I Hear They’ve Got a Heck of a Pitching Staff

Dan Szymborski at Baseball Think Factory has been alphabetically listing the team-by-team 2009 ZiPS projections. Today is the Red Sox' day, and while nothing looks terribly shocking on the offensive side (Ortiz and Bay as the Sox' two top power hitters, regression from Youk and Pedroia, decent if unspectacular production most everywhere but catcher), it's hard not to be surprised — and pleased — by projections like these:

John Smoltz  3.70 19 116.2 116 48 29 102 126
Daisuke Matsu. 3.79 30 178.0 157 75 87 176 124
Josh Beckett  3.97 29 183.2 178 81 45 171 118
Jon Lester*  4.09 27 156.1 159 71 63 109 114
Justin Master. 4.15 22 138.2 138 64 55 85 113
Clay Buchholz  4.48 27 136.2 140 68 50 111 104
Michael Bowden 4.49 23 122.1 132 61 35 72 104 
Brad Penny  4.81 25 144.0 161 77 55 81 97
Tim Wakefield  5.04 26 153.2 159 86 57 100 92 

ZiPS doesn't allocate by playing time, which is why you see a total of 228 games started here. That would certainly be a record. Masterson isn't likely to see many starts (though maybe he should, given that projection) and Penny is obviously going to start the season as the fifth starter — and a 4.81 ERA from that slot is nothing to worry about either.

The bottom line is if the Big Three and Smoltz pitch that well, and Penny is league average, we won't ever need to see Buchholz or Bowden. It's a rosy outlook, sure, but it's two weeks before training camp. Anything's possible.
14 comments… add one
  • We’ll see how it all plays out but that feels like a pretty optimistic projection for Smoltz at this point. Im not sure how or if ZiPS accounts for both return from injury and moving into the AL east from the NL but those are two very big factors here. Plus, 116 IP for him seems too much for me. I’d also expect better numbers from Beckett and worse numbers from DiceK next season than what they are calling for here….

    sam-YF January 31, 2009, 5:16 pm
  • 4.81 isn’t league average. Far from it actually.
    Last three AL seasons – league average:
    2006: 4.52
    2007: 4.47
    2008: 4.44
    If Penny is at 4.81, that means he’s going to put up some true clunkers and taxing the bullpen in the process. If Masterson is any where close to that good, he could be a three or four win difference in the 5 slot and in the three team race that could be huge.
    I don’t see that season from Smoltz. One, I don’t see him pitching that much. Two, he hasn’t been as good against the AL. I can see Smoltz being a good upgrade over Wakefield (who they’ll probably shift back to the pen) and Penny. That could be huge and he will earn his money if so. But they could have done even better, as the projections suggest, if they had merely trusted the kids. I feel the same way with the Yanks and Pettitte.

    Rob February 1, 2009, 9:28 am
  • I think Paul meant league-average for a #5 starter. 4.81 from the 5th starter is absolutely acceptable.
    If the top 4 are that good (or even a little worse), then anything under an ERA of 5.00 will do from Penny.

    Atheose February 2, 2009, 3:36 pm
  • I definitely don’t think Smoltz will be that successful though. But I think there’s a lot of durability in our options. One thing to note: Wakefield has said that he doesn’t want to pitch out of the bullpen at this stage in his career. I don’t think his body is up for it anymore.

    Atheose February 2, 2009, 3:41 pm
  • ATH can you email me. I know you must still have my email address. I seem to have lost yours. Thanks Pal.

    John - YF February 2, 2009, 4:11 pm
  • ZiPS is projecting Penny to have a 97 ERA+. That’s league average in my book, and comfortably above for a fifth starter.

    Paul SF February 2, 2009, 4:51 pm
  • Then ZiPs is projecting a ridiculous increase in scoring across the league in contrast to the last three years. Still, would you rather have Penny Or Masterson/Bowden/Buchholz?

    Rob February 3, 2009, 11:32 am
  • Jon Lester is at Spring Training! Yippee!

    dw (sf) February 3, 2009, 6:35 pm
  • I’m not sold on Masterson as a starter, but I’d prefer Buchholz over Penny, sure. My guess is that ultimately it won’t matter, and that Buchholz will be starting regularly — and adequately — by year’s end.

    Paul SF February 3, 2009, 11:11 pm
  • I agree on Buchholz, but how many stinkers from Penny and Wakefield (and perhaps even Smoltz) before they get to that point? That difference alone could mean a playoff spot.
    I keep going over in my head how else the Sox off-season could have gone with more clear upgrades and fewer risks. But you know, I can only see why they were so clearly on Teixeira. Where the Yanks had many holes, the Sox really didn’t. While these risks make some sense, but a solid bat (Teixieira, Dunn, perhaps waiting on Anderson?) and a solid arm (Burnett, Lowe) could have really helped the red team.

    Rob February 4, 2009, 8:35 am
  • a solid bat (Teixieira, Dunn, perhaps waiting on Anderson?) and a solid arm (Burnett, Lowe) could have really helped the red team.
    I was a big supporter of getting Teixeira, so obviously I agree on that. I think spending tons of money on Burnett or Lowe would have been a mistake — and not much less risky than a one-year deals to Smoltz and Penny. Burnett has the same injury risks with basically the same upside as Smoltz but far more expensive and extremely unlikely to be worth the money late in the deal. Lowe was getting hit harder and harder each successive year in the AL East until he left for the NL West, so his risk would have been on the performance side (like Penny’s, for the most part), and he would be 40 at the end of the deal.
    The Sox’ problem last year was not a lack of talent, where upgrades would have been appropriate. It was a lack of depth because of injuries. The Sox addressed the depth quite well, especially on the pitching side, though I agree the offense has some question marks.
    As for Dunn, he’s atrocious at first base and bad enough already in left field. He’s a DH with old-player skills who doesn’t want to DH — and wouldn’t be as good a DH as Ortiz anyway. FanGraphs has Dunn worth $8.2 million in 2008, and Lowell worth $15.4 million. By comparison, Teixeira was worth $30.8 million and Jason Bay was worth $14.5 million. Even David Ortiz was worth $9.1 million, despite the injuries and lack of Ortizian production.
    I don’t know where this “acquire Dunn!” mantra is coming from because he makes no sense for the Red Sox, much as I’d love his 40 home runs a season at what seems to be a rapidly dropping price.

    Paul SF February 4, 2009, 10:18 am
  • I don’t know about “makes no sense” considering the health questions of Lowell and Ortiz, and even Drew. Even if all three got 500 ABs, that still leaves 300-400 ABs unaccounted for. Baldelli and Kotsay or Dunn?

    Rob February 4, 2009, 11:10 am
  • Would Dunn sign a deal to sit on the bench hoping Lowell gets injured enough for him to play a position where he would provide massive negative value as a defender? Would the Sox sign him to such a deal?
    Really, the only way Dunn would get significant playing time is filling in at DH for Ortiz or left field for Bay if Bay were filling at DH for Ortiz.
    Spending $8m-$10m or whatever Dunn eventually signs for to basically back up your DH is not a wise use of resources.

    Paul SF February 4, 2009, 11:36 am
  • Assuming 120 games each (more than all played in 2008) for Ortiz, Lowell and Drew, that’s 126 games for Dunn.
    Instead, those same games will be going to Kotsay and Baldelli (and for close to the same yearly cost). Even if their defense is better, I don’t see how it’s that much better.

    Rob February 4, 2009, 12:00 pm

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