The most important thing that may have resulted from the World Series is how well we are set up to repeat next year.
Every year, there are inevitably articles on why or why not the World Series champions will repeat the next year. It’s happened for as long as we can remember, and two specific instances stick out in my mind: the champions of 2005 of the Chicago White Sox and the 2006 AL Champion Detroit Tigers.
While the Tigers didn’t win the World Series, they beat themselves more than the Cardinals (who certainly deserve the accolades, don’t get me wrong — they took advantage) beat them.
In the articles about the ramifications of winning the World Series about the White Sox and Tigers, there was one common thread: the strain placed on the starting pitchers. There was worry that in the following year, the amount of innings the starting pitchers were asked to throw (especially the young pitchers) would significantly hamper their future successes. Let’s look at the total number of innings thrown by the top four starting pitchers in the regular season and postseason in the year of success:
2005 White Sox (World Champions)
Mark Buerhle: 236.2 IP in regular season and 3.12 ERA, 23.1 IP in playoffs with a 3.47 ERA
Freddy Garcia: 228.0 IP in regular season and 3.87 ERA, 21.0 IP in playoffs with a 2.14 ERA
Jon Garland: 221.0 IP in regular season and 3.50 ERA, 16.0 IP in playoffs with a 2.25 ERA
Jose Contreras: 204.2 IP in regular season and 3.61 ERA, 32.0 IP in playoffs with a 3.09 ERA
What happened in 2006?
Mark Buerhle: 236.2 IP in regular season with a 4.99 ERA, NO PLAYOFFS
Freddy Garcia: 228.0 IP in regular season with a 4.53 ERA, NO PLAYOFFS
Jon Garland: 221.0 IP in regular season with a 4.51 ERA, NO PLAYOFFS
Jose Contreras: 196.0 IP in regular season with a 4.27 ERA, NO PLAYOFFS
Garcia and Contreras imploded in 2007, Garland had a similar year and only Buehrle recovered.
2006 Detroit Tigers (AL Champions)
Jeremy Bonderman: 214.0 IP in regular season and 4.08 ERA, 20.1 IP in playoffs with a 3.10 ERA
Nate Robertson: 208.2 IP in regular season and 3.84 ERA, 15.2 IP in playoffs with a 5.17 ERA
Kenny Rogers: 204.0 IP in regular season and 3.84 ERA, 23.0 IP in playoffs with a 0.00 ERA (!)
Justin Verlander: 186.0 IP in regular season and 3.63 ERA, 21.2 IP in playoffs with a 5.82 ERA
What happened in 2007?
Justin Verlander: 201.2 IP in regular season with a 3.66 ERA, NO PLAYOFFS
Nate Robertson: 177.2 IP in regular season with a 4.76 ERA, NO PLAYOFFS
Jeremy Bonderman: 174.1 IP in regular season with a 5.01 ERA, NO PLAYOFFS
Kenny Rogers: 63.0 IP in regular season with a 4.43 ERA, NO PLAYOFFS
Rogers was hurt, Robertson and Bonderman pitched about 30 innings less and Verlander had a 4.27 ERA after the All-Star Break.
Now, let’s look at how well the Red Sox prepared their starting staff in 2007, knowing full well what had doomed them in the regular season and playoffs of 2005 (remember Curt Schilling got hurt, Pedro left and has never been the same, Tim Wakefield survived because he “only” threw 188.1 IP in the regular season, and Derek Lowe and Bronson Arroyo threw about 180.1 IP each and both have gone on to success).
2007 Boston Red Sox (World Champions)
Daisuke Matsuzaka: 204.2 IP in regular season and 4.40 ERA, 19.2 IP in playoffs with a 5.03 ERA, tired quickly near the end of the season and saw his ERA rise a full point
Josh Beckett: 200.2 IP in regular season and 3.27 ERA, 30.0 IP in playoffs with a 1.20 ERA, forced to the DL to miss two starts
Tim Wakefield: 189.0 IP in regular season and 4.08 ERA, 4.2 IP in playoffs with a 9.54 ERA, shoulder issue caused late-season ineffectiveness and almost no playoff innings
Curt Schilling: 151.0 IP in regular season and 4.76 ERA, 24.0 IP in playoffs with a 3.00 ERA, on DL for a month to rehab shoulder and get in playing shape after showing up to Spring Training out of shape
To continue this thread, Julian Tavarez didn’t sniff the playoffs and barely pitched all of September because he threw a total of 134.2 IP, the most since 2002. He had a 4.97 ERA pre-All Star Break and a 5.48 post-All Star Break.
Jon Lester pitched only 63.0 IP in the regular season with a 4.57 ERA. In the postseason, he won the World Series and pitched a total of 9.1 IP to a 1.93 ERA.
Logging the most innings other than Dice-K, Beckett and Schilling was Okajima, who posted a 2.45 ERA in 11.0 IP and Jonathan Papelbon, the world’s most rested closer come October, pitching 10.0 IP and not giving up a run. Mike Timlin pitched the least amount of innings (55.1) since 1995 with the Blue Jays and posted a 3.18 ERA in the playoffs, including a crucial set in the World Series.
We all remember the Red Sox shutting down Clay Buchholz in September.
With those in mind, how can Buchholz and Lester count themselves as adversely affected by the high workload?
Josh Beckett threw THIRTY innings in the playoffs, while the most individual innings on the White Sox and Tigers threw about 23 innings except for Jose Contreras who threw a total of 32 innings. Since Contreras and Beckett both threw similar total innings, I’m a bit worried about Beckett’s output next year. However, I’m mostly assuaged by the fact that Beckett has increased in endurance consistently and will enter his age 28 year while Contreras was entering his age 34 year.
But other than Conteras, the White Sox’s top three were relied on a ridiculous amount in the regular season. All of the Tigers’ top four pitchers experienced regression in 2007.
Who was adversely overworked other than Josh Beckett (who was only worked that hard simply because he was so dominant; Contreras was overworked with a 3.09 ERA while Beckett had a cake 1.20 ERA)? I’d venture no one. You could make a case for Daisuke Matsuzaka, but wasn’t he already overworked? And unlike Buchholz… wouldn’t you argue that Dice-K needed to be overworked to adjust to the expectations in America? He came in with a reputation as a workhouse and threw a huge number of pitches, but was a workhorse enough to still top the Red Sox in total number of innings, and he’ll enter 2008 in his age 27 year.
If our rotation is Beckett, Dice-K, Lester and Buchholz next year, you have to feel good about at least the last two… and while the potential is there (just look at the White Sox and Tigers) for the first two to fail, you have to feel good about their ability because of their age and their previous workload (I remember reading that Verlander was ridiculously overworked factoring in his previous inning totals). Whether or not it’s Wakefield or Schilling that opens as our fifth starter, neither was overworked in the playoffs.
This isn’t even factoring in how Jonathan Papelbon was slowly brought along all year to shine in October. The Red Sox knew exactly what they were doing when they sent Beckett and Schilling to the DL. Knew what they were doing keeping Jon Lester in AAA and shutting Buchholz down. We have minimized our chances (although they are still there) of suffering a World Series hangover on the pitching side much like the White Sox and Tigers suffered.
Now, the offshoot to this would claim that another reason most teams don’t repeat is because it’s simply impossible. Bill Simmons (and others as well) put it well the failure of the 2005 Red Sox: each person started to feel entitled to accolades, to glory, to what was “rightfully” theirs. The clubhouse didn’t splinter, but it wasn’t as healthy as it was in 2004, either. The downfall of most teams is success.
Will the 2008 Red Sox club be splintered in terms of clubhouse harmony? I don’t know. I can’t answer that, because I would have sworn to you in November 2004 that the clubhouse would be unaffected in 2005. We’ll just have to wait and see.
But the pitching will most likely not be the issue that plagues the 2008 Red Sox should we not make the playoffs.
It all paid off.