To me, it is almost all about the starting rotation, and as giddy as some here are getting over a small ST sample size, I don't see equal concern over the poor offensive numbers this spring. I will project that our offense will do fine this year, and although I do think my expectations for our offense last year (AGon, Cody Ross, no Middlebrooks in the picture, etc...) are higher than now, for argument's sake, I'll call it even. (Even with the injuries and the post-Dodger trade numbers included, our 2012 offense still placed us 8th in runs and 11th in OPS.)
The starting rotation expectations:
I have never been one to get all giddy over ST numbers, but of course it's nicer to see them doing well than poorly. I base my projections and expectations more on what the starter did last year and over the last 2-3 years much more than career numbers or recent ST numbers. I'm not saying my way is better than anyone elses, and I did come up way short in my 2012 projections using this methodology, but simply put, our starting pitchers had a horrible 2012 season, and I can not for the life of me, understand how so many posters seem to have higher expectations for our SPs this year than last year at this time. Spring training is just that: training in the spring. It hardly means jack. Let's look one by one:
Jon Lester: It is a myth that he finished 2011 poorly. He only had 2 bad starts out of his last 9, and one not so good start. The other 6 starts he allowed 0-2 ERs. His 2012 final numbers of 15-9 3.47 with a 1.257 WHIP were pretty much in line with his career numbers at that time. Compare that to his 9-14 4.82 and 1.383 2012 line, and I can not in any way see any justification in having higher expectation now than last March. I guess the best argument might be his last two months of 2012, but both months were (Aug 3.59/1.148 & Sept 3.96/1.459)still worse than his 2011 overall numbers. Sorry folks, it's not even close in my opinion. 2 years in a row of lost velocity also weighs heavy on my expectations in 2013.
Clay Buchholz: I understand the injury issue that was weighing heavily on our minds last March. However, they were saying he was healthy- just as they are saying now. The recent numbers for Buch are scary.
2010: 17-7 2.33 1.203 (6.2 K/9)
2011: 6-3 3.48 1.294 (6.5)
2012: 11-8 4.56 1.326 (6.1)
Even if we cut him some slack for getting back on track in 2012 and forget his April and May numbers, he still did not finish that well:
August 3.72 1.183
Sept 4.82 1.339
last 15 starts: 3-6 3.76 1.146 (6.2 K/9)
Not bad, but still not as good as 2010 and 2011. I do have high expectations for Buch this year. I still worry about his back injury haunting him, but I can not say I have higher expectation for Buch this year than I had last March. A 4.56 ERA and 1.326 WHIP over the last season makes be feel less confident that he will pitch well in 2013 than I felt in 2012.
Beckett/Dempster: I know many here were disgusted by Beckett's 2012 final games, but the guy was clearly our ace in 2011, and without him, we'd never have been close to being in it to the end. Like him or not, his 2011 season was one of the best in his career. Yes, he's been on and off over the years in an almost perfect odd year on, even year off pattern, but many of his off seasons were injury related. Yes, his velocity had declined, but he was proving in 2011, that he could be a great pitcher and not just a "thrower". The guy ended the season with 2 bad starts, and posters wanted to forget the other 28 that got us to withing striking distance of the playoffs much more than anyone else on the staff. I may have been in a minority last season, but I expected Josh to come out strong with "something to prove" and have a great 2012 season. I was wrong- dead wrong, but none the less, my expectations were high, and i believe justifiably so. It was not a fluke of high run support that the team went 20-10 in his 2011 starts, in fact they burned him with low support. He could have easily been 20-5 and been in the CY Young award talks with just normal Sox run support.
Josh had a 2.89 ERA pitching half his games in Fenway. His 1.026 WHIP was by far, the best of his career. His 3 year ERA was 3.97 and WHIP 1.21 (2009-2011). What starter do we have now that has those 3 year numbers? Oh yeah, Dempster does, right? WRONG! Pitching in an inferior league with no DH, Dempster has these 3 year numbers:
37-34 4.04 1.33 WHIP (4.23 tERA)
His 3 year ERA+ have been 110, 81, and 124 (90 in the AL).
Beckett's was 121, 75 and 149 (his career best in 2011).
Again, I get the attitude argument, the clubhouse cancer argument, but on the field, it's hard to imagine anyone thinking that a SP who turns 36 this May has a higher expectation now than what we should have had for Beckett last March.
Doubront: I may be in the minority again by not being that impressed by his 2012 season. I can certainly agree that my expectations are higher now than last March, but I'm not getting all gah gah over a guy who had a 4,86 ERA and a 1.447 WHIP the prior season. I won't get into the coming to camp out of shape argument with you guys, but it weighs heavily on my mind. He has nasty nasty nasty stuff. His K rate proves that, but I see no reason to expect he will get the BB issue in order, and for those using the ST numbers to get all giddy over Lester, Buch and Dempster, then you should be very concerned with Doub's 1.462 ST WHIP.
Bard/Lackey: This is the hardest one to judg e. I, for one, was not happy moving Bard to the starter role, especially at a time when we were losing Papelbon as our closer, but it was what it was. I did not expect bard to fail that badly though, and trying to create a reliable expectation for him or Lackey going into 2013 is near pure speculation, so I'll go with calling this close to even.
I love having Morales (if he can get healthy), Mortensen, Tazawa (if they can stretch him out quickly enough to help), and Webster as out back-up SPs. They look better than Dice-K, Cook and others did last year at this time, but even if these guys get 40 games started that last year's back-ups got, 9 of last year's were from Morales at 3.77/1.231, so the true differential is really for those possible 30 starts going from Cook (18), Dice-K (11) and Stewart (2) to Aceves, Mortensen or Webster (Taz is not likely to start in 2013). I'll give a strong edge to 2013 over 2012, but I do recall thinking the Cook or Padilla signing might work out and that maybe Dice-K in a contract year could bounce back and help out mis season.
In summary, I am not seeing anyway the higher 2013 SP expectations can be justified. In my opinion, there is just as much reason to think Lester, Buch, and Doubront will come close to their 2012 numbers rather than their 2009-2011 numbers. There was little reason to expect the 2012 numbers from these three last March. (I'll give Doubront's 2013 and edge though.) The Beckett-Dempster is clearly in beckett's corner to me. The Bard-Lackey is a toss-up that I could agree to give an edge to Lackey. The 6th starter role: advanatage 2013.