Dale & Holley had Theo Epstein on their midday show and asked him about all kinds of issues the Sox faced this year. WEEI has the full transcript, but there were two parts that stood out to me:
Asked if he could identify one thing that went wrong, Epstein said, "It's always hard to identify one single factor. It definitely is multi-factorial. We felt like we had a really good team, a legitimate chance to be one of the best teams in the league. We thought we had a balanced club, one of the top two or three in the league scorings runs and one of the top two or three in pitching and defense. That's the balance that we strive for. Some things went right and some things went wrong.
"The way things went offensively kind of went according to plan," Epstein continued. "Given that, you can really isolate a lot of the issues to our pitching and defense where we underperformed pretty dramatically. ... Our starting pitching was a bit of a mixed bag. [Jon] Lester and [Clay] Buchholz both had dominating years. The rest of the rotation didn't really live up to expectations and then the bullpen turned out to be our major weakness."
All that seems pretty accurate. Piece it together with this quote now:
On expectations for [John] Lackey and [Josh] Beckett: "To be top of the rotation type guys and pitch up to previous levels. Those are still my expectations for those guys going forward," Epstein said. "Josh, the injury really cost him. He clearly wasn't himself all year. With John Lackey, it was a mixed bag. He did some good things. He's leading our club in innings pitched and tied for the club lead in quality starts. That said, there was definitely an adjustment period for him."
What does that tell you about next year?
It says to me: "We're gonna bring back the same guys and see if luck is on our side this time." Maybe that's what he's trying to say (and maybe it's not), but the only thing he committed to was overhauling the bullpen, which is an annual tradition in Boston. Sounds to me like he's going to stake the '11 Sox on Beckett, Lackey, and Papelbon improving, and let the offense do its thing.