Thursday, February 11, 2010

2010 Red Sox Projections - Starters

This is post eleven in a series of posts previewing the 2010 Red Sox.

2009 vs. 2010 Red Sox - Starting Pitchers:
2009 - Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, Brad Penny, John Smoltz, Clay Buchholz
2010 - Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz

During the 2008-2009 offseason, a couple things happened that ended up inflating the Red Sox runs allowed totals in 2009. They added two veteran pitchers, Brad Penny and John Smoltz, on short-term, mid-money contracts. And the World Baseball Classic tournament was played for the second time.

Jon Lester and Josh Beckett both started slowly, and then, early in May, started pitching like aces. Beckett had a poor stretch in late-August and September, but Lester was one of the best pitchers in baseball for the last five months of the season. Lester, in particular, seemed to be hurt by the defense early, and he "adjusted" to that weakness, raising his strike out rates. Beckett seemed to have an issue with adjusting to a new catcher, as his slump coincided with Victor Martinez' arrival, but whether that's causation or just correlation is unknowable. He did seem to have adjusted by the end of the season.

Penny threw some decent games, but a lot of not-so-decent ones as well, before getting cut in August. The Smoltz experiment didn't work that well, as he got hit early and often. He ended up giving up 37 runs in 40 innings over 8 starts, including 5+ runs in six of the eight before he was cut.

The World Baseball Classic ended up costing them most of the Daisuke Matsuzaka's season. He is far more emotionally invested in that tournament than the Red Sox team is, overthrew early, didn't go through a proper spring training, and end up starting the season hurt and not in condition for the 162 game season. We cannot ignore that 2009 happened, but sometimes the ancillary factors are glaring. Everyone agrees that Matsuzaka was injured and out of shape, and there's no reason to expect that his early 2009 performance tells us anything particularly useful, or more useful than his late 2009 performance, about his potential 2010 performance.

Tim Wakefield pitched pretty well through the first half of the season, earning (well, not really earning, but being selected for) a spot on the 2009 AL All Star team. Due to injuries, however, he made only four generally ineffective starts after the All Star break. Clay Buchholz demonstrated that he's ready to pitch consistently in the Major Leagues.

Here are the 2009 numbers:

Red Sox 2010 projected at-bats
Jon Lester32201580203 1/3186807720642253063.411.239.963.52
Josh Beckett32401762212 1/3198999125551997133.861.198.433.62
Clay Buchholz1600740929144431336682014.211.386.651.89
Justin Masterson60022035 1/3381818313284004.581.447.132.15
Tim Wakefield21201150129 2/3137676612507210044.581.445.001.44
Brad Penny2400780131 2/316089821742895045.611.536.082.12
Daisuke Matsuzaka120046059 1/38138381030542085.761.878.191.80
Paul Byrd60013031442020311100005.811.772.90.91
Junichi Tazawa4002202032161438103006.302.004.501.25
John Smoltz8002504059373789333008.331.707.433.67
Michael Bowden100010377721300021.002.679.003.00

Of note:
  • They gave 38 starts to three pitchers (Penny, Byrd, Smoltz) who posted a cumulative 6.17 ERA and are no longer with the organization.
  • Matsuzaka's performance was awful in 8 games before his DL-extended Spring Training stint. In four games after returning, he threw six-plus innings per start and put up an ERA of 2.22.
  • Everything about Jon Lester's line, the innings, the ERA, the WHIP, the strikeouts and walks, screams "Ace." And that's despite the fact that he put up a 6.51 ERA in his first eight games.
  • Clay Buchholz looks like he's ready to be an effective Major League starter.

During this offseason, they added the best pitcher from the LAnaheim Angels, John Lackey.

So the starter projections:


Red Sox 2010 projected starters (marcel)
Jon Lester 137 182171767218601705053.561.278.412.83
Josh Beckett 148 184178868121481717143.961.238.363.56
John Lackey 117 165166777020461308063.821.287.092.83
Daisuke Matsuzaka 1310 177174858322831607084.221.458.141.93
Clay Buchholz 77 11211563591546923034.741.447.392.00

Total 5839 82080438736596283723301264.011.337.942.55


Red Sox 2010 projected starters (PECOTA)
Josh Beckett31 1480 195.8218281772049170 3.521.187.833.51
Clay Buchholz29 1270 164.8214572681862141 3.711.267.682.27
John Lackey31 1480 199.6918883792252144 3.551.206.472.74
Jon Lester31 1280 178.5016876731862140 3.661.297.052.27
Daisuke Matsuzaka30 18130 177.3017291862286152 4.371.467.721.77

Total151 7044 916.138554033831003117474.371.467.721.77

Both marcel and PECOTA think that Daisuke Matsuzaka will be down around 100 IP. I disagree, as discussed above, and have bumped him back up to around 176.

The Red Sox got 957 innings from their starts in 2009, and 515 runs allowed. I expect the innings number to go up, so I'm going to scale the projections to get to 975.

Marcel has these five pitchers at 820 innings, which means that I need to account for another 155 innings. Those "extra innings" have to go to, presumably, worse pitchers. (I suspect that Marcel is way off on how many innings, for example, Clay Buchholz will pitch.) But I'm going to assume that they get 155 innings in 30 or so starts from pitchers allowing 6 runs per 9 IP. (Not earned runs, just runs. That's a fairly high number, but I'm trying to do a reasonably conservative projection.) That works out to 103 additional runs allowed, on top of the 387 that marcel already projects, and brings the starting staff out to 490 runs in 975 innings. That's a 25 run improvement over last year from the starters, and I think that's extremely conservative.

PECOTA has these five pitchers at 915 innings, which means I need to add another 60. At 6 R per 9 IP, that's an additional 40 runs over the 403 which PECOTA already projects, or 443 runs over 975 innings. That's an improvement of 72 runs over last year's starters, and I think it is much likelier than marcel's improvement, particularly as none of these projections are "pricing in" the expected defensive upgrades.

Bottom Line: I expect the starters to give up fewer runs, in more innings, than the 2009 starters did. The starters who were terrible last year are either gone or fixed. The defense behind them makes everything work a little bit better, too. Net big improvement.

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