Among serious contenders this season, Boston’s Theo Epstein is the only freshman GM. And since the Red Sox have roughly a 97.6% chance of winning the Wild Card, perhaps it’s time to divvy up the plaudits.
Boston’s erstwhile GM, Dan Duquette, put together the bulk of this team. While that’s fairly ipso facto for an exec only 18 months or so removed from the job, it’s worth asking to what degree Duquette’s fingerprints are on this year’s model. One obvious way to do that is to take a cumulative, all-encompassing metric and see what percentage the Epstein-era acquisitions are contributing.
Let’s first take a look at the offense using Value Over Replacement Player (VORP). Players traded for or signed by Epstein are indicated by an asterisk (*) following their names:
Player VORP Manny Ramirez 66.8 Bill Mueller* 59.4 Nomar Garciaparra 57.8 Trot Nixon 43.9 David Ortiz* 39.9 Jason Varitek 32.4 Johnny Damon 20.5 Kevin Millar* 18.9 Todd Walker* 18.0 Shea Hillenbrand 7.1 Dave McCarty* 3.6 Gabe Kapler* 3.4 Doug Mirabelli 2.5 Lou Merloni* 1.1 Byung-Hyun Kim* 0.6 Jeff Suppan* -0.3 Pedro Martinez -0.4 Jeremy Giambi* -0.5 Adrian Brown* -0.6 Derek Lowe -0.6 Freddy Sanchez -1.7 Andy Abad* -2.6 Damian Jackson* -4.7 Total 364.5
A couple of notes on the data. Players who have toiled for multiple teams have only their Red Sox VORP displayed here. In the list above, pitchers appear only with regard to their performance as hitters during inter-league play.
Red Sox hitters this season have an aggregate VORP of 364.5. Those hitters acquired since Epstein took the wheel have an aggregate VORP of 136.2, which is 37.4% of the team offensive VORP total. Now to the pitching:
Pitcher VORP Pedro Martinez 69.9 Tim Wakefield 26.3 Derek Lowe 21.0 John Burkett 20.3 Mike Timlin* 18.1 Byung-Hyun Kim* 13.6 Alan Embree 10.7 Brandon Lyon* 6.6 Bronson Arroyo* 3.2 Jason Shiell* 2.6 Jeff Suppan* 2.2 Chad Fox* 2.0 Steve Woodard* 1.8 Bruce Chen* 0.3 Rudy Seanez* -1.2 Todd Jones* -1.3 Hector Almonte* -1.8 Casey Fossum -1.9 Robert Person* -2.1 Ryan Rupe* -2.2 Kevin Tolar* -2.3 Scott Williamson* -2.9 Bobby Howry* -3.0 Scott Sauerbeck* -3.8 Ramiro Mendoza* -7.4 Matt White* -8.4 Total 160.4
Boston’s cumulative pitching VORP is 160.4, and Epstein’s additions have a VORP of 14.0. That comes to 8.7% of the total pitching VORP. That’s to be expected, what with four-fifths of the rotation already in place beforehand.
So, adding Boston’s offensive and pitching VORP we get 524.9. Adding the VORP contributions of Epstein acquisitions, we get 150.2, which is 28.6% of the VORP total. (Worth noting: almost two-thirds of the Epsteiners’ VORP come from Mueller and Ortiz alone–savvy pick-ups indeed). That’s a pretty fair chunk for a new GM to contribute to a contending team.
As the Sox make their way to an ALDS showdown with Oakland, credit Epstein for making the right tweaks and recognizing this club’s place in the success cycle. It must have been tempting for him to place a more apparent imprimatur on this team, but he clearly hasn’t made moves for the sake of making them. And also credit Duquette, whose personality foibles in tandem with a media pool all too eager to fixate upon them make it too easy to forget that he was a pretty darn good GM.