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Reviewing some Red Sox preseason predictions

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Now that the season is behind us, it’s time to look back at what we were wrong about before it began.

Division Series - Cleveland Indians v Boston Red Sox - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It seems like forever ago, but the start of the season was just six short months ago. The beginning of the baseball year always brings a strange feeling, one with optimism mixed with dread of the things that can go wrong. As I remember it, the general consensus for the Red Sox in March was that they’d compete for the division but wind up settling for one of the wildcard spots. Obviously, opinions varied pretty widely, but that seemed to be the average prediction.

Also at the beginning of the season, projections come out that help us form these team-wide predictions. It goes without saying that projections are far from gospel, but they are generally better than us at predicting everything. Despite that, I decided to go up against the ZiPS projection system, choosing over or under on a few of the projections on the Red Sox roster. Let’s see how dumb I am.

Mookie Betts: 5.4 WAR

Prediction: Under

Actual Result: Over (7.8)

We are off to a terrific start here, as this was a total whiff on my part. To be fair, I thought that Betts would get close to this but would finish just slightly under the projected total. That’s about as positive I can be about this, though. For one thing, I figured he’d provide roughly the same value at the plate, meaning he’d finish with a wRC+ around 119. Instead, he far exceeded my expectations with a 135 mark.

Specifically, the power was far greater than I ever could have expected. His 31 home runs and .216 Isolated Power are both way above what I thought he’d ever reach at his peak. On the other side of things, I couldn’t imagine that he’d keep up his defensive value, particularly after moving to the corner. Instead, he was a top-25 defensive contributor by Fangraphs’ measure. I still don’t know how much I buy these defensive numbers, but there’s no denying he’s a stud with the glove. Mookie made me look silly here, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Xander Bogaerts: 103 OPS+

Prediction: Over

Actual: Over (109)

The good news is I was right about this one. Bogaerts had sort of looked like he’d broken out in 2015, but if you remember correctly the results didn’t look overly sustainable. He relied on a massive batting average on balls in play while displaying little patience and power. I figured he’d see some serious regression in the BABIP, but would show off his natural talent in the other areas.

It did happen, although not to the level some of us were hoping for. He finished with a league-average walk rate, which was a huge improvement, and a .152 ISO that was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, with all of this being said it still feels like he should’ve been better. He was much better in the first half, when it looked like we were finally seeing him reach his full potential. He struggled mightily in the second half, though, with just a few bright spots mixed in to a lot of bad. Still, I’ll take the points here.

Division Series - Cleveland Indians v Boston Red Sox - Game Three Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Jackie Bradley: 24.5 K%

Prediction: Over

Actual: Under (22.5)

At the time of the original post, I don’t think there was a call I was more confident in than this one. Even when Bradley was hitting so well at the end of 2015, he was still striking out a ton. That’s just what he was at the plate. He completely changed my opinion of him over the course of this season, with just one calendar month finishing with a strikeout rate above the projection. The strange thing is, he swung at more pitches out of the zone in 2016, but he punished pitches in the zone. This was a huge season for Bradley’s development at the plate.

Dustin Pedroia: 119 ISO

Prediction: Over

Actual: Over (.131)

Coming into the season, Pedroia’s power production was a relatively big storyline. He looked like he had rebounded in 2015, but the two previous seasons were still disappointing and there was no guarantee he’d be able to stay above those lines. Still, there were enough signs for me, both tangible changes and health-related, to suggest that Pedroia could be a reasonable power threat again. While far from a slugger, he hit 15 homers and 36 doubles over the 2016 campaign. His overall season at the plate — his best since 2011 — was a huge reason the offense was able to score as often that it did.

David Price: 121 ERA+

Prediction: Over

Actual: Under (114)

So, uh, yeah. This season did not go according to plan for David Price, although his final ERA+ is much better than I was expecting it to be. There are two ways to look at Price’s year. On the one hand, all of the advanced metrics say he should have been much better than his results showed. In fact, DRA and cFIP placed him among the best in the game. On the other hand, just watching him you could see real flaws in his game — specifically with his command — and that he earned most of the rough first half results. I’m still bullish on him heading into 2017, but it’s hard to call his 2016 anything more than at least a mild disappointment.

Joe Kelly: 101 FIP-

Prediction: Over

Actual: Over (103)

Well, I was right, but this was really the case of two seasons for Joe Kelly. The first was as a starter, which most of us agree never should have happened. It was only six starts, and the results could not have been worse. He pitched to an 8.46 ERA and a 5.88 FIP over that time. Of course, he eventually came back as a reliever and looked like a different guy. The sample is still too small to be overly confident in him for 2017, but he certainly looked like a legit bullpen arm. Assuming he stays in relief all year, I suspect he’ll put together above-average peripherals moving forward.

Craig Kimbrel: 33.3 K%

Prediction: Over

Actual: Over (37.7)

It wasn’t an entirely smooth season for the new Red Sox closer, but we certainly saw what all the fuss was about. Although control was an issue, Kimbrel showed off the strikeout stuff that had gotten him this far. He’ll certainly need to work on those walk problems heading into next year, but based upon what we saw this year I can’t expect that we’ll be disappointed by Kimbrel over a full season any time soon.

Final Tally: 4-3

I’ll take it.