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How badly do the Sox need another bat for 2010?

Here on OTM there has been a recent flurry of statements concerning the Sox offense for 2010.  Much of the speculation centers on the obvious fact that the Sox have made efforts to improve their run prevention ability for next year.  The signings of Cameron, Scutaro and Lackey make that clear.  At the same time, the Sox will lose perhaps their most potent bat from 2009, Jason Bay. In addition Mike Lowell, a decent offensive player, will also move on. Scutaro and Cameron are not spectacular offensive players.  Given these facts, many have cried for the signing of, or trading for, a player or players that could provide the needed offensive upgrade.  The quantitative question is, how much of an upgrade would be needed to put the Sox in the ballpark of the offense they had in 2009?

I am assuming that the Sox had a very good offense in 09.  The team was 3rd in the league in runs scored, and trailed the Yankees (number 1) by a mere 43 runs.  No Sox offense since 2005 scored as many runs as the team did last year.  While there have been complaints that this was a mirage, a reasonable analysis (that I will not provide here) shows otherwise.  One should always be suspicious of the claim that certain offenses only hit well against poor pitching. Generally speaking, teams that score a lot of runs are good offenses.

The basis of this analysis will be the statistic wRC, an estimate of how many runs a player contributed or contributes to total offense.  If you go over to Fangraphs, you can check that a sum of wRC for a season is close to the total number of runs scored, which speaks to accuracy.  If you prefer James' "runs created" stat, the picture I present here will be unchanged. You can find RC on baseball-reference.com.  What I will do is breakdown the Sox 2009 by wRC, and compare that to the James projections for wRC for 2010.  I do this to compare "apples to apples." Note also that this attempts to guess what the Sox offense will look like next year.

Here is the breakdown in terms of "runs contributed."

2009

Youkilis-111.7, VMart/Tek-(42.3/43.1), Bay-112.5, Drew-91.3, Ellsbury-97.3, Pedroia-103.9, AGonz/Lugo/Green-(20.1/14.8/27.2), lowell-65.1, Ortiz-80.9. 

This totals to 810.2.  Note that this is close to the team's total runs scored last year, and does not include the contributions of Kotchman, LaRoche,Baldelli, Kotsay, Lowrie, etc.  We should perhaps include the estimated 10RC that Kotchman, LaRoche and Kotsay contributed at 1b. This brings the total to 820.9, without other bench play.

The James estimates are

2010

Youkilis-105.4, VMart-95.8, Cameron-76.3, Drew-93.5, Ellsbury-97.1, Pedroia-105.6, Scutaro-72.5, Ortiz-91.9.  This does not include a 3b at all (or a extra 1b if Youkilis moves over). The total is 738.1.  Now lets add the additional player-Kotchman is projected to be 49.8 wRC in 408 PA. Lowrie is predicted to be 58.9 wRC in 437 PA, and for fun, Beltre is predicted to be 61.7.  All of these work out to be about 60 in a full season.  This puts the estimate to about 800 runs even.  Thus, a reasonable evaluation of the numbers places the 2010 Red Sox at a mere 10-20 runs behind the 2009 Sox, despite losing Bay who contributed more "runs" in 09 than any single player.

Where does this come from?  Well, Cameron is actually decent. Scutaro and VMart are more than 10 run upgrades each.  Also, Lowell was not offensively effective last year.  Of course this evaluation is crude. For example the benches have been left untouched, I have not factored in adjusting players like Scutaro, Cameron and Beltre (if he were to sign with the Sox) for new parks. In fact that fact alone will move the evaluation even closer to 2009's number.

The bottom line is that the Sox offense, even without someone like Adrian Gonzalez, will be close to what it was last year with Bay and Lowell.  On the other hand, a full season of Lackey, Dice-K and Buchholz combined with the improved defense (potentially at 3-4 positions, eg LF,CF,3b and ss) will save a lot of runs. I am excited for 2010 even if the Sox don't pull of any more deals.

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