Monday, March 24, 2008

2008 Red Sox preview

Opening day is usually an afternoon game. Sometimes, it's a Sunday night. But this is the first time that the Red Sox are ever going to open on a Tuesday morning at 6:00 AM. 7:00 PM local (Tokyo) time, of course.

I've not had much to say about the Sox during this spring. Partly that's been because there really hasn't been a lot going on. And partly because of sports fan psychological damage incurred during the Super Bowl. But, with the season about to start, I need to say something. So, here it is, my opening day preview.

Last year, the Boston Red Sox were both a) the best team in baseball and b) the World Series Champions. (Those don't actually go together all that often.) Can they repeat either of those?

Last year:

The 2007 Red Sox underperformed their Pythagorean projection winning percentage. As they allowed only 657 runs while scoring 867, the could have been expected to win 101 games. Instead, they won 96, finishing the season tied for the best record in baseball with the Cleveland Indians. During the offseason, they have had very little roster turnover, heading into 2008 with the core of the 2007 team intact.

Offense:

Last year, the Red Sox were a very good, but not great, offensive team.



2007 Boston Red Sox
TeamAL Rank

Batting average0.2795th

OBP0.3622nd

SLG0.4443rd

Runs per Game5.353rd


They got a fantastic year from Mike Lowell, and should have no expectations of a repeat. They got a very poor season from J.D. Drew, which also shouldn't repeat.



2007 Boston Red Sox
PlayerGamesGSABRuns Hits 2B3BHRRBIBBHBPKSBCSBAOBASPctOPS

>400 AB

David Ortiz 149147549116182521351171114103310.3320.4450.6211.066

Manny Ramirez 13313148384143331208871792000.2960.3880.4930.881

Mike Lowell 154150589791913722112053371320.3240.3780.5010.879

Kevin Youkilis 1451365288515235216837715105420.2880.390.4530.843

Dustin Pedroia 1391325208616539185047742710.3170.380.4420.822

J.D. Drew 140126466841263041164791100420.270.3730.4230.796

Jason Varitek 131121435571111531768718122120.2550.3670.4210.788

Coco Crisp 14513752685141287660501842860.2680.330.3820.712

Julio Lugo 14714057071135362873480823360.2370.2940.3490.643

100-400 AB

Jacoby Ellsbury 33281162041713188115900.3530.3940.5090.903

Eric Hinske 8449186253812362128354300.2040.3170.3980.715

Alex Cora 835220730511053187923110.2460.2980.3860.684

Wily Mo Pena 734015618349151714258010.2180.2910.3850.676

Doug Mirabelli 48331149233051611141000.2020.2780.360.638

0-100 AB

David Murphy 302110100001000.50.51.52

Brandon Moss 15525672101406000.280.3790.440.819

Bobby Kielty 20115261220195117000.2310.2950.3270.622

Jeff Bailey 329110011001000.1110.1110.4440.555

Kevin Cash 128272310044113000.1110.2420.1480.39

Royce Clayton 816100000003000000

Pitchers

Josh Beckett 301111121001001000.1820.1820.2730.455

Julian Tavarez 3474010000103000.250.40.250.65

Daisuke Matsuzaka 32104000000002000000

Curt Schilling 2482010000001000.50.50.51

Tim Wakefield 3142000000002000000



Gone:
- Eric Hinske
- Wily Mo Pena
- Doug Mirabelli
- David Murphy
- Royce Clayton

Here:
- Sean Casey

As I said, there's been very little turnover on the roster. Casey replaces Hinske as the backup 1st basement, Kielty stays as a backup outfielder. Kevin Cash replaces Doug Mirabelli as backup catcher/Wakefield caddy. Any variation on the 867 runs scored will be the result of performance differences in the players who are here, as opposed to player replacement. The only likely exception to that is Center Field, where most people expect Jacoby Ellsbury to get the bulk of the playing time, and Coco Crisp to get traded.

Outlook:

Drop-offs should be expected at 3rd base and catcher, as Cash is even worse than Mirabelli and Varitek's another year older. Improvements should be expected in Center and Right, as Crisp and Drew had down years. It would not be surprising to see Manny have a "comeback" season of sorts. On the whole, I think that they'll score somewhere between 875-900 runs, somewhat, but not tremendously, better than 2007.


Pitching:

The 2007 Red Sox were the best pitching/defense team in the AL. Their 657 runs allowed were 42 runs fewer than second place Detroit.



2007 Boston Red Sox
Red SoxAL Rank

Runs allowed6571st

Runs per game allowed4.061st

Walks/Inning0.3355th

Strikeouts/Inning0.7993rd




2007 Boston Red Sox
PlayerGamesGSW L WPctSvShoIPHRERHRBBKERAK9BB9HR9

Starters

Josh Beckett 30302070.74100200.67189767317401943.278.71.790.76

Curt Schilling 2424980.52901151165686521231013.876.021.371.25

Daisuke Matsuzaka 323215120.55600204.6719110010025802014.48.843.521.1

Jonathan Lester 121140100636133321031504.577.144.431.43

Tim Wakefield 313117120.5860018919110410022641104.765.243.051.05

Julian Tavarez 34237110.38900134.6715189771451775.155.153.410.94

Kason Gabbard 774010141281717318293.736.373.950.66

Clay Buchholz 43310.750122.671464010221.598.743.970

Devern Hansack 31010007.679542554.75.875.872.35

Relievers

Jonathan Papelbon 590130.2537058.33301212515841.8512.962.310.77

Bryan Corey 90101009.336220461.935.793.860

Manuel Delcarmen 44000-1044281110417412.058.393.480.82

Hideki Okajima 660320.65069501717617632.228.222.220.78

Brendan Donnelly 270210.6670020.67198705153.056.532.180

Javier Lopez 610210.6670040.67361614218263.15.753.980.44

J.C. Romero 23010110202477215113.154.956.750.9

Mike Timlin 500210.6671055.33462321714313.425.042.281.14

Kyle Snyder 460230.40054.33452923732413.816.795.31.16

Joel Pineiro 310110.50034412019314205.035.293.710.79

Eric Gagne 200220.50018.6726141419226.7510.614.340.48



Gone:
- Kason Gabbard
- Brendan Donnelly
- J.C. Romero
- Joel Pineiro
- Eric Gagne

Here:
- David Aardsma

A brief glance shows that they aren't going to miss any of the relievers they've "lost." Gabbard gave them several effective starts, and they could need those at some point. But they've got appropriate depth to deal with a couple of minor pitching injuries/dl stints. We could see Hansack, Tavarez, Justin Masterson or Michael Bowden all make starts this year. Schilling is iffy, at best, but Lester's a year removed from chemotherapy and poised to become a full-time effective starter. Matsuzaka, who pitched very well at times but wore down as the year went, had had a year to become accustomed to the culture and game, and should be better. Buchholz is clearly ready to pitch in the Major Leagues, although there clearly is going to be an innings limit for him, and if he were to make 30 starts, he'd probably exceed it.

The big question mark right now is how do they replace the 151 innings that Schilling game them, very good innings. Some of those will go to Lester, some will go to Buchholz, and some will go to Tavarez and the other 5th starters. The bullpen has got a great closer and 2-3 plus relievers. And a manager who's done a good job running a pitching staff. The 657 runs allowed last year was outstanding, but this staff looks just as good as, if slightly more uncertain than, that one. Let's peg the project runs allowed at 660-690.


Outlook:

If I'm right about the runs scored and allowed, then we're looking at a team that's somewhere between .607-.638 Pythagorean. That translates to 98-103 wins.

Are there things that could go wrong? Absolutely.

- Beckett gets hurt
- Lowell crashes
- Manny continues to decline
- Ortiz drops off
- Lester and Buchholz aren't ready

That said, this is a very good team again. I feel very comfortable predicting that they win 96-100 again. They are probably the favorites to win the AL East, but the Yankees are excellent still/again, and the 2nd place team in the East is going to win the Wild Card.

So, my official AL East prediction:


Official Lyford 2008 AL East Prediction
WL%GB

Boston9864.605 --

New York9567.5863

Toronto8379.51215

Tampa Bay8280.50616

Baltimore7092.43228

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