Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The 2010 Red Sox Staff

After taking a look at what the projections show for the lineup, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some very basic projections for the rotation. As with the hitting projections I'm using 3 year weighted means (2010 projection = (2007 stats + 2*2008 stats + 3* 2009 stats)/6). A couple minor differences though. For starting pitchers who split time between the majors and minors due to inexperience or performance, I've added the minor league innings pitched numbers to the season totals. All other stats are only from the majors. I've also used FIP, fielding independent pitching, in place of ERA. FIP is calculated based on the number of strikeouts, walks, and home runs a pitcher gives up and is one of the many useful statistics available from Fangraphs. It is more stable than ERA and I believe it is a better predictor of future performance. Without further ado, your 2010 Red Sox pitching staff..

SP1 Lester 8.34 3.09 2.80 0.88 1.28 3.66 197.4
SP2 Beckett 8.63 2.05 4.31 0.97 1.18 3.41 197.7
SP3 Lackey 7.13 2.28 3.14 1.03 1.25 3.97 179.9
SP4 Buchholz 7.63 4.04 1.90 1.07 1.45 4.41 155.0
SP5 Matsuzaka 8.33 4.55 1.87 1.16 1.60 4.59 121.3
Swing Wakefield 5.31 3.24 1.66 1.00 1.34 4.68 156.5

CL Papelbon 10.52 2.32 5.73 0.63 1.02 2.60 66.8
SU Bard 11.49 4.01 2.86 0.91 1.28 3.38 49.3
RP Delcarmen 7.63 4.28 1.90 0.72 1.36 4.06 61.9
RP Ramirez 7.59 3.88 1.99 0.71 1.34 3.88 66.2
RP Okajima 8.18 3.03 2.75 1.01 1.18 3.86 62.7

Replacement - - - - - 5.50 143.3

I've used what I think will be the opening day roster, although all the innings were not accounted for. In order to make sure the Sox have enough innings, and to factor in the performance cost of fill in players, I've added in about 140 innings of 5.25 ERA. The aggregate numbers for the pitching staff are pretty impressive, and are better across the board than the 2009 staff:

2009 Actual 7.71 3.32 2.32 - - 4.35 1436.67
2010 Projected 7.92 3.18 2.81 0.95 1.31 4.09 1458.0

Standard ERA was used for the actual 2009 stats however, making the 2009 staff seem worse than it really was, as the Red Sox had one of the worst defensive teams in the majors last year. The lineup reshuffling should greatly improve the defense though. Also, as you can see, the walk and strikeout rates are projected to be slightly better. Without much context, these numbers are hard to gauge.

2009 AL Ranks 2 7 1 7
2010 Proj. AL Ranks 1 3 1 2

The 2010 projected AL rankings are where my 2010 projections would rank relative to the 2009 statistics. As you can see, the 2009 Red Sox pitching staff was a great strikeout staff and the 2010 staff is projected to be even better. Based on FIP, the Red Sox should allow 663 earned runs. Assuming that they give up a proportion of earned runs : runs similar to 2009 AL averages, the staff would give up a total of 716 runs.

Based on my admittedly rosy lineup analysis of 926 runs scored, that would make the Red Sox a 101 win team, using the Pythagorean wins formula created by Bill James. With the more conservative estimate of having the Red Sox match last year's offensive production (872 runs), that would still make the Red Sox an expected 97 win team. I doubt that even this information would get Dan Shaughnessy to stop writing about this ridiculous "bridge" year though.

The 2010 Red Sox lineup

With the signings of John Lackey and Mike Cameron, it seems likely that the Red Sox are done with their major moves this winter, barring a blockbuster deal with the Padres for Adrian Gonzalez. While I'm not a huge fan of the Lackey signing (something I'll get into at a later date), I thought I'd take a look at the projected numbers for the Red Sox. These are EXTREMELY simplistic projections, simply using three year weighted means (2010 projection = (2007 stats + 2*2008 stats + 3* 2009 stats)/6).

A bit about my lineup, and the assumptions I used, before I did into the numbers. For full time players I simply used their weighted means for average, on base percentage, and slugging for the table below. For positions that I expect to be shared I used a baseline of 550 at bats for a position total and weighted overall stats as necessary. To keep things relatively simple, I didn't include players like Lowrie, whose playing time is uncertain for 2010. The positions with multiple players are: 1B (Kotchman 450 AB, Martinez 100 AB), RF (Drew 450 AB, Hermida 100 AB), LF (Cameron 450 AB, Hermida 100 AB), and C (Martinez 450 AB, Varitek 100 AB). With those playing time splits, I give to you the offense of the 2010 Red Sox:

Youkilis 3B 0.305 0.402 0.539 0.941
Drew/Hermida RF 0.275 0.385 0.488 0.873
Ortiz DH 0.262 0.363 0.504 0.867
Pedroia 2B 0.310 0.374 0.462 0.836
Martinez/Varitek C 0.281 0.357 0.435 0.792
Cameron/Hermida LF 0.249 0.337 0.449 0.787
Ellsbury CF 0.303 0.355 0.424 0.779
Kotchman/Martinez 1B 0.278 0.345 0.413 0.758
Scutaro SS 0.273 0.359 0.383 0.742

Projected 2010
0.282 0.364 0.455 0.819
Actual 2009
0.270 0.352 0.454 0.806

As you can see, the projected 2010 offense should actually be slightly better than the 2009 offense. Of course, these estimates are likely a little high. If I could guarantee that Papi puts up an .870 OPS I'd jump at the chance. I imagine Theo would too. I also haven't included any of the marginal players that a team always plays during days off or minor injuries. Jed Lowrie would substantially weigh down a team OPS with his career .685 OPS.

According to the Baseball Musings lineup calculator, the lineup above would score 5.718 runs per game. It isn't quite right to simply lump the players together into one, but for our purposes it is good enough. A team that scores 5.718 runs per game would score 926 on the season. Interestingly, according to my very simplistic model, the offense with Kotchman would be better than it would be with Beltre, thanks to Beltre's extremely poor showing in 2009. That doesn't factor in defense though. Although this off season is being presented as a lateral move at best with regard to scoring runs, I think the fact that the Red Sox shortstops were so unbelievably bad last year makes it possible to match the offensive production even with the loss of Bay.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Brief note regarding a Halladay trade

According to Jon Heyman, of SI, the Red Sox are now not willing to offer either Casey Kelly or Clay Buchholz for Roy Halladay. This would effectively take them out of the Halladay sweepstakes, especially if the Yankees are willing to give up Jesus Montero, their slugging "catcher" prospect. As I argued before, I think it is more valuable to hang on to the young players, but this is a pretty stunning drop in value from July of last year.

Baseball Prospectus has an interesting take on the Halladay situation, and game theory in general, from the Blue Jays perspective. Essentially, Halladay is worthless to the Blue Jays - they're not going anywhere in 2010 and his salary outpaces the revenues he brings in. Given that he's worthless, the Jays ought to take the best offer they can get for him, no matter what it is, and even if it seems "unfair", they're still in a better position than they were keeping him. Of course, our brains just don't work that way. I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it at least once more, when an underwhelming package of prospects nets Halladay - Ricciardi really hurt the organization by not making a deal last July.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Not that it is a major surprise...

but Casey Kelly has decided to give up playing shortstop, instead focusing on pitching. Amalie Benjamin has a much more detailed (and better) write up than I can provide. This is a nice move for the Sox and for Kelly. At first playing shortstop was a nice way to limit the innings for a young arm, but Kelly needs to start building up endurance to be a successful major league pitcher.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Why the Scutaro signing isn't so bad after all...

I've come around a little bit on the Scutaro signing for a variety of reasons.
1. The Red Sox shortstops were so horrendous last year that there is a massive amount of room for improvement on a 95 win team.
2. The money isn't exorbitant, and equally important, the contract is short.
3. Despite Scutaro being a Type A free agent, the Red Sox gained picks overall and actually moved up in the first round, barring a major move in free agency by the Braves.

I knew the Red Sox were a disaster at shortstop, but I didn't realize just how bad the overall numbers were until the Globe showed the composite numbers. Red Sox shortstops put up an unbelievably bad line, .235/.297/.358, good for 26th, 25th, and 20th for major league teams at the position. Using a nifty tool from Baseball Musings we can calculate the expected runs scored for the Red Sox. For simplicity's sake, I'm using 2009 stats and the lineup from the end of the season when healthy - V-Mart at catcher, Bay still in left field, and Lowell at 3B, as well as the aggregate shortstop output. This lineup is predicted to score 5.791 runs per game, or a total 938 runs. This is well above the actual runs scored thanks to injuries and days off, but for comparative purposes is useful. Now, what happens if Scutaro were in the lineup instead?

Again, this isn't a prediction for next year, but let's say that Scutaro put up his rather underwhelming current career averages (.265/.337/.384) instead of the aggregate numbers the Red Sox shortstops put up. This would results in a lineup that scores 5.901 runs per game for a total of 956 runs, a difference of 18 runs. Despite the fact that Scutaro has been well below average offensively for his career, his addition to the Red Sox at shortstop would still be a two win improvement offensively. Normally, two win improvements aren't that easy to come by. Using Scutaro's actual 2009 numbers (.282/.379/.407) would result in a 36 run improvement in the offense, or 3.5 wins. As a point of comparison, this improvement is on par with replacing Kevin Youkilis with by far and away the best hitter in baseball, Albert Pujols.

As far as the numbers go, the value of a win depends on who you want to believe and where your team is in the standings. According to revenue work done by a variety of folks, the more a single win makes a difference in your playoff odds, the more valuable they are. For a team like the Pirates, an additional win or five isn't going to make a difference in terms of revenues. This holds true on the high side too - as a playoff spot becomes more and more likely, the value of one additional win decreases. Circa 2007 a 90 win team would earn $3.5 million for one additional win, the highest observed. Fangraphs took a look at things from the free agent market perspective, and showed that for 2008 a marginal win cost $4.5 million. Either way, a 3.5 win improvement is well worth the $6 million / year the Red Sox have committed to Scutaro.

Also, because the contract can be a two year deal it is hard for the Red Sox to have lots of dead money in the deal. If Scutaro flops or Lowrie hits like Theo thinks he can, then the Sox have the financial resources to float a $6 million dollar (utility) man. Thanks to the short contract length the Sox will never be in a Julio Lugo or Edgar Renteria situation, desperately looking to move a player, even if they have to pay half of the remaining contract to do so.

Finally, the Scutaro signing doesn't hurt the farm system very much. Thanks to Billy Wagner signing with the Braves, the Red Sox get the Braves 1st round pick (19th overall) as well as a sandwich round pick.

A sandwich round aside - if you're familiar with it already you can skip the italics. The sandwich round is a bit of an oddity - it exists between the first and second rounds, and can be of varying sizes depending on the number of free agents that sign with other teams. It might be easiest to think of it as the 1.5 round of the draft.

In exchange for Scutaro, the Blue Jays get the Red Sox first round pick (29th overall), so with this exchange they've actually moved up in the standings AND gained a pick. To top it all off, if the Red Sox sign another Type A free agent, John Lackey or Matt Holliday for example, the Red Sox would give up their 2nd round pick and not the compensatory pick from the Braves. However, they could gain another team's 1st round pick as compensation for Jason Bay, as well as another sandwich round pick. If everything breaks just right for the draft, for example, if Bay signs with the Mariners, the Sox could swap Scutaro and Holliday into their lineup in exchange for their first and second round draft picks, while gaining Atlanta and Seattle's first round pick and two sandwich round picks. Those later draft picks are great opportunities to snag players who fall because of signability concerns or lower upside arms that can move quickly through the system. For example, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price, two of the three prospects in the Victor Martinez deal, were sandwich round picks in 2007 and 2008.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How to create a winning organization

1. Hire people who can evaluate players independently.
2. Hire people with the backbone to stand up for those opinions.

In many of the rumored iterations of the Johan Santana deal, Jon Lester was included. At this point in his career Lester was more promise than pitcher. Despite an 11-2 record over two seasons, Lester had a 4.68 ERA and was only striking out a few more batters than he walked. Despite the unimpressive numbers, Lester did have flashes of brilliance, including his start to finish a sweep of the World Series, less than a year after returning from non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

From Buster Olney's Blog:
"In the midst of Boston's trade discussions about Santana, Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell all but threw his body in front of young left-hander Jon Lester, who had pitched a total of 144.1 innings in the big leagues at that point. Farrell argued that the Red Sox should keep Lester and not trade him for Santana, stating that the lefty could wind up winning more games than Santana over the course of Santana's contract. And Farrell has looked pretty smart so far: Lester has won 31 games over the past two seasons, Santana 29."

Without his time in the Cleveland Indians front office as the director of player development, Farrell might not have had the experience to identify the talent or the guts to strongly voice his opinion. Since not being included in the deal Lester has excelled, throwing 413.2 innings of 3.31 ERA baseball in the brutal AL East, including a spectacular year in 2009 where he struck out the second most batters per nine innings in the AL, only behind Justin Verlander. Lester also cost $38.5 million less than Santana. Also, it gives Sox fans one more reason to be happy that Farrell stayed with the Sox, instead of opting for the Cleveland manager's job in October.

Middle Infield Options

With Pedroia open to shifting to shortstop, the Red Sox now have a lot more options to fill the hole at middle infield. The player that is most discussed has been Marco Scutaro. Scutaro easily had the best year of his career last year, posting a .282/.379/.409 while playing above average defense at shortstop. A long time utility player finally making good on his opportunity to start is a good story, but everything about him seems to point to a disastrous free agent signing. We're talking about a 33 year old player who just posted a career high in slugging and on base percentage, but have never cracked an .800 OPS. We're also talking about a player who walked as much as Kevin Youkilis last year, despite not having any power to speak of. Rob Neyer argues that Scutaro has shown potential to be this kind of player in the minor leagues, but I am unconvinced. I think his 2600 at bats in the major leagues are much more informative than looking back on two seasons of minor league numbers that are now 10 years old. The cherry on top is that Scutaro is also a Type A free agent, so he would cost the Red Sox their first round pick. That is mitigated if they sign more than one type A free agent (Holliday? Lackey?), but giving up much of anything for a glorified utility player would be a terrible blunder.

One option at second base would be Placido Polanco. In a lot of ways he is similar to Scutaro. He hits for a solid average, draws a few walks (although not as many as Scutaro did last year), and hits for a tiny bit of power. The difference between Polanco and Scutaro is that because Scutaro plays shortstop his price will be inflated substantially, and Polanco was not offered arbitration by the Tigers, so he would not cost a draft pick. While Polanco might be an all right stop gap measure, I am not sure that he would improve the Red Sox very much.
Edit: Polanco has signed with the Phillies for 3 years and $18 million to play third base. His bat is a little bit light to play there, although he should still be an upgrade over Pedro Feliz. Plus, with Utley, Rollins, and Howard in that infield they can handle a bit less than average production from third.

I think the most attractive option at second base is Orlando Hudson. Hudson is two years younger than Scutaro and could be relatively cheap coming off a "down" year in Los Angeles, where Torre benched him down the stretch and in the playoffs in favor of Ronnie Belliard. Despite having his worst offensive year of the last four, Hudson still put up a .774 OPS, just slightly worse than Scutaro's career year. Hudson would also benefit from Fenway, turning five to seven fly outs into doubles or home runs. Because he isn't a home run hitter, the triangle in right center would not harm him either. Assuming the Red Sox aren't able to pick up a middle infielder through a trade, Hudson seems like the obvious, and cheaper, option to me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Moving right along the defensive spectrum

There have been some rumblings about moving Pedroia back to shortstop. This would be a bit unusual, as players typically move to easier positions as they age. Bill James came up with the idea of the defensive spectrum in his 1982 Baseball Abstract, and it works something like this:
Essentially the idea is that players on the left side of the spectrum require the least amount of defensive ability, but are expected to carry the offense. You could throw DH on there on the left side, if you'd like. Craig Biggio had perhaps the most interesting movement across the spectrum, starting at catcher, moving to second base, then center field and left field, before returning to second base.

Pedroia is an above average second baseman (UZR/150 10.6 in 2009 and 10.5 in 2008) and the cost to shift from second base to shortstop is considered to be somewhere around 10 runs, so the numbers indicate he could be an average defensive shortstop. Offensively, a replacement level shortstop is about 7 runs worse than the replacement level second basemen, so this wouldn't change Pedroia's overall value to the team, but would give them more flexibility in the free agent or trade market. Pedroia played shortstop at Arizona State (bumping Ian Kinsler from the starting lineup, who later transferred to Missouri), so shortstop isn't something completely new. Pedroia even played shortstop throughout the minors, making more appearances there than at 2B in 2006, his last year at AAA. Last year Alexei Ramirez shifted from second base to shortstop and his UZR/150 improved from -10.6 to 2.4. Shortstop was Alexei's natural position and he had basically be thrown in at second base in 2008, so it isn't a perfect comparison.

The one knock against this move is that Pedroia was moved off of short for a reason. Coming up through the minors his arm strength was questionable for the position, especially when making throws from the hole. However, his minor league defensive error totals are spectacular (only 7, as Gammons points out), so if arm strength isn't an issue it could be a nice move for the Sox. Another important point Gammons makes is that this would likely be a short term move, as Jose Iglesias, the 19 year old Cuban shortstop, is supposed to be a spectacular defender.