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Playing Over/Under with Red Sox PECOTA projections

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It’s projection season!

Gatorade All-Star Workout Day Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

As we get closer and closer to spring training, we are fully ready to start looking forward to the 2018 season despite the fact that so many players remain unemployed. Part of that involves the release of various projections around the interwebs, and today marks a big release. Baseball Prospectus has unveiled this year’s PECOTA projections, one of the most respect publicly available systems out there. This is generally among the more conservative systems, but it’s also one of the best on the whole. You can check out all of the Red Sox PECOTA projections here. Today, I’m going to take a look at one specific projection for 18 Red Sox players — nine position players and nine pitchers — and play a little over/under. Then, you can play along in the comment section and I’ll keep a spreadsheet with all of our guesses. The winner at the end of the year will win my respect and admiration, which is somehow worth even less than nothing.

Mookie Betts: 8.7% BB%

My Pick: Over

In 2017, Betts finally showed off the patience that made him so intriguing as a minor-league player. As he continues to build a reputation as a hitter and player who should be feared I would only expect him to continue to post double-digit walk rates, or at least something close to it.

Chris Sale: 2.44 ERA

My Pick: Over

This projection is bananas, especially for a system as generally conservative as PECOTA. I love Sale and fully expect him to be electric, but it’s really hard to beat a 2.44 ERA, particularly in this homer-happy era of baseball.

Andrew Benintendi: .345 OBP

My Pick: Over

Even in a relatively disappointing year for Benintendi, the good-haired outfielder posted a .352 OBP. I’d expect him to continue to post strong walk rates and pair that with a batting average closer to .300.

American League Division Series Game Four: Houston Astros v. Boston Red Sox

David Price: 3.0 BB/9

My Pick: Under

David Price has walked more than three batters per nine innings exactly once in his career, and he has a lot to prove heading into this year. The health of his elbow makes this a bit trickier than it may initially seem, but it’s hard to bet against Price’s control.

Christian Vazquez: .313 OBP

My Pick: Under

I went back and forth on this one a bunch, but ultimately as much as I was impressed by Vazquez’ bat-to-ball skills in 2017 his lack of patience still scares me enough that I’ll tentatively take the under here.

Craig Kimbrel: 16.4 K/9

My Pick: Over

This projection is bananas, especially for a system as generally conservative as PECOTA. I really have no logical reason to take the over here but I’m feeling it. Kimbrel is incredible and I think he’s going to be really, really special in 2018.

Rafael Devers: .739 OPS

My Pick: Over

It’s hard to overstate how impressive Devers was in his first taste of the majors, and it’s not crazy to foresee a .290/.350/.500 line in 2018. I wouldn’t bet on him reaching those heights, but that this is at least a somewhat reasonable expectation makes this OPS mark an easy over.

Drew Pomeranz: 3.78 ERA

My Pick: Under

Pretty much every projection system is down on Big Smooth. Pomeranz has been good for pretty much the entirety of the last two seasons besides a couple bad months here and there, and he’ll be pitching for a big pay day. I’m expecting the lefty to be one of the better number three starters in the game this year.

Xander Bogaerts: 13 HR

My Pick: Over

It’s hard to blame any projection system for calling for such a low home run total for Bogaerts, but I’m going to believe in the eventual Xander breakout until either it happens or I die. I may be blinded by optimism/homerism, but I really think the new coaching staff should help Bogaerts get to at least 15 homers, and I’d bet on more than that.

Eduardo Rodriguez: 91.1 IP

My Pick: Over

Again, optimism/homerism, but this feels like the year Rodriguez puts it together. After missing the start of the year, I expect Rodriguez to hold down the number four spot in the rotation for the rest of the year and for about 150-175 innings.

Jackie Bradley Jr.: -4 Fielding Runs

My Pick: Over

Baseball Prospectus weirdly hated Bradley’s defense in 2017, having him worth -7 runs in the field. Defensive stats are bad enough and defensive projections are real rough, but here we are. I suspect everyone will agree on this projection.

Steven Wright: 5.60 ERA

My Pick: Under

This one is just mean. In terms of WARP, PECOTA has Wright sandwiched between Trey Ball and Kyle Kendrick. Stop being rude, PECOTA.

Dustin Pedroia: 102 Games

My Pick: Under

I just don’t have a good feeling about Pedroia getting back as early as he and the team are expecting. Then, even if he does, I’m not overly confident in him staying on the field. Plus, they should do what they can to get him rest when he is healthy.

Carson Smith: 8.8 K/9

My Pick: Over

At his peak, Smith struck out 12 batters per inning. Last year, he struck out seven batters in 6 23 innings. I’m not completely confident in Smith over a full season, but I have to pick the over here.

Mitch Moreland: .416 SLG

My Pick: Over

I’m certainly not the biggest Moreland fan in the world, but he showed last year that he can smack plenty of doubles at Fenway. Combine that with his solid home run pop and the fact that he should be mostly platooned this year and he should beat this with some breathing room.

Matt Barnes: 4.0 BB/9

My Pick: Over

I was on the fence here, and you know what they say: When in doubt, bet against Matt Barnes’ control.

Hanley Ramirez: .780 OPS

My Pick: Over

I’m all aboard the Hanley train this year, particularly since it seems likely a bulk of his playing time will come against lefties.

Joe Kelly: 4 HR

My Pick: Over

I think Kelly is going to have a solid year in the middle of the Red Sox bullpen, but last year’s low home run rate sure seemed like a fluke to me.

Team Win Total: 87

My Pick: Over

The Red Sox are going to win 162 games in 2018. You heard it here first.