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The Red Sox PECOTA projections, by the numbers

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It’s Joe Kelly’s time to shine.

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Boston Red Sox v San Diego Padres
He’s still very good.
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Happy PECOTA week! This year’s version of the Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, released by Baseball Prospectus, was revealed yesterday, and it held good news for Red Sox fans. Here are some general takeaways.

We’re number 1!

InPECOTA projects the Sox to finish 90-72, easily outpacing second-place Rays (!) in the AL East. Here’s the full list:

Red Sox, 90-72

Rays, 84-78

Yankees, 81-81

Blue Jays, 81-81

Orioles, 73-89

The 90 wins are the fifth-highest total across baseball:

Dodgers, 98-64

Astros, 93-69

Indians, 92-70

Cubs, 91-71

Red Sox, 90-72

PECOTA thinks the AL East will be the deepest division in baseball, with four teams finishing with at least 80 wins. Only one other division (the AL West) has three. Despite the six-game lead, PECOTA sees only the NL East with a smaller margin — which its basically calls a wash between the Nats (87 wins) and Mets (88 wins).

So what does this mean? It means the division is Boston’s to lose, at least according the spreadsheet.

How is this projection made?

Good question The team projections are created from the individual projections, which means we have a whole bunch of individual projections to go through. The individual projections are made by seeing into the future and simply repeating back a player’s season line to us, here, in February. Easy enough. Ready to dive in?

Let’s do it!

Sounds good.

First off, god bless PECOTA, data file that it is, for ranking David Ortiz. It still believes! Big Papi checks in with a projected .280/.369/.531 slash, which is pretty rad for a retired player. His top comps? Frank Thomas, Hank Aaron, Jason Giambi. A hardware-heavy lineup, for sure.

As for the active Red Sox, let’s dive into the numbers more or less at random.

5.0

This projected WARP total belongs to Mookie Betts, the highest on the team -- more than Chris Sale, more than David Price, more than Ortiz. PECOTA sees Betts going .308/.366/.503 with 20 homers, 80 RBI and 22 steals. Everyone one of those slash numbers is projected to lead to Sox in its category. MVP? Much Value in PECOTA, yes, but Mike Trout is, as of this writing, still alive and uninjured.

5

Price’s rank on the overall pitcher WARP list. As I wrote last year, Price was considerably more valuable by advanced stats than he appeared to be without them, both as a matter of perception and volume. His PECOTA projection for this season reflects it. His projected 194.3 IP, 14-9 record, 3.43 ERA, 9.4 K/9 season puts him behind only Kershaw, Sale, Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner among starting pitchers in WARP, and ahead of both of last year’s Cy Young winners, Max Scherzer (7th) and the other guy, what’s his name...

33

PECOTA giveth and PECOTA taketh away. Always a big fan of regression, AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello checks in further back in the pack with a projected ERA of 3.97 and record of 13-10, over 189 innings, a far cry from 2016’s 3.15 ERA over 223 IP. PECOTA basically splits the difference between Pork Chop’s miracle season and his dreadful 2015, and not only does the projection seems plausible, it seems downright likely and perfectly fine.

1.1

Drop off in WARP between the six top-tier offensive players (Betts, Benintendi, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr.) and the seventh player (Pablo Sandoval), which makes the divide between the Sox’ core players and role players abundantly clear, if it wasn’t already.

22

Number of Boston’s offensive players PECOTA expects Rusney Castillo to outperform this year by WARP, including Brock Holt, Chris Young, Mitch Moreland and Blake Swihart. Good luck with that.

0.1

The expected difference between Porcello and Drew Pomeranz by WARP, even as Pomeranz is penciled in for 50 fewer innings. PECOTA is extremely bullish on Pom Wonderful, projecting him for a 10-8 record over 148.3 innings with a 3.76 ERA and 9.4 K/9. While there’s a great argument Porcello deserves to start opening day, PECOTA says he’s the fourth starter.

6

The nominal starter slot into which Eduardo Rodriguez slots, sorted by performance, and the number of semi-regular starters PECOTA sees this year. While PECOTA expects E-Rod to pitch the innings of a fourth or fifth starter -- he, like Pomeranz, is slotted for 148.3 IP -- with a 4.15 ERA and 7.5 K/9 while Wright projects to a 3.90 era and 7.3 K/9 over around 100 IP. Basically the same, and all quite good for the back end of a rotation, for however long the status quo holds.

10.2

Yummy. Carson Smith’s project K/9, trailing only...

10.6

CHRIS SALE, YO, and...

12.3

Craig Kimbrel.

2

Albeit in an extremely close race, the value, ranked among relievers, PECOTA projects Joe Kelly to have, trailing only Kimbrel, with Smith losing out only on playing time issues. Still: Kelly is finally becoming himself.

Great stuff, right?

Sure looks like it. This all just proves the Red Sox are very good. This season shouldn’t suck.

Anything else?

Plenty. You could, and I will, play with these numbers for days. This is just my first pass at them. Let me know what else you see, or want to know, in the comments.