Running of the Simulators, Part 2 (2005)

Second in a series

You might recall the '05 offseason. The Sox had just banished the curse Dan Shaughnessy in spectacularly thrilling fashion. Theo Epstein was hailed as the boy genius, and the Sox were the team to beat. 

The Yankees restocked by signing Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright and trading Javier Vasquez for Randy Johnson. The Red Sox also were big players in free agency, letting Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe go and replacing them with David Wells and Matt Clement. The Sox also signed Edgar Renteria to replace Orlando Cabrera.

That March, SG ran a full 1,000 sims of the ZiPS projections, then another 1,000 with Diamond Mind's own projections:

  • Red Sox (Z): 96-66, 933, 762, 68%, 21%
  • Yankees (Z): 91-61, 867, 772, 28%, 38%
  • Yankees (D): 97-65, 893, 735, 57%, 32%
  • Red Sox (D): 95-67, 920, 765, 41%, 45%

Average them together, and the two looked like this:

  • Red Sox: 96-66, 54%, 33%
  • Yankees: 94-68, 43%, 35%

The teams, of course, finished tied for first place, with the Yankees winning the division via head-to-head tiebreaker.

So what happened? 


Well, for both teams, the offense largely met expectations (the Yankees falling between their two projections, closer to the high end, while the Sox just missed theirs), but the pitching was dreadful.

For Boston, Curt Schilling essentially spent the entire season recovering from the most famous ankle injury in Boston sports history. Clement, pitching with spaghetti for a shoulder, began to tail off rapidly in the second half, was beaned by a line drive and saw an All-Star season fall apart. Reclamation project Wade Miller was uninspiring. Bronson Arroyo and David Wells were league average, and Tim Wakefield clocked in as the club's best starter, with a 109 ERA+. The bullpen, meanwhile, was in tatters, as Keith Foulke essentially had sacrificed his career during the '04 playoffs, and Schilling's attempt to return as a closer was ill-fated, to say the least. Then there was Renteria's poor play on both sides of the ball and the second-half collapse of older veterans such as Jason Varitek and Johnny Damon to drag down the offensive numbers a bit.

But the Yankees weren't strangers to seeing pretty much every one of their postseason moves explode either. Tony Womack put up an OPS+ of 50 in 351 plate appearances, Johnson was decent but not Randy Johnson, putting up his worst ERA+ (112) since 1991 yet still leading all Yankee starters because Pavano, Wright and Kevin Brown collectively pitched 234 innings with a 5.73 ERA. Outside of Mariano Rivera and Tom Gordon, every Yankee reliever posted an ERA above 4.70. 

So this was a strange case of the projections missing somewhat significantly in one respect, but getting the standings nearly exact. Both the Sox and Yanks finished within one game of their averaged projection, yet if we use the Diamond Mind basis for getting there, the Yanks should have finished six games worse and the Sox five games worse. The fact that both teams fared so badly, especially on the mound, helped the projections look more accurate than they actually were.

In retrospect, looking at those pitching lines, it's really no surprise both teams were tossed out in the first round.

NEXT: A look at 2006.

4 comments… add one

  • This is fantastic stuff, Paul. I must offer an admonishment that it would have been kind of you to let people know they were going to have their appetites ruined. Now I can’t have breakfast. Pavano, Wright, Johnson — reading that is like drinking three spoonfuls of ipecac.

    attackgerbil January 4, 2011, 12:10 pm
  • If it makes you feel better AG thinking about Schilling as a closer, and Wells/Clement in the rotation does the same thing to me.
    Kudos to Paul though. I’ve missed these types of posts.

    Atheose - SF January 4, 2011, 1:12 pm
  • This is great stuff Paul, as usual. My reason for optimism regarding 2011 is the fact that the Yankees won 95 games in ’05 despite the fact that their best pitcher was a 68 year old man with chronic back problems, and their bullpen was two men deep.
    Looking forward to the rest of these.

    AndrewYF January 4, 2011, 7:57 pm
  • Indeed these are great Paul. I’ve often wondered in the midst of the debates we sometimes have here re: what’s going to happen next week/month/season – when some commenters reference projections – how some of those same projections-systems look in hindsight. It’s great to have the analysis provided here for discussion. And I very much shared AG’s involuntary shudders when I read those Yankee pitcher names all in a row. I’ll take our 2.5-man rotation going into 2011 over that crew anyday.

    IronHorse (YF) January 5, 2011, 2:22 am

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