving regular turns in the starting rotation in September.  These kinds of things should never happen, right?

Well, yeah, except they do happen.

As Passan admits later in the article that injuries happen to every team.  This season, they’ve hit the Red Sox hard; especially when it comes to the starting rotation.  In fact, he even goes out of his way to admit injuries have ravaged a potentially deep rotation.  Here’s how he lists the depth chart.

4.  Erik Bedard (He assumes the Red Sox would have traded for Bedard even if they had been healthy all season)

Sounds pretty solid, right?  While the last two pitchers on the list have been incredibly frustrating to watch over the past couple of years; as 5th and 6th starters, they’re pretty freaking amazing.  For the sake of completeness, let’s flesh the depth chart out a little more:

7.  Tim Wakefield
10. Kyle Weiland
11. Felix Doubront (I’m including him because he was probably seventh on the depth chart in Spring Training)
12. Kevin Millwood (signed on 5/19/2011; released on 8/6/2011)

On most teams, Wakefield would have easily cracked the starting rotation, lining up in the fourth of fifth slots.  (Maybe even third on a handful of teams.) On the Red Sox, he comes in at number seven among pitchers on the roster (in our theoretically healthy rotation).  Aceves has the potential to be a solid back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, and very well may get a shot next season to take the spot vacated by the injured Matsuzaka.  Like Wakefield, he’d probably crack most teams rotations.  After that, it’s Miller, Weiland, and Doubront; all of whom are replacement level starting pitchers worthy of receiving a spot start or two provided the situation is appropriate.

The point I’m trying to make is that due to injuries, the Red Sox have been forced to give 43 starts (or 26.5% of all starts this season) to the number 7-10 guys on their starting rotation depth chart.* In comparison, let’s look at the American League playoff contenders.  The Yankees have been forced to go beyond their number six starter two times; the Rangers five times;  the Angels six times; the Tigers eight times; and the Rays 13 times.  How have the National League contenders fared in the same situation?  The Brewers have been forced to go beyond their sixth starter zero times; the Giants five times; the Braves eight times; the Phillies 14 times; the Diamondbacks 20 times; and the Cardinals 21 times (including Wainwright as the ace).  While I’ll fully admit the levels of talent within each rotation varies, there’s no denying the Red Sox have been forced to go to the well far more often than any other contender.  All things considered, the sheer fact they’re 88-66 and leading the Rays in the Wild Card by 2 games should be considered a massive achievement. Most teams, including several of the above named contenders, would have folded under the same circumstances.

*Wakefield, Aceves, Miller, and Weiland have combined to produce 0.9 fWAR and a 5.17 FIP in 234-1/3 innings out of the rotation this season.

Furthermore, during a 5-15 September stretch where most teams are exhausted and banged up as it is, the Red Sox have been forced to rely on their depth to start eight of their 20 games (or 40%) this month.  Of course, that doesn’t even include the four starts in which the struggling Lackey has appeared.  While I’m in no way excusing Lackey’s performance (even if everyone had been healthy, he’d still be in the rotation), it goes a long way toward explaining the precarious situation the Red Sox have found themselves in.  Other than the Braves whom are also struggling this month, no other contender has been forced to rely on anyone other than their top six starters in September.

Switching gears for a moment, could the Red Sox have added more depth?  Passan asserts they already had additional rotation depth in Kevin Millwood. Rather than give him a look in the majors, they chose to release him.

“It’s easy to second-guess Epstein when Kevin Millwood, who left the Red Sox’s Triple-A affiliate to sign with the Colorado Rockies the day Boston’s phenomenal stretch ended, has thrown well for a non-contender. Millwood wanted to pitch in the major leagues; Epstein never afforded him that opportunity.

Millwood’s stuff, according to scouts who saw him, wasn’t anything special, and between that and the Erik Bedard trade seeming to fortify Boston’s rotation, the Millwood snub seemed understandable. Now it looks shortsighted, especially with the eminently optionable Randy Williams on the roster at the time.”

Given the reasonably decent health of the Red Sox rotation on the day Millwood was released, it seemed like the right move to make at the time.  While I can understand why one might think a healthy and available Millwood could help the Red Sox, his 4.66 FIP in 47-1/3 innings for the Rockies screams otherwise.  Had he pitched for Boston over that stretch, it’s probably safe to assume his FIP would have registered above 5.00 once you factor in not only the designated hitter, but also being in a division that contains three of the top 15 teams in baseball (Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays).  In reality, he’s just another replacement level arm.  The only difference separating Millwood from Miller and Weiland is experience.  Unfortunately, the difference in experience would have had a negligible affect on the Red Sox over the past three weeks.

Could the Red Sox have added rotation depth elsewhere?  Possibly, but it’s been well documented that the front office made serious, aggressive attempts to add starting pitching at the July 31st trading deadline.  Bedard’s presence on the roster is proof of that fact.  Still, the Red Sox worked hard to try to bring in other pitchers to bolster the rotation.  According to multiple sources, they had cut a deal to acquire Hiroki Kuroda from the Dodgers, only to have it fall apart when he invoked his no-trade clause.  The Red Sox had a deal finalized with the A’s for the fireballing Rich Harden, only to have to back away due to unfavorable medical reports. Explicit overtures were made toward the Rockies about acquiring staff ace Ubaldo Jimenez.  When the asking price proved to be cost prohibitive, he was moved to the Indians instead.*  The Sox had also taken a look at former Seattle RHP Doug Fister, but decided he wasn’t worth Seattle’s asking price.  While he’s pitched very well since being acquired by the Tigers, there are indications he’s pitching over his head at this point.  That is, unless you think he’s really a 3.11 FIP true talent pitcher, which I do not.  (Especially considering his 86% contact rate.)  At the time, it seemed like the right move; this is true even when you consider the Tigers gave up relatively little to acquire him.

*Considering his 4.12 FIP, it was probably for the best in the short-term.  

In closing, placing full blame Theo for the state of the rotation is not only unfair, but also facile in nature.  (Still, he’s not without fault.)  No one, not even one of the game’s premier General Managers, could have predicted the number of injuries the Red Sox rotation would incur this season; especially in September.  Even still, he put together enough starting pitching depth to go 11 or 12 deep for much of the season.  How many teams can boast that kind of depth?  Two?  Three?  The only reason it’s been a problem is because they’ve been forced to use their depth so frequently.  This isn’t anyone’s fault per se.  Sometimes teams hit a streak of bad luck.  In the case of the Red Sox rotation, their luck has gone stone cold at the worst possible time.

Categories: Alfredo Aceves Andrew Miller Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz Daisuke Matsuzaka Felix Doubront John Lackey Jon Lester Josh Beckett Kyle Weiland Tim Wakefield

After being slapped with a restraining order for stealing Nick Cafardo's mail, I was forced into retirement for a brief period of time. As fun as it was to lounge around the community pool and play shuffleboard with noted internet columnist, Murray Chass, I quickly felt a yearning to write again. Now in my second tenure with Fire Brand, I have set lofty goals of achieving world domination, ending the plight of the hipsters, and becoming BFFs with Mike Trout. I am fluent in two languages (Sarcasm and English, in that order); have an intimate relationship with M&Ms; firmly believe that Lucille is the best character on Arrested Development; and spend my spare time trolling select members of the Boston media. You can follow me on Twitter @Chip_Buck.

36 Responses to “Is Theo to Blame for the State of the Rotation?” Subscribe

  1. @JerryWieder September 21, 2011 at 7:53 AM #

    You are overlooking one thing about your potential depth chart regarding the Yankees vs the Sox. Yes Boston has been riddled with injuries up and down, but they lack the depth of young pitching at the high minor level. They don't have an Adam Warren, DJ Mitchell, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos, or Dellin Betances. Yes the Yankees didn't need to call on those kids, but they could have had a depth chart of 10 above replacement level pitchers which the Red Sox lack.

    That is a failing of Theo Epstein's. High level minor league depth is not a luxury in today's game. It is an imperative and to overlook that is naive.

    • Chip Buck September 21, 2011 at 8:37 AM #

      With all due respect, Banuelos and Betances started the season in AA, and had little to no chance of being promoted to the majors in the first place. Calling them above replacement level pitchers at this point is dubious at best; especially when you consider the fact Betances and Betances each averaged 5.0 BB/9 respectively between AA and AAA this season. Had they been given an opportunity to start in the majors, it’s safe to assume those rates would have been even higher; thus limiting their ability to pitch effectively. They both have a lot of upside, but they still have quite a bit of development remaining. Keep in mind I also write for a IIATMS, a Yankee blog, as well so I’m well aware of both pitchers.

      Out of the remaining three pitchers, the only one that’s even moderately considered to have major league potential in the rotation is Phelps. Even in his case, his ceiling is mostly described as a back of the rotation starter for a non-contender by talent evaluators. Mitchell and Warren are fringe relievers that lack both sufficient control and “put away” stuff to survive in the rotation.

      All five of the pitchers you named were either replacement level or below replacement level at this point. You are vastly overrating each of them at this point.

  2. jtsgreenmonster September 21, 2011 at 9:28 AM #

    You can try to rationalize Theo's performance all you want. The bottom line is he did not have a viable contingency plan given the state of the rotation and the bullpen at the time of the deadline. He had the opportunity to make trades utilizing players with expiring contracts and chose not to act. He had two legitimate closers and chose not to move one of them. How much money will he have to throw at Pap, Papi, and Drew to keep them? Chances are at least one of them will walk and the Sox then get nothing in return. Rationalize all you want. Not only were his lack fo moves short sighted and non-strategic, but his lack of action will do additional damage to the team this winter, also.

    • zach September 21, 2011 at 10:59 AM #

      That's a silly argument. If the goal is to win now, Theo needs to keep Pap and Ortiz period. Having only Bard with the rest of our bullpen after the Jenks injury would not have been sufficient–it leaves us with no legitimate set up man. Also, we're not throwing any money at Drew this offseason. He's walking and everyone is fine with that. Drew was not really tradeable either–no one wants an expensive, underperforming, oft-injured outfielder who was already on the DL at the deadline. Try rationalizing that trade to an opposing GM.

    • Chip Buck September 21, 2011 at 11:51 AM #

      @JTSgreenmonster – Really? That’s the argument you’re going with? Trade two key playes (Paps and Papi) for a championship run at the trading deadline for a third or fourth starter? Thank god you’re not the GM. While we’re at it, how many teams do you think are willing to give up useable pieces for a 35 year old oft-injured outfielder. Chances are, not many. In fact, I doubt even Brian Sabean and Ed Wade would’ve considered a move like that.

      The problem with your argument is that you make irrational assumptions Theo’s options. Truth is there wasn’t a lot available at the deadline to begin with. The options that were available dried up for one reason or another. His moves were strategic. Given the situation at the time, they were the right moves.

  3. Bruce September 21, 2011 at 11:06 AM #

    I get that injuries were part of the problem and Theo is not totally to blame. But the Sox seem to have more than their share of injuries. Is this just a perception or reality? For example, injuries caused the crash in 2006 and resulted in a wasted season. Last year injuries to Pedroia, Ellsbury, Lowrie, Cammeron and Youkilis ruined the season. This year it is Youkilis again, Drew, Jenks, Wheeler, Buchholtz, Matsuzaka, and Lowrie again. Seems like the Sox have had more than their share of injuries to top players. I would be interested to see stats on this. Maybe this is an area they need to pay more attention to. You can say it is bad luck but seems like this is an area where you make your own luck. Thoughts.

    • Chip Buck September 21, 2011 at 11:57 AM #

      @Bruce – There have been a lot of injuries this year, so that is a concern. Many (including me) have called the medical and conditioning staffs into question. (See Lowrie in 2009, Ellsbury in 2010, and Buchholz in 2011.) It’s possible it may be time for a leadership change in both realms. That said, a lot of the injuries you mentioned aren’t surprising. Lowrie, Drew, and Youk are all oft-injured players. That seems to be their nature. Dice-K had a lot of miles on his arm, so while it’s not surprising; it’s still unexpected. As for Buchholz and Wheeler, sometimes things just happen. While I don’t disagree that this might be an area they can make their own luck, you can’t choose when players get hurt. The timing of the injuries is bad luck, not necessarily the injuries themselves.

      • Bruce September 21, 2011 at 4:24 PM #

        OK, that all makes sense. But I would still be interested to see if statistically the Red Sox have more injuries. I believe the data will show they do. Then the question is: is it because they choose players prone to injury or is it because the medical staff (etc.) are not on top of things. Just seems like we have had more than our share of bad luck with injuries. I think there is some issue underlying this bad luck. Too much reliance on past data and not looking forward enough?

        • ChipBuck September 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM #

          My buddy and I were discussing this further last night, and he wondered the same thing. There might be something to it. Perhaps there's an article in there at some point down the line.

    • Nate September 29, 2011 at 1:38 AM #

      I totally agree if I understand you correctly. When you have half of you top players on the bench even when you are fighting for a playoff spot with 3 2 even 1 game left how do you expect to do well? We are paying top dollar for great players but they only help if they are on the field. You can’t win with great players that are not playing. Look at our potential collective batting average; it’s so much higher than what we end up putting on the field. Buck up and win some damn games. Why is Frankona not at fault he is too much of a players manager.

      • ChipBuck September 29, 2011 at 7:14 AM #

        I don't want to place blame on Francona. Could he have done a better job? Sure. I don't agree with all of his managerial decisions. Still, he did what he thought was best, and played the hand he was dealt. I think the front office needs to look seriously at making changes with the medical and conditioning staffs. The Red Sox have been decimated by injuries for three seasons now. Clearly, something's not right. This goes beyond having a few injury-riddled players.

  4. LarryAtIIATMS September 21, 2011 at 11:41 AM #

    Pitching. Is. Unpredictable.

    • Chip Buck September 21, 2011 at 11:59 AM #

      Amen to that Larry. Sometimes, it’s painfully unpredictable.

  5. Dale Sams September 21, 2011 at 2:23 PM #

    Tim wakefield would be the third starter on some teams? Counting his unearned runs from his billion passed balls and wild pitchs, he's the second worst pitcher in baseball, second only to the aforementioned 'pretty freaking great fifth starter' John Lackey.

    • ChipBuck September 21, 2011 at 2:37 PM #

      I think you're forgetting about AJ Burnett and the entire Kansas City Royals starting rotation–a team for which he would be the team's #3 guy. SP isn't as deep as you think it is Dale.

      • Dale Sams September 21, 2011 at 2:53 PM #

        AJ Burnett is better than John Lackey and Tim Wakefield. The entire KC SP staff is better than Lackey and Wakefield. It isn't hyperbole. They literally have the worst era of any pitcher with more than 140 IP (again accounting for Wake's unearned pitchs)

        • ChipBuck September 21, 2011 at 5:00 PM #

          While I'll agree that RA is better than ERA, it's far from a perfect metric to judge a pitcher. According to FIP (my preferred metric), Bronson Arroyo, Jake Arrieta, Brad Penny, and Randy Wells are all worse pitchers than Wakefield (of pitchers with at least 100 innings). Lackey is the 15th worst. If we used SIERA, Wake and Lackey finish 14th and 22nd respectively.

          As bad as both pitchers have been, I don't believe that either have been as bad as their ERA/RA suggests. Poor luck of sorts have played a role in their performance. Obviously, there are other issues that exist outside of luck, but I can't imagine a scenario where anyone would rather have most of the pitchers on the Royals or Pirates staffs.

  6. Dale Sams September 21, 2011 at 5:40 PM #

    Not really related to the crux of our discussion, but I'm trying to find the worst SP to ever have a winning record. Lackey would actually have to win his next start, but a cursory search doesn't find anyone even in the 6.00's.

    • Dale Sams September 21, 2011 at 5:45 PM #

      Ok, I found a few…but as far as I can tell, if Lackey wins his next start he will have the highest ERA of any winning pitcher in the modern era.

    • ChipBuck September 21, 2011 at 8:39 PM #

      Thanks to Baseball Reference's Play Index, I found 85 pitchers since 1901 that had a winning record, had an ERA above 5.00, and pitched 162 innings. Only three pitchers had ERAs greater than 6.00.

      1. Wes Ferrell (1938) – 15-10, 6.28
      2. Guy Bush (1930) – 15-10, 6.20
      3. Livan Hernandez (2008) – 13-11, 6.05

      If Lackey can accumulate eight more innings, get the win, and maintain his ERA, he would be the would finish with the worst ERA from a winning pitcher in the modern era.

  7. Adam September 22, 2011 at 11:19 AM #

    Before the season started, Epstein was regarded as a genious for the rotation that he put together, while Cashman was lambasted for the Yankees'. People said that the Yankees starters (not named Sabathia or Hughes) were either inconsistent (Burnett) or just too old to be effective (see everyone else). What happened was either luck or ingenious signings, but Cashman certainly proved himself to be a genious, while Epstein's "best team of all time" rotation [and starting lineup] FAILED. ____It doesn't matter if it was because of injuries or poor performance by the players, Epstein came to the table with what looked like four Aces, and ended up with a gut-shot straight draw, preying he picked up the winning card at the very end. No matter how you spin this, the point is clear: Theo (and everyone else) thought he put together a team for the ages. In fact, he did. Just not in the way they'll want to be remembered.

    • Adam September 22, 2011 at 11:20 AM #

      ps – note the ironic spelling of "genious" :)

    • ChipBuck September 22, 2011 at 12:22 PM #

      Part 1

      @Adam – I seriously doubt Theo "thought he put together a team for the ages." That goes against everything we know about the man. As a rational, statistically driven person, I have no doubt he recognized the team could falter or fail to meet expectations. Even the most prepared, well intentioned plans occasionally go wrong from time-to-time. If anyone should be accused for believing this to be true, it's the fans and baseball writers. While I can't speak for my co-writers, I can honestly say I didn't fall into this trap, as I'd written a few articles saying as much prior to the season starting.

      (continued)

      • Adam September 22, 2011 at 2:03 PM #

        The problem with "the plan" as you describe it was that everyone (including professional writers, analysts, and the casual fan) said Theo did an amazing job putting together what could have been one of the all-time great times. Certainly he needed the money to do it, but he seemingly spent it wisely, used his blue-chip talent to acquire established all-stars, and was poised for a GM of the year award.
        But, whether or not you bought into it is irrelevant. My point is that Theo got all the credit then, and deserves more of the blame now than you're giving him. I don't honestly think he felt he put together a team of the ages, but everyone else did. So, it's time all those (including me) lambaste Theo for it not working out. That's what we irrational fans do.

        • Adam September 22, 2011 at 2:03 PM #

          Part 2:

          As for the Yankees, I would certainly contend that Cashman got extraordinarily lucky. But he was also derided pre-season as having not done enough, after failing on Lee and watching the Sox get seemingly much much better. And all his rotation has done is be one of the best in the AL all year.

          The overall conclusion, therefore, is that Theo got all the praise in the world and his team failed (most likely), while Cashman got killed, and his team thrived. How much that actually falls to the GMs are irrelevant. What is relevant is to be honest about our initial assumptions of what each team was going to be.

    • ChipBuck September 22, 2011 at 12:23 PM #

      Part 2

      (continued)

      As for your poker analogy, you're way off. Theo went into the hand with pocket 7s and Cashman went in with A-5. The flop came down K-8-2 putting Theo way ahead. Cashman got lucky and went runner-runner on the turn and river when the 3 and 4 hit the board. This is essentially Cashman did with the Garcia and Colon signings. While they've turned out well, they were dumpster dives. Sometimes they turn out well, other times not so much. In this case, both turned out very well. Really though, who could have predicted it? Both pitchers were coming off five year stretches filled with injuries and inconsistency. Did you really expect more than 1-2 WAR out of either?

      (continued)

      • Adam September 22, 2011 at 2:03 PM #

        There is no way you honestly think that Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, Lackey, and Dice-K were pocket 7s. They were, preseason, among the best in the league (and likely the best in the AL). Meanwhile, the Yankees opening rotation consisted of CC, AJ, Hughes, and Garcia/Colon/Nova. I’ll give ya A-5 just because of CC. But Cashman failed to add Lee and failed to add or trade for anyone else. The Yankees rotation was mocked pre-season. Yes, they got lucky. But we can’t leave all of this up to chance. You’re using “injuries” on the Red Sox side to take the blame off Theo, while using “luck” to diminish what Cashman has done. Perhaps it was less about luck and more about skill?

        • ChipBuck September 22, 2011 at 2:27 PM #

          Actually, yeah. Pocket 7s is right. Beckett was a question mark; Buchholz was in line for regression; Lackey was inconsistent the year before; and Dice-K was…well…Dice-K. The only pitcher I felt supremely confident was Lester. The others I thought would come around.

          As for the luck/skill/injury piece, I don't think picking retread pitchers off of the scrap heap is a skill per se. There is some skill, but having it come together is predominantly luck. Over the years, we've seen tons of scrap heap moves by GMs that have turned out poorly. Most don't. The Yankees have done a tremendous job with their rotation. It's still not ideal, but they do deserve credit. Perhaps luck isn't the right word for them, so much as blind faith.

    • ChipBuck September 22, 2011 at 12:24 PM #

      Part 3 (continued)

      As for the Red Sox, their rotation was essentially prison raped Shawshank Redemption "sistas" style. While you could have predicted Dice-K would be inconsistent, all signs pointed to Lackey returning to form. Buchholz was due for regression, but signs also existed he could have bucked the trends by making a few adjustments. This may've happened had he not gotten hurt.

      The blame Theo mantra basically comes down to people searching for a scapegoat. They don't understand why something is happening, so they look for the easiest target.

      • Adam September 22, 2011 at 2:04 PM #

        All true, but Beckett has been far-and-away better than anyone could have expected and Lester has been dominant at times. Lackey has been awful, but Theo signed him to a huge contract, so who’s fault is that?

        In regards to “the blame Theo mantra basically comes down to people searching for a scapegoat” can be answered easily: Occam’s razor. The players get the most blame, but Theo’s next in line.

        • ChipBuck September 22, 2011 at 2:22 PM #

          Even though I didn't like the Lackey signing at the time, it was widely considered to be a solid move by Theo and the Red Sox. It hasn't worked out. Even still, did anyone imagine it working out this poorly? No, of course not. He deserves the blame for overpaying Lackey, but he doesn't deserve blame for making a easily defendable move.

  8. ChipBuck September 22, 2011 at 12:34 PM #

    Part 1

    @Ted – The injuries to Beckett you mentioned were minor and didn't require a trip to the DL. Those types of injuries are fairly routine. As for Dice-K, an injury wasn't unexpected, but it also wasn't expected. It's tough to predict a future Tommy John surgery patient.

    As for Lackey, I don't see how you can say he hasn't underperformed expectations. Even after last year's tough season, no one could have predicted he'd stumble to a 6.49 ERA. Honestly, I figured an ERA in the 4.00-4.50 range was likely. (If you did, you'd be lying.) It wouldn't have been ideal, but it would've been workable given the Red Sox offensive prowess. Was he worth 5/$82M? No, but neither was Burnett.

    (Continued)

  9. ChipBuck September 22, 2011 at 12:39 PM #

    Part 2 (Continued)

    Also, I wasn't dissing the Yankees for being healthy. I was merely explaining why the Red Sox have struggled; especially in September. While the Yankees starters may've struggled recently, it's been nowhere to the magnitude of the Red Sox. That will happen when the rotation is 60% occupied with replacement level starters. It's just a fact.

    Also, just because I want to cut you off in case you go there, don't try calling me a homer or anything. I also cover the Yankees for another blog.

  10. Rocket September 22, 2011 at 1:10 PM #

    One favorite would be blaming Theo for going old, but the younger parts of the rotation have been hurt too. Now if someone wants to suggest that maybe the Sox need to improve their training or something, you might be onto something, because injuries have been a killer repeatedly. I'll no doubt question that other teams have injuries too, but it does seem like snakebite this year for people out at the same time. In the space of the same week, in Ocotober, you have Gonzalez getting hurt, Youkills out, and Papi being out. You take what is basically you're 3-5 hitters, and even if they play, being less than 100%. You couple that with your starting rotation being the remains of a Mash unit. It's terrible luck, it's Boston luck. You can't play the after-result doctor and complain about how you would have caught it. If you had shown anybody the Sox/Yanks rotation before the season, probably even the Yanks, they would have thought Boston's was better. Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.

  11. Adam September 22, 2011 at 2:09 PM #

    Also, forgot to mention this before. You admitted that Wake and Aceves would be on most teams starting rotation (certainly they would have been on the Yankees). So, calling them 7th+ starters and then comparing to how many other teams used their 7+ starters is not fair. If anything, it SHOULD be showing how Theo – and everyone else – thought they were stacked at pitching … but they weren't.

    Wake and Aceves could stack up against any teams 4/5 starters, so lets not pretend they are single A pitchers.

    • ChipBuck September 22, 2011 at 2:20 PM #

      While that's a fair criticism, I don't think they would have been in most contender's rotations. I was thinking the second and third tier level teams. Even if we were to limit to just the 8-10 starters, the Red Sox have still been forced to rely on those pitchers far more often than any other team. Kyle Weiland and Andrew Miller are not MLB starters, yet they've made 17 of them for the Red Sox this year. I'm not calling any of these guys pitchers, but I am calling them near replacement level guys. That includes Wake and Aceves. In fact, I said as much in a previous article a week or two ago.