The bulk of the Red Sox roster is down in Fort Myers working out, the snow's mostly melted in Boston (although more's on the way), and spring's getting closer by the minute. Let's get recapping, shall we?
The middle of February doesn't hold much in the way of on-field action, but it's an exciting time here on the internet, as everybody starts to roll out their projections for the coming year. And the consensus on the Sox is... they won't be terrible. Obviously projections are just that, and we all kind of suspected that this year's team couldn't possibly be worse than last year's (right? please?), but it's nice to see the numbers on a screen. (If you're more interested in the classic sportswriting technique of flinging poop at a wall, I took a crack at that on Monday.)
The ZiPS system over at FanGraphs was a bit bearish on the Sox, but Matt Collins points out that some of the most important players on the Sox roster are a bit hard to project with any accuracy. Baseball Prospectus, with their PECOTA system (developed by some dude who decided to do "important" work), is a bit more confident about Boston's chances, projecting the Sox to finish second in the AL East with 86 wins. Marc delved a bit deeper into PECOTA's projections for hitters, pitchers, and prospects this week. The real question, of course, is whether we can expect October baseball, and PECOTA's giving Boston slightly worse than 2-in-5 odds. Vegas seems less optimistic, pegging the Sox for a losing record and fourth place, but as extra-special guest Bill Parker points out, that may be an undersell.
As fun as projections are, they're no substitute for the real game, which of course we're all looking forward to. Matt Kory reminded us of a few things we'll see this year that ought to make the games fun again. Ben talked up some of the prospects we'll get to watch during spring training, which might be the best part of the whole month. Last year, during a spring training game, Jose Iglesias made a play at short so utterly, mind-bogglingly fabulous that it caused my girlfriend to spill her beer. That's the sort of thing you only get to see in spring training, and it's only a few weeks away. It isn't all good news from the Fort, however, as both Felix Doubront and Craig Breslow are suffering from shoulder weakness after the long offseason.
Among the many flaws of last year's Sox team was the sudden, jarring loss of their ability to work counts and drive opposing pitchers into the ground. Matt Kory examined that change, and whether we might see a return to the grinding Sox lineups of old. Ben took a look at all the former Sox now hanging out in Oakland, and hoped that the A's Boston has picked up lately might lend some magic.
Finally, we address the end of an era, as the long Sox sellout streak is likely to officially end early this year. As with most things involving the marketing of the Boston franchise, it was a bit contrived, and an easy target for that certain type of writer or fan who can only feel good about their own fandom if they're able to mock someone else's. But as gimmicks go, it was pretty harmless. More importantly, in terms of paying for new seats, or better concession stands, or socking away in the "trade for and extend Giancarlo Stanton" fund, ticket sales count the same whether the fans show up or not. Hopefully this year the team will be good enough that there won't be any problem filling up those stands.
Enjoy the weekend, all.