As pleasant as spring training can be, we’re counting the days until the real games begin for the Red Sox on April 1 in the Bronx against Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson … well, some guys in Yankees uniforms. But until the games — and stats — begin to count, it’s fun to consider the possibilities of what could happen.
That considered, here are a few projections from various outlets — Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA system, The Bill James Handbook, and Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections that can be found at Fangraphs and Baseball Think Factory — that jumped out regarding the 2013 Red Sox.
I’ll share the projection, then offer my take on whether it will be out of reach or surpassed. You get to weigh in as well – a survey will be on each slide.
Projection: 100 games played. (ZiPS)
Comment: Under. This is an easy one, unfortunately. Ortiz played 90 games last year – just one after July 16 – and spent the early weeks of spring training still hampered by the Achilles’ injury that ended what was shaping up to be an outstanding 2012 season. He’s 37, isn’t in the best condition, and even as a DH may find it difficult to stay healthy enough to remain in the lineup. The best hope is that he’s still a top-notch run producer whenever he is healthy.
Projection: 29 home runs (Bill James)
Comment: Under. It’s certainly possible that Middlebrooks, who hit 24 homers in 386 plate appearances between Triple A and the majors last season, could approach 30 homers in his sophomore season. But his 13/70 BB/K ratio as a rookie suggests his lack of patience could be exposed by savvier pitchers. We’re putting him down for about 25 homers and an impressive decade-long run as the Red Sox’ No. 5 hitter.
Projection: 23 homers (ZiPS)
Comment: Over. Perhaps we’re being influenced by the pair of moonshots Napoli has hit this spring, but we’re finding it increasingly easier to believe that the degenerative hip issue that held up his contract with the Red Sox (and cost him millions of dollars) won’t start to affect him this season. Napoli hit 30 home runs two years ago in the best season of his career and 24 last year in one of the worst. Let’s split the difference and put him down for 27.
Projection: 188.3 innings (ZiPS)
Comment: Over. Well that’s an impressively specific projection– right down to 1/3d of an inning. Of course, if it comes true, something has gone wrong during Lester’s bid for a bounceback season after a disheartening 2012. From 2008-12, Lester’s lowest single-season innings total is 191.2 in 2011, and in the other four seasons he exceeded 200. The 29-year-old lefthander is the Red Sox ace in title if not recent production, and they need him to take on the requisite workload of at least 200 innings.
Projection: 30 saves (Baseball Prospectus)
Comment: Over. While there should be some concern regarding how the former Nationals and Pirates closer makes the transition to the American League – not mention that walk rate of 5.4 per nine innings last season – he has the makeup and stuff to thrive in Boston. He averaged 38 saves over the past two seasons with the Pirates, and with a deep bullpen that should keep games close, he should come close to matching that number this year.
Projection: 320 plate appearances (Baseball Prospectus)
Comment: Over. Drew, the former Diamondbacks and A’s shortstop, arrives on a one-year contract after missing significant chunks of the past two seasons because of a broken ankle. He had 327 plate appearances last year and 354 in ’11, and belying the family reputation, was durable before the injury, with no fewer than 595 PAs in any season from 2007-10. He will prove a worthy everyday shortstop and perhaps the best acquisition of the offseason.
Projection: 8 home runs (Baseball Prospectus).
Comment: Over … but really, who the heck knows what to expect? Ellsbury was the best offensive player in the American League two years ago, mashing 32 home runs – 23 more than the second-most he has hit in a single season in his six-year career. He had just 4 last year after suffering a serious early season shoulder injury that limited him to just 323 plate appearances. So why are we taking the over? Optimistically, because we do remember how brilliant he was two years ago. Cynically, because it’s a contract year.
Projection: 12 wins (Bill James)
Comment: Over. The Baseball Info Solutions formula that offers projections for the Bill James Handbook tends to offer conservative victory totals for starting pitchers … yet the dozen wins it attributes to Buchholz is the highest win projection we could find for the Red Sox righthander. (Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA system, for instance, gives him an 8-9 record in ’13.) Buchholz has had durability issues, but he did win 17 games three years ago and 11 for last year’s lousy team. We’re putting him down for 14, minimum.
Projection: 27 stolen bases (ZiPS)
Comment: Over. The 32-year-old Victorino, who is in the first year of a three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox, stole 39 bases a season ago with the Phillies and Dodgers. New Red Sox manager John Farrell has indicated he will be aggressive with the Red Sox, and his Blue Jays a season ago were fifth in the AL with 123 steals, just 12 behind leader Minnesota. Victorino’s steals total should benefit from the new approach.
Projection: 13 home runs (Baseball Prospectus).
Comment: Under. No knock on Gomes, whose ability to mash lefthanded pitching (.974 OPS against lefties last season) should provide real value to the Red Sox. It’s just that we’re convinced that the dynamic Jackie Bradley Jr. will be a regular in the Boston lineup by the time school is out of session, and unless Jacoby Ellsbury or Shane Victorino is injured, the majority of his at-bats will come at Gomes’s expense.
Projection: 2 wins (Baseball Prospectus)
Comment: Over! Now, BP’s PECOTA system is apparently giving too much weight to the fact that Lackey did not pitch last year – but that won’t stop us from jumping on that and closing this out with an easy one. Lackey won 12 games in 2011 – in what was the worst season a Red Sox starting pitcher has ever had. He’s fit this spring, he says his surgically-repaired elbow feels as good as it has in years, and so we’re putting him down for at least a dozen wins, which is way more than two by our math.