How will the 2011 Red Sox do, compared to last season?

The discussion on a previous fan post got me thinking, with so much change on our roster, how much better can we expect to be than the 89-73 record our injury riddled Sox put up last season?  While not technically "roster turnover" the faces we expect to play all season this year are much different than the ones that actually did last year.  Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, Marco Scutaro, Jed Lowrie, Jason Varitek, all are coming off of seasons that they weren't completely healthy for.  In addition to these players returning healthy, we've also added Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler as our major additions.  Gone are Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Bill Hall and Mike Lowell as major contributors.

As it stands, we should expect our roster to look something like this going into the season:

DH - David Ortiz
C - Jarrod Saltalamacchia / Jason Varitek
1B - Adrian Gonzalez
2B - Dustin Pedroia
SS - Marco Scutaro /Jed Lowrie (The other being a super-sub)
3B - Kevin Youkilis
RF - J.D. Drew
CF - Jacoby Ellsbury
LF - Carl Crawford
OF - Mike Cameron / Darnell McDonald
SP - Jon Lester / Clay Buchholz / Josh Beckett / John Lackey / Daisuke Matsuzaka
RP - Jonathan Papelbon / Daniel Bard / Bobby Jenks / Dan Wheeler / Hideki Okajima / Tim Wakefield / Scott Atchinson

That's just a projection, the bullpen still is wide open, and it's completely possible that we drop a reliever and opt to go with an extra infielder to start the season given the recent health concerns of just about everyone in it.  Throughout the season we can expect contributions from the likes of Ryan Kalish, Yamaico Navarro, Josh Reddick, Daniel Nava, Lars Anderson, Mark Wagner, Rich Hill, Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, Alfredo Aceves, or Matt Albers.  But hopefully not too much...

Now what I wanted to do was compare the offense, defense and pitching of the complete 2010 squad and compare it to the projections of the 2011 team.  Fangraphs is the primary source of this data, I use their WAR, wRC, Runs and UZR/150 data, from Baseball-Reference I used their TotalZone rating for catcher, since it was the only advanced statistic available for the position.

Looking at 2010, I went about Fangraphs positional outlook, I went and removed all players who appeared at more than one position and moved their stats to the position they played the most and consolidated all of that into one set of numbers for each position, this made it easier to keep track of considering the large number of players that made appearances for the Red Sox last season.  I'll start out with the positional players, I looked at their wRC (Runs created based off of wOBA), total WAR and their defense (TZ for catcher and UZR/150 for all the other positions).

2010 Positional Players:

Postion wRC WAR Defense
Catcher 98.4 4.0 -12
1B 109.2 3.9 3.6
2B 57.7 3.3 0.7
SS 110.9 3.0 -6.8
3B 109.0 7.1 11.5
RF 76.7 2.8 3.4
CF 105.8 0.6 -16.9
LF 84.6 0.1 -6.8
DH 98.5 3.3 N/A
Total 850.8 28.1 -23.3

The statistical runs scored isn't too far off from the actual number of 818.  Next I looked at pitchers, it was difficult choosing the stats to look at, but eventually I settled on WAR and Runs, the closest thing to a +/- system that we can use along with wRC and UZR.

2010 Pitchers:

Postion WAR Runs
Starters 18.9 517
Relievers 0.8 227
Total 19.7 744

The obvious things to take away from these are that our defense was terrible last year and our bullpen was atrocious, but if you've been a Red Sox fan for more than a second, you already knew that.  Now, enter the 2011 Red Sox.

The starters and backups we will see this year are very different from the ones we saw last year.  The following stats are only predictions contributed from the fans on Fangraphs, as well as Marcel (who I hate to use but occasionally it was the only option) for several of the less popular players.  Defense I was a little subjective on, there are several players who just haven't logged enough innings for any metric to be accurate, in these cases I gave them a 0 defensive rating.  I feel comfortable doing this because most of them, I figure will end up being about average.  Otherwise I used their career average at the position.

2011 Positional Player Projections:

Games Position Name wRC WAR Defense
107 Catcher Saltalamacchia 47.0 1.8 0.0
67 Varitek 24.3 0.7 -1.0
156 1B Gonzalez 123.6 5.6 1.1
152 2B Pedroia 108.3 5.9 7.0
125 SS Scutaro 56.3 1.8 -1.0
115 Lowrie 62.8 2.9 0.0
139 3B Youkilis 114.2 6.3 0.0
130 RF Drew 79.7 3.0 7.0
138 CF Ellsbury 82.0 3.7 0.0
154 LF Crawford 108.4 5.6 15.0
76 OF Kalish 41.9 1.5 0.0
95 Cameron 43.4 1.2 4.0
136 DH Ortiz 85.3 2.1 N/A
Totals 977.2 42.1 32.1

Fangraphs was doing some funky things, for instance, Ryan Kalish was available for full statistics but Darnell McDonald, the likelier 5th OF was not, but I went with what was available.  But to put these numbers in perspective, the runs expected out of these players is over 100 runs more than the best offense last year and the WAR, 10 better than the Reds, the team that led last season.  In terms of defense, I'm expecting a turn around of over 50 runs compared to 2010.

Now, pitching was a far harder monster to tackle, due to a lack of numbers, I dropped WAR, I wasn't using it for anything more than reference, so all I'm giving you is the expected number of runs for each pitcher to give up (not earned runs, just runs total).

2011 Pitcher Projections:

Innings Name Runs
213 Lester 81
191 Buchholz 80
186 Beckett 87
199 Lackey 96
155 Matsuzaka 85
117 Wakefield 66
46 Doubront 25
63 Papelbon 24
68 Bard 20
58 Jenks 25
55 Wheeler 24
54 Okajima 26
56 Atchinson 31
1461 Totals 668

When I started I was afraid the numbers wouldn't add up to anything that made sense, in the end the runs and innings are very plausible.  These projections shave 76 runs allowed off of our total from 2010, increased talent in the bullpen and much better defense make that seem very reasonable.

Now the final answer to this question should be a record.  Last season we were 89-73, a previous article I've written compared a healthy 2010 to an injured 2010 and showed we might have lost up to 8 wins considering offense alone, I want to consider how many wins this particular team could win.  Like last time, we turn to the Pythagorian Theorem of THE BIll James (and you thought you'd passed Geometry class), which essentially turns runs created and runs allowed into a projection of a winning percentage which we can use to get a win-loss record.

The equations is (Runs Scored)^2 / ( (Runs Scored)^2 + (Runs Allowed)^2), there are varients of this but this is what I went with, to put it into practice I first used it on the numbers from last year, runs and wRC.  With Runs Allowed being 744 and Runs Scored being 850.8, our projected winning percentage was .567, about a 91-71 record, only 2 wins off of our actual number, which can be accounted for by wRC being over 30 runs more than the actual number we did score.

I took our 2011 projected Runs Scored (wRC) and Runs Allowed and plugged them into the equation.  The resulting winning percentage is .681, good for a 110-52 record.

That would be incredible, and all things considered, possible.  Our defense should be light years better than before, our bullpen, the weakest link on a weak team last year had been completely revamped, we have guys that will likely start in Pawtucket that could be better than what we'll start with.  Our starting pitching was good last year, it should probably stay even, even if Buchholz regresses, Beckett and Lackey should bounce back a little to make up for it.  Our lineup, one which we thought might struggle after the losses of Martinez and Beltre is going to even better with, what has to be one of the best hitting infields in all of baseball (minus of course catcher).  The difference that Crawford will make alone, shoring up our weakest position, is huge, 20 runs on defense, 20 runs on offense and over 5 WAR. The only thing that should truly hold us up, is our division, we play in the hardest division in baseball, the Yankees will always be tough, the Rays may be in decline but the Jays are seemingly on the rise and the Orioles had the best record in baseball after the All-Star break under a new manager.

Now the disclaimer on all of this is, these are purely projections.  Last year we had an injury Armageddon, one which spurred this very article, there is nothing stopping that very situation from repeating this year.  Every one of our players could have a down year.  But based off of the best educated guesses in the world, this team is going to be a thing of beauty.  Knock on wood.

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