General Red Sox Predictions and Projections

Projecting the 2010 Red Sox

CHONE projections are out, which allows us to begin the fun task of seeing how our respective teams match up, given their various improvements. Unlike the Bill James/Baseball Info Solutions projections, CHONE has proven in years past to be pretty accurate, and it also provides enough data to allow Fangraphs to do a WAR projection, so there's obviously some more value there for our purposes — particularly given that both teams have made defensive upgrades that may or may not be captured in the pitchers' projections.

Here's a comparison of the Red Sox starters' 2009 vs. their projected 2010. If I get the time, I'll revisit these posts as additional systems release enough data for Fangraphs to figure WAR projections and see what the differences are. And I'll try to do the Yankees' projections later today or tomorrow.

These aren't strictly accurate because, for example, Kevin Youkilis' 2009 WAR includes time at third base, but Fangraphs doesn't split that out, nor does it provide a WAR total by position for teams as a whole, which is what I'd prefer to use:

  • C: Jason Varitek (2009): 1.3 WAR // Victor Martinez (2010): 4.4 WAR  
  • 1B: Kevin Youkilis (2009): 5.6 WAR // Kevin Youkilis (2010): 3.8 WAR
  • 2B: Dustin Pedroia (2009): 5.2 WAR // Dustin Pedroia (2010): 4.7 WAR
  • SS: Alex Gonzalez/Nick Green/Julio Lugo (2009): 1.3 WAR // Marco Scutaro (2010): 3.1 WAR
  • 3B: Mike Lowell (2009): 1.2 WAR // Adrian Beltre (2010): 2.7 WAR
  • LF: Jason Bay (2009): 3.5 WAR // Jacoby Ellsbury (2010): 3.9 WAR*
  • CF: Jacoby Ellsbury (2009): 1.9 WAR // Mike Cameron (2010): 1.4 WAR
  • RF: J.D. Drew (2009): 4.7 WAR // J.D. Drew (2010): 2.6 WAR
  • DH: David Ortiz (2009): 0.7 WAR // David Ortiz (2010): 2.3 WAR

*Projection is for Ellsbury in center field, but the gain in projected defensive numbers by switching from center to left more than offsets the negative positional adjustment required on offense.

These are certainly not optimistic projections. They project regression, as expected, from Youkilis, Pedroia and Drew, but they see that regression to be significant in the case of Youkilis, and they see Cameron collapsing offensively in 2010. The system is bullish on Ellsbury and likes Scutaro quite a bit, but takes a pretty safe middle road in projecting wild cards like Beltre and Ortiz. Altogether, you get:

2009: 25.4 WAR // 2010: 28.9 WAR

CHONE projects the 2010 Red Sox to be 4.5 wins better on offense and defense. That's pretty significant.

As for starting pitching? Well, Fangraphs doesn't provide value projections for CHONE's numbers, but it does allow its readers to project the players and compiles the results as sort of a "wisdom of crowds" experiment. Meh. Better than nothing, maybe.

  • Jon Lester (2009): 6.2 WAR // Jon Lester (2010): 5.6 WAR
  • Josh Beckett (2009): 5.3 WAR // Josh Beckett (2010): 4.7 WAR
  • Brad Penny (2009): 2.0 WAR // John Lackey (2010): 3.8 WAR
  • Tim Wakefield (2009): 1.9 WAR // Daisuke Matsuzaka (2010): 2.1 WAR
  • Clay Buchholz (2009): 1.2 WAR // Clay Buchholz (2010): 2.6 WAR

These also strike me as pretty conservative, with slight steps back for both Lester and Beckett. Even so — and counting the eight starters the Sox used the most last year, the 2009 Red Sox received another 1.4 WAR from Smoltz, Matsuzaka and Tazawa, for a 2009 eight-starter total of 18.0 WAR. 

2009: 16.6 WAR // 2010: 18.8 WAR (top five starters only)

TOTAL: 2009: 42.0 WAR // 2010: 47.7 WAR

Without looking at the bench, which could knock some off the 2010 total (although one hopes that they at least are above zero wins over replacement level there), or the bullpen, which would likely add to it, the Sox have improved in their starting lineup and starting rotation by 5.7 wins. Yes, thats 100-101 wins.

And, believe it or not, there's more than just me (or CHONE's projections) seeing that kind of improvement.

I'll check on the Yankees next.

22 replies on “Projecting the 2010 Red Sox”

I’m continually surprised by the fact that people think Lester is going to step backwards in his growth. I think this year is going to be his breakout year.
Other than that, it’s hard to argue with too much.

Great work Paul. You know what would be interesting…2009 projections vs 2010 projections for the Sox or if we just included last year’s projections as well. For example, the final WAR for Ortiz was 0.7, but what was he projected at? I doubt he was projected at that number.

Good stuff as usual Paul. One question: Did the 2009 WAR totals actually correlate perfectly to the Sox’s 2009 actual win totals? I don’t think there is a direct linear relationship between the two since luck and circumstance play a role in whether a team wins or loses. The same thing is at work with pythag totals. So WAR totals from last year could suggest that the Sox were supposed to be a 93 win team or 98 win team.

Here ya go, John (from Paul’s projection post last year):
David Ortiz 2009:
P: .269/.375/.504, 569 PA, 27 HR, 81 BB, 96 K
M: .285/.395/.542, 512 PA, 26 HR, 77 BB, 84 K
Z: .286/.395/.562, 598 PA, 34 HR, 91 B, 98 K
Homeruns were right, but the rate stats were wildly overestimated. And this was a ‘conservative’ estimate!

I forget which thread it was in, but after the Beltre trade someone at Fangraphs, in the comments section, posted the 2010 WAR projections for the Sox at 99 (99.1 exactly IIRC) and the Yanks at 101. The Rays were at 95 or 96.

I’d like to see what projections vs projections break out to be for the Sox. For example, if we did opening day vs opening day it would be Lowrie vs Scutaro. It would be interesting to see what it looked like this time last year vs this year. My feeling is that sometimes projections are more optimistic than cautious and by comparing projections to projections it might allow us to see expectations a little better. Not trying to start a sh*t storm, nor am I trying to take away value of the post. I just have an odd way of seeing things sometimes.

Safe to say that Ortiz’s collapse was completely unprojectable except in the imaginations of the most optimistic Yankee fans… who probably also had projected Youkilis and Bay for similar numbers. Similarly, no one projected Lowrie to essentially miss the season, though in retrospect his decision not to have surgery immediately for the wrist looks very foolish.
Here’s the 2009 Red Sox projection page.
Because WAR has since taken over the statistical universe, I just don’t see a reason anymore to go through all the slash stats again when they’re incorporated into a much more comprehensive, easy-to-use-and-understand metric. So it looks like you’re going to have to make the comparisons from the link to Fangraphs yourself. Sorry!
By Pythag, the Sox were a 93-win team last year, so bumping the Sox down to 98-99 wins is fair. I forget now, but I think an all-replacement team would be expected to a little fewer than 50 games, so adding in bullpen and bench WAR totals to the Sox’ 2009 WAR and adding that to 45 or so probably gets you the 93 wins Pythag had them at.

“Safe to say that Ortiz’s collapse was completely unprojectable except in the imaginations of the most optimistic Yankee fans…”
Well, there is the whole old man skills thing he has going for him. I mean a DH-type’s skills declining drastically in his early 30’s isn’t exactly unheard of. We have Hafner as the most recent precedent.

Thanks for the link to the DodgerSims WAR study. This is the first time I’ve stumbled across this blog and it appears there is some good statistical discussion here.
It was asked how many games and “All Replacement Level” team would win. The “all things being equal” number that is used by the most respected saberists (Tango, Cameron etc…) is 48 wins. But of course all things are NOT equal. A replacement level team in the AL East and AL Central would not be expected to win the same (48) amount of games. The team in the AL East would be playing a much tougher schedule. If you set the replacement win level at 48 in the AL East you will then have the Yankees projected at something like 108 wins and the Red Sox at 106 and the Rays even at 100… this is not reality. I do something different than most and set the replacement win value at different levels for each division based on how many WAR are available in that division. It’s my own way of doing things, but just wanted to make my methodology a little more clear.
vr, Xei

We have Hafner as the most recent precedent.
True, and Hafner superficially actually does look like a decent comp — similar peak (though shorter), similar drop from peak, then totally off the table before rebounding. I don’t know how much injury played into Hafner’s falling off the table (his games played totals are low each of the past two years), and I would note that Ortiz’s year-end 2009 totals are obscuring the severity of his decline early in the year, as well as how good he was from early June onward. I was referring to the utter disappearance of Ortiz’s bat for two months as unprojectable. From June on, Ortiz actually hit very well, I dare say in line with the pojections for him before the season started. The end result looks like a more typical collapse; I just don’t know yet if that’s truly the case. I suspect this year will tell us.
In fact, going back and looking at it, here are the 2009 projections for Ortiz, followed by his numbers from June 3:
P: .269/.375/.504, 569 PA, 27 HR, 81 BB, 96 K
M: .285/.395/.542, 512 PA, 26 HR, 77 BB, 84 K
Z: .286/.395/.562, 598 PA, 34 HR, 91 B, 98 K
.265/.357/.553, 414 PA, 27 HR, 51 BB, 83 K

But you can’t just take out April and May, that’s not how it works. No matter what Eric Van may tell you.
And besides, his OBP is still deficient. My completely amateur opinion is that Ortiz has simply lost bat speed, and it’s very easy to bust him inside, hence the strikeouts. You’d have to be a lunatic to expect him to bounce back, even from his 2009 numbers. I have no idea why his WAR is projected to be 2.3. That’s very optimistic.

“2009: 25.4 WAR // 2010: 28.9 WAR
CHONE projects the 2010 Red Sox to be 4.5 wins better on offense and defense. That’s pretty significant.”
Math was never my specialty. But isn’t 28.9 – 25.4 = 3.5 wins?
As for specific concerns:
1) In what universe is Ellsbury a 4 win player? He’s averaged 2 wins in his three years. Now in moving to a more demanding offensive position, he’s going to suddenly double his value? For reference, a 3.9 WAR would have put him in 6th place among qualifying LFs, just behind Ibanez. But his production would have put him between DeJesus and Posednik. Which seems more likely? And DeJesus, as an outstanding LF in 2009, was worth 3.2 wins with an OPS, again, that topped Ellsbury. Where Ellsbury falls in 2010, between 2 and 3 wins, will depend on whether his problems tracking balls continues.
2) The last time Martinez caught more than 120 games? 2007. Good luck with that.
3) Before 2009, Scutaro had never topped 3 wins. In 2008, he came close with a 2.8 WAR. He’s the problem: In 2008, he had a below average bat but an outstanding glove. In 2009, he had an outstanding bat, but an average glove. That variability is exactly why projections are pretty silly. We have no idea what Scutaro will give.
4) One point in the Sox favor is how negatively CHONE sees Cameron. He should be closer to 3 wins than to 1 win.
My big problem with projections is they generally assume the best case scenario. But as fans we know teams seldom reach a best case. And for the Sox I think the big worry in 2010 should be the lack of options beyond the starters – both offense and pitching – especially given the age of half the lineup and the lack of depth behind Wakefield. Projections don’t cover that variability and in the AL East the difference between 92 and 98 games is the difference between golfing in October versus playing. Thank goodness the Yankees are still the best team in the division! ;)

By the way, the Sox are getting absolutely hammered in the Boston media. But I think they’ve had a very good, if uncreative, off-season, especially if they’re planning to spend major money in the next two years. Still, I look at this club and think “$180M for THAT?”. I mean, it not like they’re paying big money to a 6 or 7 win player. All those little contracts add up quickly, huh? Though I do understand, and appreciate, that it’s only one year.

What’s wrong with $180 million for a projected 98-win talent ballclub, even if their talent level is subject to wide variability?
It’s about what the Yankees have done. Do you look at the Yankees and think “$200 million for THAT?”?
Still, it is funny to see the Sox raise their payroll by about $50 million and hear nothing, whereas the Yankees lowered their payroll last year and were deemed the evilest of evil, and in some (very funny) cases, the ‘laughingstock of baseball’ or some such language. It’s why I don’t even get upset at the ESPN crew, or talking heads around the sport. They have proven they simply know absolutely nothing at all.

“What’s wrong with $180 million for a projected 98-win talent ballclub, even if their talent level is subject to wide variability?”
I don’t think they’re that good. I see 93-95 wins.
“Do you look at the Yankees and think “$200 million for THAT?”?”
You must have missed the last line. It’s no surprise the Yankees have that payroll. They’re paying almost $80M for three outstanding players (Jeter, A-Rod, and Sabathia) plus overpaying for their closer and their catcher. Outside of those five players, they’re actually pretty efficient and even more so now with Granderson and Johnson.
When you go down the Sox roster, they’re not paying $20M for one player. Instead, they’re basically paying $8 million to every player on the roster (and some on other teams). It adds up quickly.

As for your last point, Andrew, wait until the Sox outbid everyone for Mauer. After this off-season, I have little doubt they will. The Yankees don’t need him as badly.

Jeff, I think I and every Yankees fan is personally hoping Joe Mauer signs with Minnesota before long. Because I’m betting Cashman is salivating over either Cliff Lee or Felix Hernandez instead of Joe Mauer. The Yankees seem to have the catcher’s position pretty well covered.

I’m salivating over a rotation with two outstanding lefties at the top, especially in Yankee Stadium. I agree on the Yankee catching situation. They seem committed to developing their own. Between Montero and Romine to Murphy and Sanchez they’ll be fine.
The longer it takes the Twins to re-sign Mauer, the more skeptical I become. I have little doubt that the Sox would pay whatever it takes to sign him. Where they screwed up the Teixeira negotiations, they won’t make that mistake again. But he’s exactly the player to do it for. That’s the only way I interpret the Sox off-season any ways.

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