Continuing the "25 Years of Red Sox" series we move onto the starting pitchers. I'm handling the rotation differently than the position players. This is mainly due to the fact that there are just too many seasons worth of information to list. While some of you may want to see the illustrious seasons of Pat Rapp, Gar Finnvold, Dana Kiecker, Joe Hesketh, Danny Darwin, Tim Vanegmond and others, you will be sorely disappointed because I decided to just run the numbers of the top rotation arms over the past 25 years. In order to qualify for this list a starter had to pitch at least two full seasons with the club at 200+ IP.
For the Data Shown, I've run a cumulative WAR (bottom of the WAR column for each pitcher) and averaged the other values for the heck of it (bottom of each non-WAR column). I tried to include a variety of Saber-stats so you can pick your own stat-de-jour. I'm using FIP rather than xFIP because xFIP has not been calculated for seasons prior to 2002.
#1: Pedro Martinez
- While this is a pretty easy call Martinez actually comes in 2nd in overall WAR to the guy right below him. Pedro's per year WAR average is higher as is his peak season which makes him the number 1 choice.
- Pedro's 2000 Season ERA+ of 291 which is adjusted, comes in 2nd all-time and 1st in the "Modern Era". He only ranks behind the 1880 season of Tim Keefe. His WHIP from that year at 0.737 is the best mark of all-time for a starter.
- Pedro topped the 200 ERA+ mark 4 times with the Sox. Clemens only did it once and no other Sox pitcher in the last 25 years has accomplished that feat.
- Pedro has the highest peak WAR of any player over the past 25 years at 11.9 during his 1999 season.
- VERDICT: Pedro has an easy argument for the #1 on this staff and has the numbers to make a serious argument as one of the best all-time regardless of franchise/year/era, etc. He put up numbers that we may never see again in an era largely dominated by offense.
- Clemens comes in at #1 when it comes to total WAR over the past 25 years with his 59.9 mark. He eclipsed 4.0 in every season with the Sox except 1995 and crossed the 8.0+ threshold 4 times.
- Clemens won 3 Cy Youngs in a Sox uniform, but only 1 comes during these season (1991). He won back-to-back Cy's in 1986 and 1987.
- Clemens' run from 1986-1992 is something to behold as he won 17 or more games in each of those 7 seasons and crossed the 20 win plateau 3 times all while averaging around 250 IP per season.
- VERDICT: While Clemens grew a large head (both figuratively and literally) it's no denying that he was a force while in a Sox uniform and a powerful #2 (or #1b) behind Pedro
#3: Jon Lester
- Outside of the peak years of Schilling (2004) and Beckett (2007) Lester has put up the best seasons of a Sox starter in the 2000's. He suffered a drop-off in 2011 and a BIG drop in 2012 but as we saw last year he may have more left in the tank.
- His 29.4 WAR ranks 4th for Sox pitchers over the last 25 years.
- VERDICT: There is quite a big drop-off from Pedro/Rocket to the #3 slot and arguments could be made for the two guys behind Lester, but I went with the consistency and peak (Lester 2008-2010) here at #3.
#4: Curt Schilling
- We don't get a lot of Schilling here in terms of volume, but he did put up a 7.0+ WAR season and another 5.4 WAR season and was much more consistent in his peripherals than the guy I put in the #5 spot.
- VERDICT: Post-season heroics and a tendency to talk too much make Schilling an interesting character in Sox lore and at his peak and for the short time we had him, he was a pretty good pitcher and worthy of #4 in this rotation.
#5: Josh Beckett
- Beckett came over in the Hanley Ramirez trade and there has been much argument over the positives and negatives of that deal. He didn't endear himself to the Fenway faithful out of the gate with a lackluster 2006 campaign, but bounced right back to help lead the Sox to the 2007 World Series and all was forgiven.
- Beckett attempted consistency from 2007-2009 at least by FIP standards but yo-yo'ed enough to earn the "good-year/bad year" moniker.
- Beckett finished 2nd for the Cy Young in 2007.
- VERDICT: Beckett's peak was good, but he was too inconsistent over his Sox career and left in a flurry with others in the big trade with the Dodgers. Beckett left a bad taste in the mouths of some (the taste of beer mixed with chicken). He makes a solid #5 here thanks to his contributions.
#6 (Swing-Man, Starter Emeritus, Jack of All Trades, Kuckler-Baller Extraordinaire): Tim Wakefield
- VERDICT: In deference to Wake, who is personally one of my favorite Sox players of all time, I created this position. Wake was not the best starter by any means but what he brought to the club with his versatility and long term commitment deserves mention and a place on the 25-year team . He actually came in at #3 for starters in terms of overall WAR which he compiled over his 15 seasons with the club.
************************************************************************************************************************* Others: Only two other pitchers made the 2 year w/200+ IP cutoff and I've included them below
Notes: Lowe pitched fairly well as a starter, stepping away from his relief role when most needed. His numbers here only include the three seasons where he started full-time. We will likely see Lowe make the bullpen list.
Notes: Boddicker was brought over during the 1988 season for two prospects Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling. Anderson went on to have a fluke 50+ HR season and Schilling went on to be Schilling. It's easy to judge the trade in hindsight but Boddicker did what was asked and that was to eat innings for a playoff club that was trotting out the likes of Mike Smithson, Jeff Sellers and Wes Gardner during a playoff run.
Top 5 Worst Pitching Seasons (Judged by ERA+):
In order to qualify for this list a pitcher must have pitched at least 150 innings and had the majority of his games be as starts
1. John Lackey (2011, IP: 160, ERA+ 67)
2. Jon Lester (2005, IP: 205, ERA+: 87)
3. Aaron Sele (1997, IP: 177, ERA+: 87)
4. Derek Lowe (2004, IP: 183, ERA+ 89)
5. Ryan Dempster (2013, IP: 171, ERA+: 89)