facebooktwitterrssyoutube
≡ Menu

Why the Red Sox Will Make the Playoffs in 2013

Valentine was one of the biggest blunders in Boston sports history.

Valentine was one of the biggest blunders in Boston sports history.

Expectations are low in Red Sox Nation. Last season Boston stumbled to a 69-win season, the team’s lowest win total in a non-strike-shortened season since finishing 62-100 in 1965. Actually, “stumbled” doesn’t even begin to describe the utter nightmare that 2012 was. Flubbed? Blundered? Imploded? All of those more accurately convey the complete failure of a season the Red Sox had.

In the wake of a third straight year without Fenway opening for game number 82 on a crisp October evening, the Red Sox made some serious club-wide changes. Bobby Valentine is gone, John Farrell is in. The team’s medical staff is undergoing a complete face-lift after years of injury mismanagement, most notable of which surrounds the immensely talented, yet always ailing, Jacoby Ellsbury. David Ortiz is back after signing the two-year contract he’s been waiting years for, and the team has decided to forego any free agent whose contract demands extend past 2015.

After all the team has done (and not done) this offseason, the opinion of almost every Sox fan in the city inevitably falls into one of two categories:

  1. “We had all that free money after the Dodgers bailed us out, and we were too afraid to spend it. Shane Victorino and Ryan Dempster? Those guys are washed up! Looks like we’re in for another October miss.”
  2. “Man, we really got a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card when the Dodgers agreed to take almost a quarter-billion dollars off our hands. The team is taking the right approach this offseason. They just have to sit back and spend wisely. I mean, yeah, that’ll mean a few more disappointing seasons, but in three years our prospects should be ready and we can contend again.”

Well, what if I told you that the often criticized, shrewd moves made this offseason by Red Sox GM Ben Cherington have actually put the team in position to make the playoffs in 2013? Seriously, it’s not that far-fetched.

How many wins will it take to make the playoffs?

With the two-Wild Card format, the bar for postseason qualification has been lowered. Last year the Orioles and Rangers were the American League’s two wild card teams, and each won 93 games. In 2011 the Rays won the wild card with 91 wins, and had there been two wild card teams that year the Angels would have gotten in with 86. In 2010 the White Sox were the AL’s fifth-best team with 88 wins. Obviously playoff races would have changed if the rules during those seasons were the same as 2012′s, but would the 86-win Angels and the 88-win White Sox have all of a sudden transformed into 95-win juggernauts? Doubtful.

And what about 2013′s projected playoff contenders? Sorry Orioles fans, but your team was way too lucky in one-run games and didn’t add any substantial pieces this offseason. You’re out.

The White Sox won 85 games last year on the backs of a surprising career year from A.J. Pierzynski and great pitching performances by Chris Sale and Jake Peavy. Pierzynski’s in Texas now, and Tyler Flowers isn’t replicating those numbers. And will the rotation be able to improve upon its overall performance last year? I don’t think so, and without any big additions to the offense I think they’ll max out at 88-90 wins. Sorry, Southsiders.

Kansas City, I applaud your efforts to make a push when you traded for James Shields, but barring breakout years from just about everyone up and down your lineup you’re probably going to fall short.

How about the contenders? The Blue Jays are immediately one of the front-runners in the American League after their stunning offseason, so let’s add them to the shortlist of candidates that already includes the Rangers, Angels, Athletics, Tigers, Yankees, Rays, and Indians (if you’re buying them as a sleeper). Not including the Red Sox, that’s eight candidates for five spots, all of whom are capable of winning 93 games or more.

So like last year, we’ll once again set the threshold at 93 wins for an invitation to the postseason.

How good are the 2013 Red Sox?

Sports fans and media personalities are wrong if they say this team has no chance in 2013. This year is not a lost year.

Ah, now this is the fun part.

I went through Boston’s roster and projected each player’s plate appearances/innings pitched for the 2013 season. Because there are plenty of players not currently on the roster that will play games, those players have been included as “Other Bench Bats,” “Other Starting Pitchers,” and “Other Relievers.” Their plate appearance or innings pitched totals were calculated by finding the entire team’s projected totals and subtracting the amounts already allocated to players on the roster. The team’s projected totals were estimated using 2012′s season numbers.

Along with each player’s playing time, I also projected their Wins Above Replacement (WAR). These numbers are my own personal, raw estimates. They were arrived at with much research and reasoning, but obviously they are my subjective projections and therefore completely open to debate. What isn’t open to debate is each player’s average WAR for the last three seasons, prorated over the amount of plate appearances or innings I projected them for. That’s included as well.

Note: WAR is highly dependent on usage for each player, so in my projections I have done my best to account for each batter’s projected lineup slot, each pitcher’s projected rotation spot or bullpen role, and adjusted for age and injury risk. The numbers in the “Last 3 Years” columns obviously do not account for these factors, but I included them to show my projections are not overly optimistic. They are, in fact, quite fair.

redsox2013

* WAR/PA and WAR/IP are each player’s average WAR over the last three years prorated over the amount of plate appearances or innings I’ve projected them for in the column to the right of their name.

First, I find it interesting that my projections for both batters and pitchers were lower than the three-year averages for each group. For batters I projected Jarrod Saltalamacchia to lose some playing time to David Ross, and my projections for both players were lower than their three-year averages. First base was left as “TBD” in light of the team’s issues signing Mike Napoli. With their insistence on adding a bat to play first, I projected the position at two wins, which Fangraphs.com defines as a role player-slash-solid starter. I also projected Will Middlebrooks to regress from his ridiculous per-game pace last year by a full win, and Dustin Pedroia and Ellsbury were projected as 5+ win players. “Other Bench Bats” was projected for two wins over 876 plate appearances, and the “Last 3 Years” values are those for Daniel Nava, Boston’s primary bench bat.

According to Fangraphs.com, a 4-5 win player is considered an All-Star, a 5-6 win player is considered a superstar, and a 6-7 win player is considered an MVP. Using these definitions, I projected the Red Sox’s offense to have two borderline All-Stars (Ortiz and Victorino) and two true All-Stars (Pedroia and Ellsbury), one of whom (Pedroia) is a superstar but a notch below an MVP candidate. I think all of that is more than fair.

In the rotation, I projected small resurgences from Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz that coincide with the return of John Farrell, but neither player is projected for their respective “Last 3 Year” averages. Dempster is projected for 3.5 wins, half a win more than his “Last 3 Year” average, so if you want to dock me a half win there I suppose you have an argument. However, I happen to like Dempster. John Lackey is projected at 1.5 wins, which means he falls into that “role player” designation, but even if he fails in his projected 160 innings it shouldn’t be hard to find someone else who can at least approach 1.5 wins. Felix Doubront at 2.3 wins over 180 innings is just 0.2 more than he did last year in 161 innings.

Personally, I love Boston’s bullpen. I think Joel Hanrahan was a great addition, and Andrew Bailey (if he can stay healthy), Koji Uehara (quietly dominant), Junichi Tazawa (underrated), and Craig Breslow (not bad) have the makings of a deep, impactful bullpen.

Oh, and I projected “Other Starting Pitchers” and “Other Relief Pitchers” at replacement level, i.e. zero wins.

Sum all of that up, and I projected the Boston Red Sox as a team to total 52.3 WAR. If you like the “Last 3 Year” averages better, they’re projected for a 57.0 WAR, but let’s stick with my lower estimate. Now, what the heck does that mean?

How are WAR and Team Win% related?

Projecting a team for a 52.3 WAR is abstract to say the least, so how many games does that mean they’ll win? For quick estimates, it’s said that a team with all replacement level players (cumulative team WAR of 0.0) would win about 40 games. Add Boston’s projected 52.3 WAR to that and you get a projected 92.3 wins. I don’t like just relying on quick estimates, though.

To find the correlation between WAR and team win percentage (Win%), I found the cumulative WAR and Win% for all 30 teams over the last five years. Then I plotted each team’s average WAR for each season (their cumulative WAR divided by five) versus their Win% to see if there’s any correlation. As it turns out, there’s a very strong one.

WARvWin

With an r-squared value of 0.896, there’s a very clear correlation between a team’s WAR and their win percentage. And thanks to Microsoft Excel, we have an equation to help quantify it (displayed on the chart).

So let’s plug our replacement level team’s 0.0 WAR into the equation to test our “a team with all replacement level players (cumulative team WAR of 0.0) would win about 40 games” statement from before.

Calculating…

According to the equation above, a 0.0 WAR team would have a winning percentage of .287. That’s 46.5 wins, so we were pretty close.

Now, what about the 2013 Boston Red Sox and their projected 52.3 team WAR? Well, if the chart above isn’t lying, they have a projected Win% of .585. That’s 94.7 wins! If we were to take the “Last 3 Year” WAR of 57.0, they’d have a projected Win% of .612. That’s 99.1 wins!

And going with our more conservative 94.7-win estimate, that should be enough to make the playoffs given our previously established 93-win requirement.

The take-home message

I think the Red Sox are a 92-99 win team as currently comprised…

With all the change, all the upheaval, and all the uncertainty, a 26-game improvement from last year would be rather monumental. Will they do it? Yes, I think they will. I think the Red Sox are a 92-99 win team as currently comprised, though significant injuries to major members of the lineup or rotation will obviously hurt their chances of reaching that level of success.

Sports fans and media personalities are wrong if they say this team has no chance in 2013. This year is not a lost year. The Red Sox are fielding a competitive team, and they did it with smart offseason additions, wise subtractions, and an overall goal to be more balanced after last year’s debacle.

Texas looks more vulnerable than they have in recent seasons, and the AL Central is probably sending just one team to the postseason, so can Boston beat out three of Toronto, New York, Tampa Bay, and Oakland? Yeah, I think they can, and I think it will be the Angels, Tigers, Rangers, Yankees, and Red Sox that will be battling this October. (I would have chosen the Rays over the Angels, and it was very close, but the AL East is wicked deep. And yes, I used “wicked” on purpose.)

That might be an unpopular opinion given America’s love for Canada’s team right now, but through all these numbers and all my forced objectivity, I’ll let my Boston homerism shine through a little. Just know that I have the numbers to back it up.

Response to reader comments

First, thanks to everyone who has read thoroughly and commented intelligently. I realize my opinion here is an extremely unpopular one, especially since it argues on the behalf of a team that’s rather unpopular around the country.

I have given a lot of thought to what many of you have said, and a lot of good points have been made. As far as the overall methodology goes (using team WAR to project Win%), I don’t think there’s much to argue there. The correlation is strong. What we can argue about is what Boston’s 2013 projected team WAR should be.

Concerns over whether or not I have factored in the team’s potential injuries are legitimate. I stand by my offensive projection in terms of how healthy the hitters will be, and I think estimating 1,150 plate appearances for Ross, Nava, Pedro Ciriaco, [insert whomever else] is accurate. Obviously a major injury to someone like Pedroia, Ortiz, Ellsbury, or Middlebrooks  (or moderate-but-lengthy injuries to a few of them) will hurt the overall team’s WAR noticeably, so I will admit that there is an element of best-case-scenario present in the lineup’s WAR projections.

I also stand by my projected bullpen WAR of 6.3. That mark in last year’s MLB would have ranked T-6th with the Cincinnati Reds, and Boston’s team WAR in 2012 was 10th-best at 4.6. Their bullpen is better this year, and I think it’s 1.7 wins better.

What I would go back and edit is my projection for the rotation. While I stand by the individual projections for Lester, Dempster, Buchholz, Doubront, and Lackey, the chance that all of them live up to my expectations isn’t great. It would have been prudent to project the unit as a whole to factor in their cumulative injury risk. I projected Boston’s 2013 starting rotation for 13.3 wins, which would have been 14th-best in last year’s MLB. Factoring in potential injuries for 2013, Boston’s rotation probably belongs somewhere around 20th. Last season that would have been about 10 wins. To play things safe, let’s subtract 3.3 wins from my original estimate above.

That decreases the team’s projected total WAR from 52.3 to 49.0. Plug that into the equation we’ve been using, and Boston’s new projected Win% is .566, or 91.7 wins. You can play it safe and stick with this revised projection if you’d like.

Now, to those who think the Red Sox as presently constituted are a .500 team at best (and apparently there are more of you than I expected), keep in mind that the team had a roster that quit on the manager and a manager who quit on ownership. They deserved each and every one of their 93 losses, but they were more talented than your typical 93-loss team. They underachieved.

Last year Boston’s team WAR was 34.5. That’s not good, but using our formula from above it equates to a .483 Win% and 78.3 wins. That means as constituted last year, Boston was a 78-win team, not a 69-win team. (And if this team WAR-to-Win% conversion is too abstract for you, Boston’s Pythagorean Win Expectation based on runs scored and allowed last year was 74 wins.)

Yes, that counts play they had with Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Co., but on the whole they should have won more than 69 games. Had they finished last year with 74-78 wins and then added Dempster, Victorino, and Hanrahan, not to mention the returns of Ortiz and Ellsbury (who played just 164 games last year combined), would you still be saying that they’ll be lucky to be a .500 team? I sure hope not.

You can disagree with my conclusion and call me crazy for declaring the Red Sox a playoff team, let alone a postseason contender, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. It’s not even wildly crazy. Like every non-great team that makes the playoff, some things are going to have to break right, but there are a lot of reasons to think Boston could be a playoff team. Don’t count them out.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

If you enjoyed this article, enter your email below to get more free updates!

About the author: Bryan is the co-founder of Baseball Professor and works as a consultant specializing in operational metrics and efficiency analysis. When he’s not working, blogging, or tending to basic human needs, he enjoys pondering the vastness of the universe, rewatching episodes of Breaking Bad, and avoiding snakes. (@BaseballProf)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • KB

    What are your projections for Ellsbury? I feel like he is probably the X Factor in how far Boston goes this season. I know WAR takes defense into account, but if you have him @ a 5 WAR, then you must be expecting his bat to be pretty solid too.

    • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

      I do expect him to have a good season. For comparison, in 2008 Ellsbury put up a 4.2 WAR with a .280 BA, 98 R, 9 HR, 47 RBI, and 50 SB. He has more power than that these days and still has 40-SB speed, so I think something around .290, 100 R, 15-18 HR, 60 RBI, 40 SB with good defense is in play. And in the end we’re dealing with a Boras client in a contract year, so the sky’s the limit.

      • KB

        I agree. Considering its a contract year I think he finds a way to stay healthy. I also think he will be well aware of Bourn’s current situation and will want to display that power again if possible so as not to appear as a “speed only” guy in FA next offseason.

  • B stand for Bitch

    Goodluck at the bottom of the AL east again.

    • bturner4559

      Haha thats right where theyll be maybe la will take ortiz pedroia and lester this time too.

    • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

      It’s possible, but I’m banking on the O’s returning there.

  • bturner4559

    You gotta be kidding me this team got worse not better I think they should feel lucky if they make it to the 69 win mark. You’ve lost ross and gonzales and replaced them with replacement level ( thats very generous) players. It amuses me to no end how pathetic boston fans are stop trying to find random numbers that support your half crocked theory AND OPEN YOUR EYES AND LOOK AT YOUR TEAM you have the worst rotation in your division. Dempstet own a 5+ era in the al. Lester is another year older and will continue to fall off along with bucholz. Farrel will make no difference he never did anything with torontos pitchers.Ortiz and pedroia are older. I mean I cant even think of one strength on the team except for maybe abllpen that wont mattet because there will be no leads to hand over.

    • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

      You, sir, fail to make any good points.

      • bturner4559

        1. Lost Cody Ross and Adrian Gonzales and replaced them with replacement level players.
        2.Dempster has a 5+ era in the AL
        3. Farrel will not fix lester and bucholz
        4.Ortiz and the other boston cornerstones pedroia and ellsbury are going to struggle to stay healthy. Ok maybe not pedroia barring somehing unforeseen.

        • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

          1. I don’t think you know what “replacement level” means. Last year Gonzalez was worth 3.6 wins. For the most part he’s been a 5-6 win player, though. My projections reflected this downgrade as I projected Boston’s starting 1B (whoever it is) for 2 wins. For comparison, Napoli is worth 2-3 wins every year, and last year a player like LaRoche (I know he’s signed) was worth 3.8 wins. Two wins is a moderate estimate for a starting first baseman. Cody Ross was worth 2.6 wins last year. I projected a drop off of almost a full win from him to Gomes/whoever he platoons with.

          2. You’re really making a final judgement about Dempster’s prospects in the AL based on 69 total innings with Texas last year? He had a 4.08 FIP in those 69 innings. That’s way too small of a sample size.

          3. I didn’t say Farrell would fix them, but yes, they will be better. I projected Lester for 4 wins and Buchholz for 2. That’s better than last year’s 3.3 WAR for Lester, but not by much, and Buchholz had an almost identical 1.9 WAR last year. And for what it’s worth, they only started to struggle once Farrell left.

          4. Yes, injuries are a concern. Ortiz had a flukish Achilles injury, and he’s aging so injury concerns could persist, but for the most part he’s been a picture of good health in Boston. Ellsbury is in a contract year, so I think he’ll play at an All-Star level. He’s talented. If you want to say “He’s going to get hurt!” then I can’t really argue with you. And you can’t really argue with me if I say otherwise.

          Could I ask what team you’re a fan of?

  • bturner4559

    I cant believe your giving Lester Dempster bucholz and lackey almost 20 wins above where did you get those numbers from 5 years ago lol. Feel lucky and i’m being totally homest here feel Lucky if those guys post a below 5 era

    • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

      Almost 20 wins? I projected them for a combined WAR of 11…

  • Bollocks

    Good stuff overall. However, with linear regression I’m pretty sure the y-intercept is meaningless when it’s far out of the sample range, as it is here. Your argument is stronger if you ignore this part and just use the 40 game estimate.

    • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

      The y-intercept would be .287, which equates to 46.5 wins.

  • bturner4559

    If I told you a fan from a team where their rotation consists of an “ace” with an era of 4.82. A #2 with a 4.56. A loser coming bacl from years of injury. And a couple of bullpen guys starting and way over their heads…was bragging about how his team was gonna make the playoffs youd be laughing right !! Guess what that fan is you lawls

    • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

      I don’t recall bragging in the least. I recall explaining why the team deserves a little more credit than the media and fans in Boston have been giving them.

      “Because sports fans and media personalities are wrong if they say this team has no chance in 2013. This year is not a lost year. The Red Sox are fielding a competitive team, and they did it with smart offseason additions, wise subtractions, and an overall goal to be more balanced after last year’s debacle.”

  • Hills of Glenallen

    All of that typing and Sabre-crunching…and yet, you’re still way wrong.

    • http://twitter.com/mwk89 Matthew Kitson

      welp, you say he’s wrong, so it must be true, since you are obviously the be-all and know-all..

    • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

      Hey, you’re entitled to your well-reasoned opinion, and I’d be open to discussing it.

      • anon12 f

        So much for him being wrong hahaha

        • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

          Haha I’ll be honest — I liked them to win ~93 games and make the playoffs, but I didn’t expect them to be THIS good.

  • Matt_P102

    Yes, it’s possible that Boston’s rotation will be much improved if none of their starters get hurt. Certainly, if their other arms only throw 25 innings then that will be good. But realistically, last year their “other arms” threw 190 innings and provided -.1 WAR. Better hope Lackey stays healthy because the drop off from him to your sixth starter is huge.

    Same thing with your starters on the field. If no one gets hurt then you’re in good shape. But a lot of your guys ended the year on the DL. Ellsbury is injury prone. Ortiz, Pedroia and Middlebrooks were hurt last year.

    Your bullpen is awesome and has good depth. That stated expecting six wins out of them in 480 innings is asking a lot of them. That would be what the Braves did last year. If everything goes right, your bullpen will be worth six wins. But that requires no one to have a bad year and to have a few injuries.

    I guess if everyone on Boston stays healthy and other teams have injuries then you’ve got a shot. Otherwise, you probably need to subtract about ten wins due to injuries. That would put you at about .500.

    • bturner4559

      To get to even 500. Would require lester bucholz and lackey to have a remarkable turnaround.

      • Matt_P102

        If Lackey can throw 160 innings with a 4.7 ERA then he’d be worth about 1.5 wins. If Lester can throw 200 innings with a 4 ERA then he’d be worth about 3.5 wins. If Bucholtz can throw 190 innings with a 4.6 ERA then he’d be worth about 2 wins. That’s about the numbers he’s expecting from them. The starters aren’t the issue. If they stay healthy, they could put up the numbers he expects.

        The problem is what happens if one of them gets injured? Last year, they had injuries/ineffectiveness. When Cook started he had an ERA of 5.65. Bard had an ERA over 6 and Dice-K had an ERA over 8. More importantly, none of them had an FIP under 5.50. Needless to say, the three of them were worse than worthless and Lackey would have been an upgrade. When Boston needs their sixth starter will they have someone who can put up an ERA under 5?

        The reason why the Professor’s methodology doesn’t work is because he’s comparing what did happen to what could happen. The 2008-2012 data shows what each team did with injuries because they’re real data. His 2013 Boston projections don’t include an adequate injury adjustment. I can’t tell you which Boston player will get hurt but I highly suspect that a few of them will miss significant time. Without that adjustment, he’s comparing apples to oranges.

        For just hitters, he should expect about 1900 PAs to go to “other bats” instead of the mere 1000 he’s expecting. He should probably expect his other starting pitchers to throw 125-250 innings instead of 25. The other guys don’t do well.

        • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

          Thanks a lot for the intelligent comment. You make a fantastic point, one I wish I’d considered more strongly earlier. I’d encourage you to read the additional section I just posted in response to this and a few other reader comments.

      • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

        According to the team WAR-to-Win% equation above, Boston was a 78-win team last year. If you prefer a more widely recognized win expectancy calculator, the Pythagorean runs score/allowed method suggests Boston should have won 74 games.

        I’d argue they underachieved because of the toxic clubhouse, so the team had the talent of a 74-78 win team. If they’d won that many games and then added Dempster, Victorino, and Hanrahan plus the returns of Ortiz and Ellsbury, would you still say they’d need remarkable turnarounds to get to .500?

        • bturner4559

          Im sorry I just don’t see it Dempster has a 5+ era in the AL and victorino simply isn’t that good of a player certainly not better than ross or gonzales to offset their loss. Hanrahan is a luxury that cost prospects. Ill give you this your in better shape than the yanks. The redsox are in the right direction I wouldnt really change anything ben did except for hanrahan as it was a crappy free agency year. but to say their going to the playoffs no way.

    • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

      Thank you for the intelligent comment. I would encourage you to read an additional section I added responding to reader comments in which I address some of that. Again, thanks for the read.

      • Matt_P102

        I think looking at preseason fWAR for each team may be the best way to go. The other way, which would be trying to normalize for injuries is complex (how do trades work? calling up prospects? Demotions due to ineffectiveness? etc etc).

        Ten wins is reasonable for the rotation. But if your rotation gets hit with injuries like Toronto’s, then your season is going to get ugly fast. Still, this is the one area where you’re not using the best case scenario.

        As for the bullpen. It’s mostly irrelevant because we’re talking 2 wins at the most, but it illustrates my concerns. You’re absolutely right that a good bullpen can put up 6.3 fWAR. The problem is that you expect them to do it in 475 innings. You guys wouldn’t improve by just 1.6 fWAR it would be closer to 2 fWAR because they’d be throwing 50 fewer innings. When you state that your 2013 bullpen can put up 6.3 fWAR in 475 innings you’re really comparing them to only six bullpens (Braves, Cincy, Rays, Diamondbacks, Rangers and the Yankees).

        The Braves had Kimbrel (3.6 fWAR last year) and the Reds had Chapman (3.3 fWAR). The Rays had Rodney and McGee, each of whom are 2 WAR relievers. Diamondbacks had Putz and Hernandez, both of whom were elite. You guys simply don’t have a 2 WAR reliever so that model is out. I like Uehara but he doesn’t throw enough innings to be top five because he can’t stay healthy. You really would need to follow the Yankees and Texas model which is having a few top relievers and having every other reliever be effective. The Yankees had Robertson and the Rangers had Nathan. If one reliever flops then your bullpen is worth mid 5s. Your bullpen is excellent so you’ve got a legitimate shot, but everything has to go right. You can’t have a single reliever choke. Either that, or Tazawa has to take the next step and become elite along with another guy (Bailey, Hanrahan or Bard). It’s possible but I’d give it a 20% shot. I’d say a 5 fWAR bullpen is more likely. Ultimately, we’re discussing one win so it doesn’t really matter who is right. I’m just noting you’re looking at a best case scenario which to be fair you noted.

        The major issue I have is with your position players. I strongly suspect that having reserves play about 2000 PAs is more accurate. I also think that reserves do considerably worse than you think. Most of them are worth negative WAR. At least, those are what the numbers seemed to indicate when I looked at Boston’s seasons from 2010-2012. Obviously, it’s small sample size and it’s difficult to determine who should count as an “other” and who shouldn’t. But my understanding is that Boegarts and Bradley won’t be ready until 2014.

      • Matt_P102

        Also, I don’t think you’ve improved much from 2012. We agree there’s little improvement for the pitching… just compare your projected 2013 numbers to 2012. That makes sense because you’re adding Dempster and Lackey to the rotation while subtracting Beckett and Bard. You have more talent but if one guy goes down then you’re back where you were in 2012. An extra win or two by the bullpen or rotation won’t do much for you.

        We disagree about the hitting. And it’s true you’ve added a lot this offseason, but you’ve lost a lot since last year.

        You’ve added Ross but you lost Shoppach and his 1.2 fWAR in 200 PAs. The only benefit you might gain is that Lavarnway won’t get a shot. You’ve probably gained a win due to that.

        You (may) add Napoli but you lost Gonzo and Loney. Given that Napoli’s physical brought up concerns you’re probably losing two wins at first. A full year of Mauro Gomez or Lars Anderson isn’t a good thing.

        If Pedroia bounces back, he could be worth another two wins at second.

        You’ve gained Stephen Drew but you lost Mike Aviles. Given that Stephen Drew has one good year in his career and that was in 2010 it’s probably a loss of a win. The fact he’s averaged 80 games the last two years means you should expect to see a lot of Iglesias. Given that he can’t hit AAA pitching that could get ugly fast.

        Hopefully Middlebrooks will stay healthy the whole year and be effective. I’d call that even from last year. Ciracio wasn’t bad last year.

        You gained Victorino but lost Ross. He’s an upgrade but Ross was pretty good. Maybe an extra win benefit. A Gomes(lefties)/Nava(righties) platoon should be worth another two wins over what you had last year.

        A healthy Ortiz could be worth five wins. Or else he could fall apart and be worth nothing. He was amazing last year but he’s old.

        The major question is Ellsbury. He had a great year in 2011 but was hurt in 2010 and 2012. If he can put up his 2011 numbers then he could be worth five wins. If that’s a fluke… well having him healthy for 150 games probably isn’t an upgrade from him, Sweeney and Pods. Given that he’s never hit over ten homers in any year other than 2011, the smart money is on fluke and is that he’s a 3 win player if healthy.

        Your position players are a few wins better than they were in 2012 on paper. Once injuries hit I don’t expect to see any improvement. And you should expect injuries as Drew, Ellsbury and Ortiz are injury prone. Ortiz less than the other two but he’s 65 (joking).

        Having Sweeney, Gomes, Ciracio and Ross as your bench isn’t bad. But Iglesias, Lavarnway, Kalish and Anderson are your reserves in the minors. They didn’t do so well last year. Who do you have that can play DH and 1B in the minors? The dropoff from Ortiz to Ciracio is probably four wins. If Gomez has to play at first base then you’ll get no production there. What happens when your pitching is mediocre and you have to win with a lineup that has Gomez, Ciracio and Iglesias? I suspect what happens is that your WAR overestimates your win total.

  • http://twitter.com/SgtPervyCreeper Sgt. Pervy Creeper

    A much more accurate- and time consuming- analysis of the Red Sox’s playoff chances would be to find the team WAR projections for the rest of the AL and see where they rank. 52 WAR looks great, but if the Jays, Yankees and Rays are all in the mid to high 50′s, it won’t mean much in October.

    Actually, no preseason statistical guessing will mean anything in October, but it’s fun to pretend we know what’s going to happen.

    • http://www.baseballprof.com/ Bryan Curley

      I completely agree. Actually that’s something I’ve considered doing. It might take me about a week to piece it together here and there, but I think it would be a fun exercise.

      Of course come September we’ll probably see Oakland, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Chicago in the playoffs because really we’re just guessing. Haha thanks for the comment.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/REBSJK3QR7PUOYEGGI5N55DNSI BarryH

    I think it’s hysterical that you assume the “phanthom” firstbasema will have a positive WAR..stated like a true Boston townie

  • http://twitter.com/pumpedupjays B.J. Pumpey

    Yes the Sox will be competitive. Boston’s bullpen is vastly improved as well like you said. Their rotation however does not match others on paper i.e. Jays, but everything will come down to health in the end. Personally I think Lackey and Dempster are concerns pitching in Fenway.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XNMCKNZDCBXRPGGQQ2Y6MXM7ZU Ryan Fritsche

    Take a look at their schedule too. They play 7 games against the Houston Astros who are not exactly that much better than a Triple-A franchise at the moment, so that alone should add about 5-6 wins. These are wins they probably would have had last year.

  • GeorgeBellrules

    Haha. You are a funny guy, with your “objective” prognostication about the Sox making the playoffs. Their pitching staff is possibly the worst in the division. You don’t even know who their 1st B will be. I am sure they’ll play with more fire and pride with new manager, less toxic clubhouse. I will be laughing from Toronto at this projection though…

  • Scrub19

    Great article. I hate the fact that the majority of general MLB fans have counted out the Sox for their outrageous failures last year. Their lineup is very competitive this season despite missing a true power threat outside of Ortiz (especially if Napoli doesn’t work out). But top to bottom they possess respectable hitters in every slot.

    Lester is not dead and the addition of Dempster stabilizes what was a questionable rotation. I also believe that they have quietly turned their bullpen into one of the best in the majors (if not the best).

    All in all I too have them slotted into the playoffs alongside the Jays, Angels, Tigers, and Yankees. Yes, 3 from the East. Rangers are suffering this year and the Central can’t get it done.

  • Willy W

    The Red Sox wont win any more than 80 games, sorry, they dont have the Starting pitching period.

  • Guest

    In 2011, the 2nd wild card would have gone to Boston, remember?? Game 162, Papelbon choke, Longoria homer?? Angels in 2011 would not have been in playoffs.

  • Willy W

    You can look at all the sabermetrics you want to, this team wont make the playoffs and I’ll bet the house on that. Did the writer of this article even bother to look at the Sox schedule and how many teams that either were over .500 or are projected this year to be over .500 ? Because the Sox schedule is brutal and there are only 28 games they should clearly win, ag., teams like Houston, Clev., Col., SD, Minn. that’s about it.

  • Evan

    This is pretty cool. Hopefully the Sox stay healthy. Nice work.

  • falseprophet123

    Curley,

    You’re just another Red Sox toady. There is no way in hell the Red Sox make the playoffs, even with the added spot. The starting pitching is junk. Uncle Fester has lost his confidence, John Lackey is coming off TJ surgery, Buchholz ends up on the DL every season. Dempster belongs in the dumpster, and Doubront might get you 8 wins.

    The bullpen is shady. Bailey hasn’t pitched in a year. Hanrahan is going to be a closer in the AL East, after coming from the Pirates? Hahahaha! Bard is a bust, Rubby will get rubbed out and the rest you can either run down to Pawtucket or, better yet, Portland. But the biggest joke is, Salty will be catching this crew! Salty is a stiff of epic proportions. He could very well be the worst starting catcher in Red Sox history! He’s a bum!

    The Mango King is coming of achilles surgery and will look like a Turkey Day float when he shows up for spring training. He’ll be on the DL by May, if not sooner. Punchy Pedroia will be walking around spring training with one hand inside his uniform acting like Napolean. A Drew at short? You must be kidding me? We’ll see if Middlebrooks returns to form. Then last but not least, a bad hipped guy will be playing first. Bumbling Ben did a good job of tweaking the contract, but Red Slob Nation will be looking to hang him when Napoli goes on the DL, and he will end up there.

    I like the Victorino signing, but can he make the adjustment to AL pitching? Probably not, this is the Red Sox we’re talking about. Gomes in left? Sorry, the wall is going to give him fits after playing in that big outfield with lots of room back in OTown.

    Ortiz is done, Salty is a joke, the pitching is wafer thin and the Slobs don’t have the power to get it done on offense. The Sox finish 77-89. With the new savior, Johnny Farrell at the helm! Curley, you’re a clown!

  • falseprophet123

    “Now, to those who think the Red Sox as presently constituted are a .500 team at best (and apparently there are more of you than I expected), keep in mind that the team had a roster that quit on the manager and a manager who quit on ownership. They deserved each and every one of their 93 losses, but they were more talented than your typical 93-loss team. They underachieved.”

    More talented? They lost 93 games fair and square. They underachieved? No Curley. THEY STUNK! What is wrong with you? Did you go to BC or something?

    The Red slobs are going to take it right on the chin this year, just like last year. Fenway Park will be a snake pit by Memorial Day. I can’t wait to hear the booing that will take place. There is absolutely no love left for this team, well, except for the Pink Hats and Red Slob toadies like you.

    The Corpse, otherwise known as John Henry, is readying this organization for sale. Werner can’t figure out how to make money with NESN anymore. Not having the Bruins for the full season has killed advertising there. NESN was the reason Werner signed on. Now that NESN is an after thought, Werner wants out. The jig is up over on Yawkey Way. With a ballpark built for midgets back in the last century, “the old ball yard,” has maxed out it’s worth.

    Curley, time to hang up the old CRT and head south for DC. They can always use one more media hack down in that swamp.

    • BaseballProf

      Well my friend, I guess we’ll see who’s right this year won’t we.