Rebuilding for the NOW

This is a follow up of sorts to Mr. Bentsen's post on "quiet optimism", a feeling I share about this team going into the new year.

2012 hasn't even ended yet, but here I am contemplating the end of the 2013 MLB season, crazy, right? Last off-season was the one from hell. I found it tremendously difficult to buy into any of the moves BenC made for the team and ultimately wasn't particularly surprised by how it all ended.

This off-season though, it's been different. Assuming the deal with Napoli gets done, I think that as well as the Dempster, Uehara, Drew and Victorino signings have just been exactly what this team needed. The 2012 edition of the Boston Red Sox were a disaster, poor managing decisions early I think set the tone, a record number of DL trips spelled trouble and down years from many stars was just simply piling on.

The manager, is gone, some of those slumping players are gone or have reasonable expectations of turning it around and we've made some much needed additions that come at the added bonus of not hogging up all our payroll for the next 6 years.

Courtesy of Rick Bentsen here is a solid projected roster for next season:

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
1B Mike Napoli
2B Dustin Pedroia
SS Stephen Drew
3B Will Middlebrooks
LF Jonny Gomes
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF Shane Victorino
DH David Ortiz

OF Daniel Nava
OF Ryan Kalish
UTIL Pedro Ciriaco
C David Ross

SP1 Jon Lester
SP2 Clay Buchholz
SP3 Ryan Dempster
SP4 John Lackey
SP5 Felix Doubront

CL Joel Hanrahan
RP Andrew Bailey
RP Junichi Tazawa
RP Andrew Miller
RP Craig Breslow
RP Franklin Morales
RP Koji Uehara

There may not be many differences between this and the official opening day program, Napoli may not get done which would be just about the only major thing I could see happening, perhaps Lavarnway makes his way into the catching platoon, or a different set of bench players set themselves apart, but in the end they probably won't make much of a difference when considering full season projections where we assume that everyone stays healthy and the bench won't be called upon.

Let's start with our baseline, the 2012 Red Sox finished at 69-93 and 26 games behind the divisional leader and 24 wins behind the wildcard. 3rd order pythagorean wins (available from the folks at baseballprospectus here: says we actually finished about 8 wins behind where we probably should have, at around 77-85, which means to compete for the division lead, we'd need to gain about 16 wins assuming even luck next year.

Let's start with pitching to see if we can make that up using projections to total up runs scored vs. runs allowed to give us a first order pythagorean wins expectation.

Our rotation as it stands will be Lester, Buchholz, Dempster, Lackey and Doubront.

Lester is a pretty prime bounce-back candidate, he had a 4.82 ERA in 205.1 innings last year, but was still worth 3.3 WAR. Lester averaged over 5 WAR from 2008-2010, or as I call them, the John Farrell years. That old pitching coach is now his manager. Bill James is projecting a 3.71 ERA over 211 innings. That accounts for 87 runs allowed.

Total runs allowed:87

Buchholz is perhaps the most difficult Red Sox to predict, he has yet to have a season wherein his peripherals back solid results. His 2010 looked great but no one was sure if he could sustain a K/9 so low while walking so many. His 2011 was an injury plagued and his 2012 was a mix between disaster and a solid stretch of good results but backed by the same questionable peripherals. My James is predicting a slight uptick in those Ks and more innings than he's ever pitched before, a 3.64 ERA over 205 innings. That's about 83 runs allowed.

Total runs allowed: 170

Ryan Dempster is the new addition and one I'd been hoping for each of the last two trade deadlines. Yes, he's 35, but he also spent a few years as a reliever, he doesn't have the typical mileage on his arm for his age bracket. His first foray into the AL with Texas for the last half of the year didn't go great but I'm expecting better things from him this year, he's routinely been about a 3 WAR pitcher. Bill James has him at a 3.74 ERA over 190 innings. That's 79 runs.

Total runs allowed: 249

Then there is John Lackey... 2010 was OK, 2011 a complete disaster and 2012 he rode the pine waiting for his Tommy John surgery to heal. He should be more than ready to go for 2013, especially after there were stirrings of a late season return back in September that although didn't materialize, were a sign of his progress. Tough to say what we can expect the man, with a long time to get healthy and a manager well read on pitching, perhaps he can be useful. Bill James tends to think so, giving him a 4.05 ERA over 209 innings. 94 runs added on.

Total runs allowed: 343

Rounding out this potential rotation is Felix Doubront who blossomed into quite an interesting starting piece and fits right in to the back of our rotation. He spent 2012 striking out quite a bit more batters than was probably expected, walks are still a problem and he frequently ran his pitch count up and that limited him to 161 innings. Mr. James believes that Felix will be taking it to the next level in 2013 with a 3.70 ERA over 202 innings. Good for 83 runs.

Total Runs allowed: 426 in 1,017 innings.

Next we'll jump over to the bullpen, which I'll review en masse here. Joel Hanrahan and Uehara are the big additions here, plus we add on Bailey who we missed for most of the year and Tazawa who was spectacular when he was able to survive the roster crunch. We have a pretty solid group of role players as well in Miller, Breslow and Morales. I fully expect this bullpen to expand on it's pretty impressive 4.6 WAR in 2012.

Hanrahan - 3.63 ERA over 57 innings. 23 Runs.
Bailey - 2.81 ERA over 48 innings. 15 Runs.
Tazawa - 2.49 ERA over 65 innings. 28 Runs.
Miller - 4.71 ERA over 42 innings. 22 Runs.
Breslow - 3.19 ERA over 62 innings. 22 Runs.
Morales - 3.98 ERA over 122 innings. 54 Runs.
Uehara - 2.25 ERA over 40 innings. 10 Runs.

Bullpen total - 174 runs in 436 innings.

Total runs allowed: 600 in 1453 innings. Innings looks about right, I'm going to tack on an extra 50 runs, of the unearned variety that occur from time to time, seems to be about the average. 650 runs in 1453 innings. That is a big reduction in the 806 runs from last season.

Now we delve into the lineup. This part is going to suck pretty bad as far as projections go, because I'm going with Bill James' runs scored projections, which isn't a measure of the batter exactly as much as of whether or not the people behind him can hit him in. So there's that. Plus, I do not know how James goes about with his projections or if they change at all when a player signs with a different team, it's possible that Napoli's reflect his situation in Texas and Kalish's reflect a world without Gomes.

Returning at catcher (for the time being) is Saltalamacchia. He was pretty good as far as catchers go, his power is what saves him from being completely atrocious. Billy J has him at 52 runs in 404 PAs.

Mike Napoli, assuming he signs, will be the primary first baseman on the team, his bat should play there pretty well and perhaps making him full time 1B/DH will increase his numbers as he catches less. James goes with 70 runs scored in 503 PAs.

Pedey was one of the few bright spots on the team last year, and even he had a down year by his standards. Bill projects him to bounce back, 96 runs in 680 PAs.

SS in Boston since the departure of Nomah all those years ago has been something akin to the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, no stability at all. New addition Stephen Drew will probably not represent that stability but will be a carry over as we see if Jose Iglesias, Xander Bogaerts, Jose Vinicio or Deven Marrero can stick at the position. He should be able to provide at least league average production at the spot and he has the potential for more if he can get beyond previous injury problems. BJ - 57 runs 482 PAs.

Middlebrooks looks to avoid the sophomore slump while straightening out his peripherals and dodging injury. He has a lot of potential that has yet to come through, his defense was at time shaky despite his minors reputation as being very strong with the glove. James thinks a breakout is in store with him hitting 29 HRs. Also 75 runs in 565 PAs.

LF will most likely be manned by newcomer Jonny Gomes the majority of the time, with other platooning with him. He is very much a Ross replacement, platoon splits, enormous K rate, yep, he'll fit right into the mold. James gives him 49 runs in 363 PAs.

Ellsbury as it stands will be starting in CF and hoping to stay healthy after an unfortunate run in on the base paths last season. I would say that Ellsbury is the second most difficult to project on the team behind Buchholz, his 2011 season stands tall, but his other years just haven't measured up to that. James has him with 100 runs in 668 PAs.

Victorino will take over in RF, he certainly has the range for it. I was thrilled with this signing on a personal level, my father was a Phillies fan and over the last few years we've made a trip or two down to Clearwater, FL for Phillies spring training. I think Victorino is a pretty good person and someone I can cheer for, at ST he was the first one out to sign autographs and the last to leave, very nice guy. He also brings a glove that can play at any position, something we haven't really had, Ellsbury insurance. Bill James says 85 runs in 624 PAs.

Big Papi returns as DH, hoping to build on a great year that his achilles cut short. He wanted to come back, we wanted him to come back, I'm glad BenC was able to get this done. Ortiz is projected at 89 runs in 620 PAs.

The bench might consist of Nava, Kalish, Ciriaco and Ross. Or it might not, Ross I feel is the only certainty from that group. Here are the projections for them all as it stands:

Kalish - 60 runs, 450 PAs.
Nava - 39 runs, 292 PAs.
Ross - 31 runs, 339 PAs.
Ciriaco - 37 runs, 332 PAs.

The total for this lineup is: 840 runs scored in 6,322 PAs. Checking over at fangraphs makes me believe that there are too many PAs here, perhaps he is accounting extra for players who were expected to have larger roles than they currently do now that some FAs have signed. 840 runs would have led the league last year and that amount of PAs would have made us 2nd in the league and about 90 more than the next crew. I'm going to scale our number down to 6,200 PAs. That gives us about 824 runs, still quite a bit.

Bill James projects this team to score 824 runs and allow 650. I'll use the basic pythagorean equation here, (runs scored)^2/ ( runs scored ^2 + runs allowed ^2), if for no other reason than I don't want to learn how to do a 1.83 exponent on the basic windows calculator. Plugging in the numbers gives me a projected winning percentage of .616, or roughly 100 wins.

This is only a projection, but I'd have to say it goes exactly in line with my thinking, if we can get career average years out of most of these guys (Jame's numbers usually aren't far off of career averages) we're going to have a competitve team. Other players than the ones listed will get some time on the field for sure, Napoli may never even sign, Dempster may end up being an NL only guy, but at it's roots, BenC has put together a roster with the potential in it for a 100 win season. Even if we had 8 losses worth of bad luck like we did in 2012, we're a playoff contender. I'd have to say the manager change alone is worth a win or two.

But 100 wins, that'd be a nice gift.

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