March 12, 2010

How Offensive Will The Red Sox Be?

The mainstream media's opinion is that the Red Sox will have trouble scoring runs this year.

I'm assuming that the idea of a weak lineup originated with the departure of Jason Bay and/or the front office's clear emphasis on pitching and fielding this past winter. Two recent examples from "Run Production A Question Mark" and "Hitting Coach Takes Offense to Concerns".

Perhaps the most ignorant example was Ron Borges's column in the Herald on January 29, wherein he stated that
According to Theo Epstein, the Red Sox will be competitive through the use of kung fu baseball, the art of winning without scoring. ... Sox' management has discovered that despite mistaken evidence to the contrary, scoring runs is no longer essential to winning games.
Borges also proudly displays his pop culture hipness by cracking that some of the new guys "gloves are more valuable than Michael Jackson's".

Yes, Bay's bat (2009 OPS: .921) has moved to Flushing -- and it seems like that is the only data point the media is bothering to look at. One big bat in the middle of the lineup gets downgraded and, suddenly ... woe are the Red Sox.

In all of MLB, the 2009 Red Sox were 2nd in on-base average, 2nd in slugging percentage, 2nd in total bases, 4th in home runs, 2nd in doubles (4 fewer than Toronto), 3rd in walks (only 4 from the top spot). Is it realistic to assume that the absence of Bay is enough to sabotage a lineup that scored the third-most runs in MLB last year (872, 11 fewer than the Angels and 43 fewer than the Yankees)?

Just before Truck Day, the Herald's Michael Silverman admitted the 2010 Red Sox will have "a deeper lineup" than they did in 2009. But he also stated (re the numbers I posted above): "It is hard to see those totals going in any direction other than downward in 2010". Why? ... Silverman says the Red Sox are lacking in "thunder".

It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And Bay is all wtf, too:
I think it's ludicrous that everybody keeps talking about their offense. It's actually kind of baffling and almost funny to me that those guys over there have to keep answering offensive questions cause I think they'll be fine.
Now, I understand that home runs are rally killers. Bad! Yet they also unclog the bases. And that's good, right? ... It gets confusing.

Anyway, Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre likely will be less productive this year than the 2009 Bay/Mike Lowell duo, but Boston will also get an entire year of Victor Martinez and Marco Scutaro -- which should be a vast improvement over the bats [sic] Jason Varitek, Nick Green, and Alex Gonzalez. The other five guys in the lineup remain the same from 2009 -- and all of them should be able to (at least) match their 2009 numbers.

What I am going to do here is gather up a bunch of the different projections for 2010 for the starting nine. I'll list the player's 2009 stats, then the 2010 projections from Bill James, CHONE, Marcel (Tango Tiger), and ZIPS (Dan Szymborski). (There is more Sox CHONE at YFSF.) I'm also including commentary from Lyford (whose posts at the ProJo Your Turn board when I hung out there in the early 00s were always solid), with whom I agree pretty much across the board. P.S.: In reading this over, it now feels like this becomes a Lyford post at this point, but I'm leaving it -- he includes some fielding metrics in his assessments.
Kevin Youkilis
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 .305 .413 .548 .961 153
Bill James .289 .394 .492 .886 137
CHONE .284 .384 .473 .857 133
Marcel .294 .387 .511 .897 140
PECOTA (1B) .287 .384 .496 .880
ZIPS .282 .384 .491 127 OPS+
Lyford: In 2009, Red Sox first basemen hit .293/.386/.482/.868, creating the fifth most runs in the AL with the fourth-best OPS. ... The Red Sox should expect to see performance at first base this year which is as good as, if not slightly better than, the performance at first base which it got last year. The backups last year weren't butchers, so the defense is comparable.
2010 1B projection: Minor Net Improvement

Dustin Pedroia
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 .296 .371 .447 .819 118
Bill James .307 .378 .465 .843 128
CHONE .308 .379 .443 .822 125
Marcel .308 .374 .465 .839 128
PECOTA .312 .379 .481 .860
ZIPS .306 .372 .451 114 OPS+
Lyford: Pedroia's entering his age 26 season. The things that we know about baseball players, how they age, when they peak, suggest that one of the next three years is likely to be his best. ...
2010 2B projection: Comparable

Marco Scutaro
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 (Tor) .282 .347 .381 .789 117
2009 BRS SS .235 .297 .358 .656
Bill James .264 .360 .367 .728 98
CHONE .268 .348 .378 .727 101
Marcel .266 .350 .379 .726 98
ZIPS (Tor) .261 .334 .364
Lyford: [In 2009,] SS was a hole without a plug, a wound that just wouldn't heal. ... [E]ven if [Scutaro] regresses, he still looks to be a significant offensive upgrade ... UZR had Scutaro at about a run better than average last year, slightly worse than Green and Gonzalez, but at about eight runs better than average in 2008. FR had him at 11 runs better than average in 2009, significantly better than either Green or Gonzalez.
2010 SS projection: Big offensive improvement, comparable defense. Big net improvement

Adrian Beltre
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 (Sea) .265 .304 .379 .683 87
2009 BRS 3B .287 .347 .496 .843
Bill James .269 .321 .439 .760 100
CHONE .270 .320 .446 .766 104
Marcel .265 .318 .430 .748 99
PECOTA .275 .328 .451 .779
ZIPS (Sea) .264 .320 .449
Lyford: [Beltre] has poor plate discipline and consequently doesn't work the count or draw walks. ... He hit .254/.307/.410/.717 in Safeco over the past five years, and .277/.326/.472/.798 on the road. An .800 OPS might be a reasonable expectation when playing half of his games in Fenway. ... Baseball Prospectus Fielding Runs has him 10 runs better than average at 3B last year. It had Mike Lowell at two runs worse than average. UZR had Beltre 14 runs better than average last year, Lowell at one run worse than average and Youkilis 1.5 runs worse than average. It seems reasonable to expect that the addition of Beltre saves them 10-12 runs next year.
2010 3B projection: Small offensive drop-off, offset by defensive improvement. Net Comparable

Jacoby Ellsbury
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 .301 .355 .415 .770 114
Bill James .302 .360 .420 .780 118
CHONE .302 .360 .412 .772 117
Marcel .295 .352 .419 .772 116
PECOTA .294 .353 .429 .783
ZIPS .290 .344 .398 94 OPS+
Lyford: [Bay] was probably the second-best overall offensive player that Boston had in 2009, and they didn't replace him with a comparable offensive performer. ... [But both Cameron and Ellsbury] are much better athletes, base-runners and defensive players than Bay. Some of what they gave up in power, they'll make up in other ways. And some, they won't. ... FR had Jason Bay at 2 runs below average last year, UZR had him at 13 runs below average. UZR had Ellsbury at 9 runs above average for the 58 games in left in 2008, and FR had him well above average in left also. ... The transition from Bay to Ellsbury probably costs the Red Sox 20 runs in left field. The big question is, how many runs does it save them? You could probably extrapolate the best and worst case numbers and make a case that you save as many on defense as you lose on offense, but I don't believe it. You're probably looking at a net 10-15 runs deficit, which works out to about a game or a game and a half. It's a downgrade, but not a catastrophic one.
2010 LF projection: Big offensive downgrade, significant but smaller defensive upgrade. Net downgrade

Mike Cameron
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 (Mil) .250 .342 .452 .795 113
2009 BRS LF .267 .378 .535 .913
Bill James .237 .328 .428 .756 101
CHONE .235 .318 .393 .711 92
Marcel .241 .328 .435 .763 104
PECOTA .255 .333 .443 .777
ZIPS (Mil) .246 .333 .446
Lyford: Cameron is aging, but has, according to the various objective rankings, continued to be an excellent defensive center fielder. He hits for more power than Ellsbury but, like Adrian Beltre, does not have the on-base skills that the Red Sox would generally like to see. And that difference could be offset by the defensive difference. Last year, FR had Cameron as 15 runs better than Ellsbury (4 vs. -11). UZR had Cameron as 28! runs better (10 vs. -18). ... Instead of the 15-16 run decline that the projection systems see, we're more realistically looking at a 2-3 runs difference. Really, not much of an offensive decline at all.
2010 CF projection: Comparable offense, moderate defensive upgrade. Net upgrade

J.D. Drew
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 .279 .392 .522 .914 137
Bill James .269 .385 .474 .859 132
CHONE .263 .372 .443 .815 121
Marcel .269 .377 .472 .850 126
PECOTA .257 .365 .442 .807
ZIPS .264 .381 .459 119 OPS+
Lyford: I've got Drew at 75% of the RF at-bats, with Jeremy Hermida inheriting the other 25%. ... Drew remains an excellent all-around player, albeit one who tends to disappoint those who judge players on RBI, temper tantrums and thrown helmets and bats. ... [A decline] is not surprising, as Drew is headed into his age 34 season. But there's no particular reason to expect a cliff, and there's no reason not to expect another productive season from Drew.
2010 RF projection: Age related decline. Net small downgrade

Victor Martinez
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 .303 .381 .480 .861 131
Bill James .298 .377 .464 .841 128
CHONE .294 .366 .450 .816 121
Marcel .287 .361 .452 .813 117
PECOTA .278 .350 .448 .798
ZIPS .297 .369 .470 118 OPS+
Lyford: On the season, the Red Sox got a .239/.333/.417/.750 line from the catching position, fourth best OPS in the AL, vs. a league average of .253/.315/.406/.721. ... PECOTA and Marcel .. both agree that the Red Sox have improved offensively at the catcher position. As for defense, I haven't seen any reason to think that there will be much difference.
2010 Catcher Projection: Small Net Improvement

David Ortiz
             AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  w/RC+
2009 .238 .332 .462 .794 104
Bill James .264 .369 .519 .888 137
CHONE .258 .355 .479 .834 124
Marcel .264 .363 .493 .856 126
PECOTA .263 .365 .487 .853
ZIPS .260 .366 .507 126 OPS+
Lyford: The Red Sox had two different David Ortizes last year. The first one hit .185/.284/.287/.570 with 1 HR in 178 at-bats through the end of May. The second hit .264/.356/.548/.904 with 27 HR in 363 at-bats from June 1 through the end of the year. The huge question right now is, which David Ortiz do they get in 2010? ... [C]ertainly, he's a hitter who is well past his expected prime. ... It's not inconceivable that we're looking at a "last days of Jim Ed Rice" scenario, where the skills just disappear and that's the end. ... I suspect that the projections are roughly correct, that he's got another productive year or two left.
2010 DH projection: Ortiz continues to decline, but recovers somewhat from disaster. Net small upgrade

A few other ZIPS projections
Lowell    .282   .335   .453
Varitek .220 .323 .370
Lowrie .247 .318 .372
ZIPS also had some % projections:
.375 OBP
Yook 62%, Drew 59%, FY 46% ... Ellsbury 8%, Varitek 3%

.500 SLG
Tiz 52%, Yook 42%, Drew/Martinez 21%

140 OPS+
Yook 22%, Ortiz 21%, Drew 13%

45 2B
FY 29%, Martinez/Yook 3%

30 HR
Tiz 39%, Yook 23%, Martinez 6%

30 SB
Ellsbury 98%, Pedroia 1%, everyone else 0%
Lyford also looked at the starters ("big improvement") and bullpen ("comparable") and found that the projections suggest that the Red Sox will score 35-45 fewer runs than they did last year, but allow as many as 50-70 fewer runs.

Red Sox 2010 - Projected Record
         RS   RA   Pyth WP   W    L
2009 872 736 93 69 (actual: 95-67)
Marcel 841 716 .573 93 69
PECOTA 848 652 .618 100 62
Lyford 845 660 .611 99 63
Lyford: They look to me like a 97-100 win team, a team that's significantly upgraded its run prevention capabilities over the winter at the cost of a smaller offensive downgrade. Bottom Line: Boston wins 98, goes to the post-season again.

As I noted in the BBA Q&A, with far less information and deliberation, I saw the Red Sox finishing at 98-64. I looked at Lyford's conclusion last, so after saying I see things similarly, it's neat to discover that we came up with the same W-L record for 2010.


Zenslinger said...

A great roundup to an issue that's gotten out of hand. Shit, there was lots of complaining about the offense last year, little team-wide slumps and away-game slumps.

CHB wrote a negative article about the Nomar retirement. Part of me really wanted to read it and get riled up, but I resisted.

redsock said...

I did not see it, but some SoSHers said it was a new low, even for him.

redsock said...

Read Edes instead.

9casey said...

I haven't read the CHB article, just read the Eades.....the whole thing is still bittersweet.

accudart said...

A, great work here. I at first thought we didn't keep up with the Evil Empire but once you look at the numbers you know in Theo we trust.

tim said...

I was thinking about this issue when the W-L contest came up. Due to the lineup changes, I began thinking that this year would be pure hell on my nails.

I'm thinking a lot of low scoring games, I feel like we weren't an offensive dynamo last year - and most of this post is 2010 proj vs. 2009 actual, so I am thinking that we will be seeing a lot of close games. Runs allowed should be down. [insert caveat about baseball never turning out like it should on paper here] But yeah, I think we'll see quite a few 4-3, 3-2, 2-1 games, LOBotomys etc. Obviously I'm hoping that these guys are able to hit with players on base, that would be a projection I would be interested in seeing...BABIP or OBP or SLG or OPS or something that indicates the past history of our new acquisitions ability to drive the runners home.

We'll have a ton of baserunners, no doubt - we just gotta bring 'em home!

Zenslinger said...

Tim, I don't mean to jump your train, but think of it like this: at most, the Sox will see a 5% drop in runs scored overall for the season. At the very most. I'm not saying that's insignificant, but, I don't think it's a sea change in terms of what the scores of games are going to be compared to last year. To be honest, I think the main effect is going to be that when the Sox lose 2-1, there's going to be a lot of gnashing of teeth throughout the Nation about not resigning Bay. And it just won't make a lot of sense.

Jere said...

Red Sox turn triple play to end game!

I believe it was 6-4-3-4.

Jere said...

Nope, it was 6-4-3-2-4, assuming the first baseman got a glove on the bad throw. If not, 6-4-2-4.

MacLeodCartoons said...

Redsock - fantastic stuff, and much to chew over and discuss. But I can't get past "the bats [sic] of Jason Varitek, Nick Green, and Alex Gonzalez." HAHAHA! That's the funniest line of the offseason. Way to go!

Bill in FLA said...

Great case for run differential.
Sox win.
Note: add Logo to your 2009 shortstop numbers.
UZR -13.4