I’m not kidding. One of these days, when I run into the new boss roaming the hallways or in line for the fish sandwich in the cafeteria, I’m going to ask John Henry how substantial Bill James’s role was within the Red Sox’ front office baseball operations department this season.
I suspect and hope it was significant – Henry himself did indicate before the season, as did Larry Lucchino, that James’s voice would be heard more than it was in previous seasons.
Thank goodness they realized he’s an asset that should not be wasted. As I’ve said before, I challenge anyone who marginalizes or dismisses his work to pick up a copy of the Baseball Historical Abstract, crack it open to any page, and just try to put it down within the next hour.
You won’t be able to unless your mind is already closed before the book is opened. He remains a distinctive and innovative thinker who also happens to be a hell of an engaging writer.
While perhaps he’s not as involved with the Bill James Handbook as his name in big red letters on the binding might suggest – Theo Epstein dryly suggested “they just slap his name on it” a few years back -– there are some obvious James contributions, and it is always fun to parse the information the Acta Sports/Baseball Info Solutions wizards compile.
That’s especially true since this year’s annual has come out during the uneventful early days of the hot stove season, at least from the local perspective. And it also allows me to confess this: I may have marginalized James over the past couple of years as well.
This feature was a tried-and-true annual column in this spot for 7 or 8 years, but for whatever reason I didn’t get to it last November or December, while writers such as my friend Gordon Edes did. Let’s get back into the habit. The Red Sox are champions again, and you just know James had some input in that.
SELECT RED SOX BATTERS
2013 BJH projection: .283 avg., 32 HRs, 103 RBIs, .919 OPS
2013 reality: .309, 30, 103, .959
2014 BJH projection: .287, 30, 98, .914
2013 BJH projection: .296, 17, 76, .825
2013 reality: .301, 9, 84, .787
2014 BJH projection: ..298, 14, 77, .814
2013 BJH projection: .277, 29, 99, .805
2013 reality: .227, 17, 49, .696
2014 BJH projection: .266, 32, 104, .800
2013 BJH projection: .269, 14, 59, .756 OPS
2013 reality: .294, 15, 61, .801
2014 BJH projection: .270, 14, 58, .751
2013 BJH projection: No projection. Must have been in the Eastern League edition.
2013 reality: .250, 1, 5, .684 in 50 regular-season PAs; .296, 0, 2, .893 OPS in 34 extraordinarily encouraging postseason PAs.
2014 BJH projection: .283, 19, 84, .807
SHOULD THEY STAY OR SHOULD THEY GO NOW?
2013 BJH projection: .294, 15, 67, .782 OPS
2013 reality: .298, 9, 53, .781, 52 steals in 56 attempts
2014 BJH projection: .293, 12, 59, .774, 43 steals in 54 attempts
2013 BJH projection: .248, 29, 75, .848 OPS
2013 reality: .253, 23, 92, .842
2014 BJH projection: .246, 26, 79, .819
2013 BJH projection: .239, 19, 54, .763 OPS
2013 reality: .273, 14, 65, .804
2014 BJH projection: .241, 19, 66, .750
2013 BJH projection: .252, 11, 48, .736 OPS
2013 reality: .253, 13, 67, .777
2014 BJH projection: .247, 12, 54, .730
THREE STARTING PITCHERS
2013 BJH projection: 12-12, 3.71, 211 IP
2013 reality: 15-8, 3.75, 213.1 IP, theoretical runner-up for World Series MVP
2014 BJH projection: 14-9, 3.67, 218 IP
2013 BJH projection: 12-11, 3.56 ERA, 205 IP
2013 reality: 12-1, 1.74, 108 IP
2014 BJH projection: 12-9, 3.46, 190 IP
Beloved Fan-Favorite John Lackey
2013 BJH projection: 12-12, 4.04, 209 IP
2013 reality: 10-13, 3.52, 189.1 IP, clinched World Series
2014 BJH projection: 11-11, 3.93, 199 IP
2014 PROJECTIONS FOR OTHER PERSONS OF INTEREST
Giancarlo Stanton: .277, 38, 97, .946
Mike Trout: .331, 30, 96, 1.008
Mark Trumbo: .257, 34, 105, .798
Brian McCann: .263, 23, 79, .808
Miguel Cabrera: .333, 40, 131, 1.026
Jose Iglesias: .257, 5,7 29, .642
Coco Crisp: .259, 15, 60, .734, 26 steals
Carl Crawford: .284, 9, 49, .750, 19 steals
NOTES SCRIBBLED IN THE MARGINS
Middlebrooks’s projection (.266/.310/.490 with 32 homers, 104 RBIs, 34 walks and 134 strikeouts at age 25) essentially makes him the modern equivalent of 1977 Butch Hobson.(.265/.300/.489 with 30 homers, 112 RBIs, 27 walks and 162 strikeouts at age 25). I’d be OK with that, especially if Middlebrooks hit ninth like Hobson did … Provided there are no blockbuster deals made this winter, I imagine the Red Sox’ real No. 9 hitter will also be their Opening Day center fielder, Jackie Bradley Jr. The Handbook submits a .248/.329/.420 line as a possibility in what should be his first full big-league season, with 15 homers and 61 walks. Given his defensive capabilities, that sounds perfectly acceptable, especially since we’re noted for our patience around here and will recognize any growing pains as a normal process in the development of a valuable young player … Given those extremely encouraging projections for Bogaerts and Middlebrooks, I’m concluding that James probably isn’t leading the charge to retain Stephen Drew …
MORE NOTES SCRIBBLED IN THE MARGINS Funny to see Crawford, Carl and Crisp, Coco hitting back-to-back in the alphabetical listings. Funnier still to discover that Crisp is expected to have a better season again by most measures. Who would have thought he’d be an equal – or even superior – to Crawford, oh, say, in December 2010 around here? … This exercise reminded me how awesome Ortiz was in 2012 before he got hurt and his season was chopped to 90 games. And to see the Handbook’s prevailing wisdom that he’ll keep up his usual .300/30/100 standard of production in the season ahead further emboldens my belief that he’ll have the numbers as well as the postseason cachet to make it to Cooperstown. The stigma of being primarily a designated hitter will have faded by then as well, presuming justice is done and his enshrinement is preceded by Edgar Martinez‘s . . . I’m not avoiding Koji Uehara‘s projection. It’s good. Excellent, actually. I’m just over here basking at his jaw-dropping, that-really-did-happen 2013 stats a little longer.
OTHER BLOOPS AND BLEEDERS
Would anything get past a left side of Machado and Simmons? There’s still a lot to be discovered and parsed when it comes to evaluating defense with advanced stats, at least in comparison to offense and pitching. Runs Saved — a detailed but understandable explanation of how it is calculated can be found here — is one of the more user-friendly defensive measures. Gold Glove-caliber defense is considered 15 Runs Saved or more. Wily Mo Pena-level defense is minus-15 runs or more. An average defender is 0, and above-average is generally plus-five. All of that in mind, a couple of conclusions about the Red Sox’ defense in ’13: They were brutal at third base (minus-18) and slightly below average at shortstop (minus-4), which is fairly remarkable given that the dazzling Jose Iglesias played 34 games at third and 29 at shortstop this season … The Red Sox were plus-15 at second base. In a related note, Dustin Pedroia was named the Defensive Player of the Year … The brilliant center field/right field defense of Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino is confirmed here. The Sox were plus-9 in center and plus-23 in right field … The Red Sox were plus-6 at first base. Mike Napoli deserved more Gold Glove consideration than he got … The Braves were plus-45 at shortstop (Andrelton Simmons) while the Orioles were plus-35 at third base (Manny Machado). Yep, sounds about right.
More defensive stuff: The Fielding Bible Awards — a panel of 10 experts, among them Peter Gammons, Joe Posnanski, and Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron, who rank players at each position from 1 to 10 — is close to usurping the Gold Glove Award as the most genuine and well-considered defensive honor. Pedroia was the runaway winner at second base here, while Victorino was second to Arizona’s Gerardo Parra in right field. Napoli was sixth among first basemen, while Iglesias was ninth among shortstops, suggesting some don’t see as much substance as flash. I’m curious how Jarrod Saltalamacchia ended up with three points at catcher.
Really? Derek Holland? David Ortiz led the AL with 27 intentional walks — nine more than runner-up Miguel Cabrera … The highest slugging percentage by a cleanup hitter was the .579 posted by Oakland’s Brandon Moss. Mike Napoli was second at .574 among American Leaguers … Napoli led the league in pitches seen per plate appearance (4.59) … Ortiz was fourth in OPS against fastballs (.987), third against changeups (1.148), and fifth against curveballs (1.011) … Mike Carp led the league in OPS against sliders (1.327), .001 better than Baltimore’s Chris Davis …Napoli had two of the five longest home runs in the AL last season. Mark Trumbo had two of the top three … the fastest average fastball in the AL among starters belonged to Texas’s Derek Holland (93.6 mph). Jon Lester was eighth (92.7) … Detroit’s Bruce Rondon threw 144 pitches of 100 mph or faster … Yu Darvish threw the second-lowest percentage of fastballs (38.2), trailing only Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (11.1) … OK, just one Koji Uehara stat: He struck out a league-best 3.06 batters per every hit allowed. Think about that for a minute.
Something the Triple Crown categories don’t tell you: The most effective baserunner in the majors for the second straight year was the Angels’ Mike Trout. In 44 chances to go from first to third, he did so 61 percent of the time. (League average is 28 percent.) That percentage rose to a 75 percent rate when he had the chance to go from second to home. He was thrown out just eight times running the bases — seven on steal attempts, once trying to advance a base — in his 312 times on base last season. I don’t think it shocks anyone that Yasiel Puig led the league in outs made on the bases (11) despite spending the first several weeks of the season in the minors. He was just gunned down trying to score from first on a grounder to short as you were reading this.