There's a pretty wide variety of opinions on what the Sox will do next year - anything from 80 games, 4th place finish to competing for the World Series. I decided to try to take a somewhat objective look at what we can expect from them compared to last year's results. I decided to use WAR data and projections from Fangraphs for the ease of dealing with a single stat that roughly estimates a player's contribution to the team (read this as: I'm lazy).
2011 WAR: 2.5
Projections have him performing similarly next year, at 2.7 WAR.
Delta = 0.2
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
2011 WAR: 6.6 (career-high)
Projections show a slight decline, to 6.1 WAR, though of course potential is there for improvement, too.
Delta = -0.5
2B: Dustin Pedroia
2011 WAR: 8.0 (another career-high)
No one would be surprised by a repeat of this, but he projects to 7.0 WAR in 2012, which is none too shabby either.
Delta = -1.0
3B: Kevin Youkilis
2011 WAR: 3.7
Projected for 5.5 WAR in 2012, though obviously this depends on health
Delta = 1.8
LF: Carl Crawford
2011 WAR: 0.2
OK, improvement seems pretty likely here. Projected to improve to 4.3 WAR in 2012. I'm sure there will be some debate about just how much.
Delta = 4.1
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
2011 WAR: 9.4 (career-high)
And the other side of the coin... few expect a repeat here. Projection is for 6.7 WAR
Delta = -2.7
Adding up the delta values gives +1.9 WAR. So from this method we can expect overall improvement from the returning players. It is worth noting that most of this is from projected improvements from Crawford and Youk, projections that I'm sure will be debated. But hey, so far, things aren't looking too bad. Basically we are hoping that Crawford will improve enough to cover for Ellsbury's fall back to earth, and that a healthy Youk can make up for a slight drop-off in Gonzalez and Pedroia.
Now, for the actual changes in personnel:
SS - 2011: Marco Scutaro
2011 WAR: 2.9
Aviles is projected to contribute 1.3 WAR in 105 games, Punto 1.2 WAR in 78 games. I'll guess Aviles plays around 100 and Punto around 60, giving about 2.2 WAR for the combination of the two.
2011 Corpse of Drew WAR: -0.3, Reddick: 1.9, total 1.6
Sweeney is project for 1.1 WAR in 105 games, and Ross 1.4 for 112. Normalizing to 80 games each gives 0.8 for Sweeney, and 1 for Ross. Total: 1.8
Delta = 0.2
2nd C - 2011: Jason Varitek
2011 WAR: 0.5
2012: Kelly Shoppach
Projected for 1.1 WAR in 62 games. No need to normalize - Salty's projection was for ~100 games. Lavarnway is projected for 2.1 WAR in 71 games, but he's basically depth right now, so I won't include him.
Delta = 0.6
Adding up the deltas for the changes in position personnel, we get +0.1 WAR. A wash, basically. The main hope for improvement here is that platoon splits work out really well and these players are able to contribute more value than projected. But we shouldn't expect to see too much of a drop-off in performance from turnover.
Of course, batting is not #1 on most people's minds right now. It's the pitching. Which I will get to later when I'm in the mood for more tedium. Plus, hey, maybe there will be a pitching acquisition soon!