Investigating Steamer’s Optimism for the Red Sox

On Monday, we released our first projected standings of 2016, with the Cubs unsurprisingly looking like the best team in baseball heading into Spring Training. More controversially, though, the Steamer projections — which is what our Forecasted Standings are based on currently, and will be until we add in the full ZIPS projections — see the Boston Red Sox as the second best team in baseball at this point, forecasting them for a 92-70 record.

That would be a 14 win improvement over last year’s 78-84 mark, which also notably came after the projections expected big things from the club. Understandably, there’s a decent amount of skepticism surrounding the idea that the Red Sox are really the AL’s best club on paper, so let’s look a bit deeper into the nuts and bolts of the forecast to see what’s really driving Steamer’s belief that Boston’s roster is ready to contend.

The first thing worth noting is that Steamer really likes Boston’s offense; they are projected to lead the majors in run scoring at 4.75 runs per game, a total of 770 runs over a full season. But this isn’t really a huge change from a year ago, because the Red Sox scored 4.64 runs per game in 2014 (748 total runs), and most of the core players are expected to do something pretty close to what they did a year ago. Essentially, the projections think the Red Sox are expected to score 22 more runs than they did last year, and it’s based almost entirely on two players. The players generally considered part of the team’s core roster are actually expected to hit a bit worse than they did a year ago.

Red Sox 2015 vs 2016
Player 2015 PA 2015 wOBA 2015 OFF 2016 PA 2016 wOBA 2016 OFF
Mookie Betts 654 0.351 22.5 630 0.361 21.6
Xander Bogaerts 654 0.338 10.9 651 0.339 8.8
Dustin Pedroia 425 0.347 6.5 602 0.332 2.9
David Ortiz 614 0.379 21.5 595 0.358 10.7
Blake Swihart 309 0.312 -2.3 320 0.303 -5.2
Jackie Bradley Jr. 255 0.355 6.2 525 0.320 -1.9
Rusney Castillo 289 0.283 -12.7 427 0.312 -4.6
Totals 3,200 0.344 52.6 3,750 0.336 32.3

Six of the seven guys listed above are projected to be less effective offensive players, with only Rusney Castillo expected to step up from terrible to mediocre. I don’t think anyone can look at those projections and think that Steamer is being unreasonably optimistic. Mookie Betts gets a small wOBA jump but loses half of his baserunning value. Bogaerts basically repeats his season. Ortiz starts to show his age. Swihart doesn’t improve at all. Bradley retains some of his improvements but still regresses heavily. There are no breakouts here, no huge improvements that are driving the team’s offensive gains.

Instead, the offensive jump is all about last winter’s two big free agent misfires.

Red Sox 2015 vs 2016
Player 2015 PA 2015 wOBA 2015 OFF 2016 PA 2016 wOBA 2016 OFF
Hanley Ramirez 430 0.308 -8.3 511 0.353 10.7
Pablo Sandoval 505 0.288 -20.0 560 0.330 0.1
Total 935 0.297 -28.3 1,071 0.341 10.8

Last year, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval combined to hit like a league average shortstop; in 2016, they are projected to hit like a league average first baseman. That jump is worth almost 40 runs over 1,100 plate appearances, which not only cancels out the 20 run drop in offensive production from the other starters, but adds the additional 20 runs the team is expected to score in the aggregate. Essentially, the entirety of the offensive bump can be assigned to expected improvements from Ramirez and Sandoval.

Is this a reasonable expectation, based on their track records? I don’t really see why not. Ramirez’s jump back to a .353 wOBA is driven mostly by a BABIP correction, going from .257 last year to a projected .310 next year; his career BABIP is .327, so it’s not like there’s a lot of evidence that Ramirez should be expected to post a below average BABIP again. As a guy with a better-than-average strikeout rate and still decent power, it’s hard to see why Ramirez wouldn’t be expected to be an above average hitter. A .353 wOBA doesn’t feel at all out of line for a 32 year old with a career .371 mark, even though last year was obviously a disaster.

The story is mostly the same with Sandoval. Steamer is projecting his BABIP to jump back up to .303, from last year’s .270, based on his career average .307 BABIP. There’s also a small power spike included — his ISO jumps to .157, which would be his best mark since 2012 — so I could see taking the under on Sandoval’s offensive projection, and it’s worth noting that ZIPS isn’t as optimistic about Sandoval’s bounce back, projecting just a .310 wOBA, but even if you drop him down to the more pessimistic of the two forecasts, the net result is still going to be that the improvements from Sandoval and Ramirez will more than make up for the production losses elsewhere on offense.

Really, I don’t see a lot to quibble with here. The Red Sox offense projects to be the best in baseball because they have a bunch of guys who are good hitters, and their line-up doesn’t look to have any obvious black holes. The bench should be decent as well, especially with the disaster performances from Allen Craig, Deven Marrero, and Sandy Leon removed from the picture. The story of the improved Red Sox offense isn’t so much about rosy forecasts for their best hitters, but instead, replacing train wreck performances with okay ones. So I’m buying the ~770 run projection for the Red Sox; that doesn’t feel out of line to me at all.

Of course, that brings us to the run prevention side of things. Last year, the Red Sox allowed 753 runs; only five teams gave up more than that total. This year, Steamer projects the team to allow just 666 runs, an 87 run improvement. That’s a huge swing, and would take them from 25th to 10th in runs allowed across MLB. So let’s investigate the huge expected improvement on the pitching and defense side of things, and see if we can find any specific projections to quibble with there.

Let’s start with the defense, since that will affect all of the pitchers individual totals. Last year, the Red Sox posted a +3 UZR and a +3 DRS, so the defense was considered basically league average, even with Ramirez butchering left field and Sandoval failing to show any range at third base. This year, our projections have their fielding ratings jumping up to +23, as Steamer likes the Betts/Bradley/Castillo outfield and sees Pedroia as an elite defender second base. Most importantly, though, it is heavily regressing the disastrous performances from Ramirez and Sandoval, wiping out their combined -35 UZR/-30 DRS and replacing it with expected average defense at the infield corners.

For Sandoval, projecting just a -4 fielding rating seems about right to me; he’d been an average or slightly above average defensive third baseman in San Francisco, and when projecting defensive value, you need to regress single season data pretty heavily. For a guy with a career UZR/150 of -1, expecting something dramatically worse than that is probably an overreaction to 1,000 bad innings in the field. So I don’t see much of an issue with that forecast.

The Ramirez projection — expecting him to be a +3.2 defender at 1st base — is one where it seems likely that the limitations of the forecast come into view. In a vacuum, one wouldn’t think that projecting a guy who played shortstop two years ago to be a slightly above average defender at first base would be crazy, but in this case, I think humans know more about Hanley Ramirez’s defensive abilities than the numbers do. Ramirez was a bad defensive shortstop, a bad defensive third baseman when the Marlins tried him there, and the worst defensive outfielder anyone has ever seen; it seems pretty likely that Ramirez is going to be a bad defender at first base as well. It’s not like he’s taken well to position switches before, and his body just isn’t the same shape now as it was when he played shortstop, so I think it’s probably more reasonable to expect him to be a liability at first base, and maybe even a pretty big one.

We’re not into manually changing the projections — what’s the point of even having them if you just go in and “fix” ones that don’t match up with our preconceived ideas? — but this is one area where I think reasonable people can mentally add 10-15 runs to the Red Sox RA total. So instead of the pitching improvements needing to justify an 87 run improvement, maybe it’s more like a 75 run improvement, with some of the optimism resulting from a probably-too-optimistic projection on Ramirez’s defense at first base.

Still, though, a 75 run swing from the pitchers is a big number. Let’s see if we can figure out where most of that is coming from. While they outbid the rest of the league for David Price, and having a frontline starter is definitely going to help their rotation, the big change is actually in the bullpen.

Here’s what our current depth chart is projecting from the Red Sox bullpen in 2016.

#3 Red Sox


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel 65.0 11.8 3.3 0.7 .301 77.7 % 2.63 2.67 1.8
Koji Uehara 65.0 9.1 2.1 1.0 .292 79.3 % 2.94 3.41 0.8
Carson Smith 55.0 9.8 3.2 0.6 .309 74.2 % 3.04 3.01 0.9
Junichi Tazawa 55.0 8.4 2.5 1.0 .300 76.0 % 3.30 3.58 0.4
Joe Kelly 45.0 7.7 2.9 0.8 .308 72.3 % 3.73 3.75 0.2
Robbie Ross 40.0 7.6 2.9 0.8 .307 73.2 % 3.57 3.72 0.1
Matt Barnes 35.0 8.3 3.2 1.0 .303 73.9 % 3.74 3.89 0.0
Tom Layne 30.0 8.0 4.1 0.8 .305 72.4 % 3.89 3.99 0.0
Heath Hembree 25.0 7.9 3.4 1.1 .298 74.5 % 3.86 4.19 0.0
Noe Ramirez 20.0 7.0 3.5 1.0 .301 72.6 % 4.12 4.38 0.0
Steven Wright 15.0 6.6 2.8 1.1 .302 72.0 % 4.13 4.28 0.0
Edwin Escobar 10.0 7.3 3.0 1.0 .302 73.5 % 3.83 4.08 0.0
Pat Light 10.0 6.9 3.9 1.0 .302 71.8 % 4.31 4.47 0.0
Williams Jerez 10.0 7.4 4.0 1.0 .302 72.6 % 4.13 4.33 0.0
Total 474.0 8.7 3.0 0.9 .302 74.8 % 3.38 3.56 4.1

Like with the hitters, I don’t see any individual projections there that look overly optimistic. Kimbrel remains excellent, but Uehara and Smith are projected to pitch a lot worse than they did in 2015, and Tazawa is forecast to be just about his usual self based on his career numbers. This has Joe Kelly pitching okay-but-not-great out of the bullpen, though with his velocity, it’s not hard to see him being one of the types of pitchers who takes a big step forward in a relief role, if that’s how the Red Sox choose to use him. Ross, Barnes, and all the rest are basically replacement level fodder. There’s just nothing here that I would think is painting way too rosy of a picture about the team’s relief corps.

And yet, this performance would be a monstrous upgrade over last year’s bullpen. A year ago, the Red Sox relievers allowed 258 runs in 501 innings, so this projection of ~200 runs allowed makes up for the great majority of the improvement expected from the Red Sox pitching staff. It’s not just that Kimbrel and Smith were quality acquisitions, but that so many of the depth guys the team tried last year were total garbage, and there’s no real reason to expect that the team is going to end up giving significant innings to so many below replacement level pitchers again. And Kimbrel and Smith will help too, obviously. The Red Sox bullpen was among the worst in baseball a year ago; now it looks like one of the best. And I don’t see anything wrong with believing the forecasts here.

Now, let’s look at the rotation. This is where a lot of the attention is going to be, because so much of the narrative about the 2015 Red Sox surrounded Ben Cherington’s decision to go for depth rather than make a play for an ace starter, and then Dave Dombrowski immediately changed course and spent $230 million to bring in David Price. If the Red Sox are a contender this year, a lot of the credit is going to be bestowed to having an ace to carry the rotation, but that’s actually not where a lot of the improvement is expected to come, at least not according to our projections.

Last year, Red Sox starters put up +12.1 WAR by FIP or +11.1 WAR by RA9, ranking squarely in the middle of the pack regardless of which methodology you want to use. This year, with Price replacing Wade Miley and Roenis Elias being given some of the innings that went to Joe Kelly and Rich Hill, the team is projected for all of +14.5 WAR. It’s an improvement, as you’d expect from any rotation that added David Price, but everyone else is expected to be pretty mediocre; Porcello’s improvement is offset by regression from Eduardo Rodriguez, and Clay Buchholz is expected to be less valuable even while throwing 50 more innings. Price helps, but Miley wasn’t useless — his ERA was artificially high because almost every single run he allowed was categorized as “earned” — and the rotation improvements only account for about 20 to 30 runs.

Even with David Price in the fold, Steamer looks at the Red Sox as having just an okay rotation; it’s certainly not the strength of the club. And the starting pitching wasn’t the disaster that caused the 2015 Red Sox to implode anyway, so the fact that the improvement there is only minimal isn’t actually a huge deal. The rotation should be better than it was, but I don’t see Steamer being overly optimistic about this rotation, and I’d imagine a lot of Boston fans will think that Rodriguez projection is entirely too pessimistic; ZIPS is much higher on the team’s young arms, for instance.

But an okay rotation with a very good bullpen is an above average pitching staff, which is why Steamer is projecting the Red Sox for the 7th most pitching WAR of any team in baseball. We should likely downgrade their run prevention totals to account for the Ramirez fielding projection, but even moving them to something like 4.25 runs per game leaves them roughly average in terms of runs allowed, and this should be offense that scores a good amount of runs.

Steamer has the Red Sox at 4.75 R/G and 4.11 RA/G, which translates out to a 92-70 record. I’d probably adjust those to something like 4.7 and 4.2 R/G and RA/G personally, but that still translates to something like an 86 to 88 win team. Besides a probably-flawed defensive projection for Ramirez at first base, and maybe an overly optimistic power bump for Sandoval, I don’t see that many areas where I think the projections are overly optimistic. I don’t think the Red Sox are the second best team in baseball, but with a very good offense, an average defense, a decent rotation, and a very good bullpen, this Red Sox team really does look like a contender.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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phoenix2042
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phoenix2042
4 months 16 days ago

How much do the projections take into account strength of schedule or individual opponents? Just in general, I mean.

For instance, being in a division with no obviously terrible team to beat up (as the Red Sox are) on will mean they have fewer actual wins than a team with a couple of terrible division opponents to feast on (like the Pirates have). Even with equally talented teams, the division and who you actually play with impact actual wins and loses heavily.

This does not change who wins the division (since everyone in the division is in the same boat), but it does change wild card winners and overall records.

I’m curious if the projection systems account for this.

Gimmick Account
Member
Gimmick Account
4 months 16 days ago

“Ramirez’s jump back to a .353 wOBA is driven mostly by a BABIP correction, going from .257 last year to a projected .310 next year; his career BABIP is .327, so it’s not like there’s a lot of evidence that Ramirez should be expected to post a below average BABIP again.”

Ramirez is 32 and his soft contact and ground ball percentages have been increasing for three years, seeing a particualrly abrupt increase last year. Additionally, he’s been pitched more fastballs and performing worse on them (per wFB), which perhaps could be a function of declining bat speed. While I’m not sure what authority the extra ground balls have been hit with, more soft grounders (for a guy with his eroding footspeed) or soft flyballs don’t seem to bode well for his BABIP.

TKDC
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TKDC
4 months 16 days ago

Well, the projections have him well below his career average. Basically nobody should be expected to BABIP at .257. If you’re overly pessimistic, you’d still have to believe in a good amount of regression.

Jimbo34
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Jimbo34
4 months 16 days ago

Ramirez was a different player after his shoulder injury at the end of April. The injury may account for those more abrupt changes. Granted, you never know if he’ll recover from it, but it’s entirely possible his performance will be closer to his April splits than the rest of the season.

Bip
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Member
Bip
4 months 16 days ago

I think that sort of abrupt batted ball change can often be because of injury. It looks to me like his projected BABIP is a healthy step down from his career level. A 70-point drop like last year does not generally strike me as indicative of a new talent level.

Damaso
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Damaso
4 months 16 days ago

“they are projected to lead the majors in run scoring at 4.75 runs per game, a total of 770 runs over a full season. But this isn’t really a huge change from a year ago, because the Red Sox scored 4.64 runs per game in 2014 (748 total runs), and most of the core players are expected to do something pretty close to what they did a year ago. Essentially, the projections think the Red Sox are expected to score 22 more runs than they did last year, and it’s based almost entirely on two players. ”

This an exceptionally dishonest take from Mr.Fangraphs.

The Red Sox offense produced a 98wrc+ last year, good for 17th in baseball. They were an exceptionally average offense. To claim that projecting them to be an elite offense this year isn’t a huge step up from last year is simply dishonest.

For someone who has led the discussion on baseruns and cluster luck, it is really annoying to see you glibly ignore it when it comes to your bizarre infatuation with the Red Sox.

Brians Sticky Sock
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Brians Sticky Sock
4 months 16 days ago

I thought this was now CubsGraphs… not sure how this can be true if they’re obsessed with the Red Sox. Different day, different narrative, I guess.

vonstott
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vonstott
4 months 16 days ago

Generally when someone makes an accusation of exceptional dishonesty, they cite an inaccuracy rather than the mere possibility of another POV.

jimmytreefingas
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jimmytreefingas
4 months 16 days ago

For example, the article says that “the Red Sox scored 4.64 runs per game in 2014 (748 total runs)”. That is a lie! Those stats actually relate to the *2015* Red Sox. This kind of exceptional dishonesty cannot stand!

Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
Member
Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
4 months 16 days ago

“They are meant to be majors. The result of implementing such 4.75 points per game, a total of 770 dogs in full season. But that’s not really a big change in one year, because the Red Juice won 4.64 points per game in 2014. year (total 748 running), and most of the key players is on something pretty close to what they were the year before. In fact, I think it shows the Red Juice is expected to record a 22 points higher than last year, and it is almost entirely based on the two players. ”

This extremely fair extracts of m. Fangraphs.

The attack took place 98vrc + Red Sox last year, good for 17. in a row. They are attacking the very average. Compensation design is a violation of the elite this year is an important stage of last year’s simply dishonest.

For those who are implementing the cluster checks baseruns and happy, really pisses me off to see it ignored when it comes to passion for your exotic with Red Juice.

Shirtless Bartolo Colon says in Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back to John Elway
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Shirtless Bartolo Colon says in Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back to John Elway
4 months 16 days ago

This shtick is tired, but dammit Red Juice is awesome!

Brians Sticky Sock
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Brians Sticky Sock
4 months 16 days ago

We read your shtick the other day on the chat… that didn’t work either.

Shirtless Bartolo Colon says in Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back to John Elway
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Shirtless Bartolo Colon says in Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back to John Elway
4 months 16 days ago

You remembered my post, but I can’t say the same for you.

Excelsior!

Brians Sticky Sock
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Brians Sticky Sock
4 months 15 days ago

touche

jruby
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Member
jruby
4 months 15 days ago

The best part (other than the Red Juice) is how it changed “it is really annoying” to “it really pisses me off”

nerf
Member
nerf
4 months 15 days ago

I don’t understand what you’re getting so butthurt about. The article is upfront about the fact that Steamer liked the Red Sox last year and ended up being very wrong. The same could happen this year. But when an automated system spits out a high total, you investigate and try to figure not how the Red Sox are guaranteed to be good, but why the (flawed and wrong in the past) automated system gives them good odds.

Tom Dooley
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Tom Dooley
4 months 15 days ago

your bizarre infatuation with the Red Sox.

Projection ain’t just a statistical model.

jripper1268
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jripper1268
4 months 16 days ago

With Ortiz retiring at the end of the year I see the Sox using 2016 as a transition year for Ramirez to full time DH in 2017. I think Shaw will be a defensive replacement in almost every game and maybe even getting 20-30 starts at 1B and maybe Ramirez getting some DH starts against tough lefties Ortiz has problems with.

brian_msbc
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brian_msbc
4 months 16 days ago

Do we have anyone that can speak to the steamer rankings for us? They just did a massive overhaul on playing time over there… Why would that happen?

TKDC
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TKDC
4 months 16 days ago

Is height/weight a factor in Steamer projections? For a guy who is only 29, you’d think bounce back year is most likely, but Sandoval is not really your average 29-year-old.

jfree
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jfree
4 months 15 days ago

The bigger the boy, the bigger the bounce when they hit bottom

chuckb
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chuckb
4 months 15 days ago

A dead cat bounce becomes a dead Garfield bounce.

JackS
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JackS
4 months 15 days ago

I saw The Dead Garfield Bounce open for Disco Biscuits a few years ago. Sick tunes bro.

BB25
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BB25
4 months 15 days ago

Giants fan here, and I’m very skeptical of Panda bouncing back, especially in terms of his fielding. The weight really seems to be the most important factor in his performance. Fat Panda simply doesn’t have the same reaction times that made him, at his best, a fantastic third baseman.

Twitchy
Member
Twitchy
4 months 16 days ago

I’m curious how Steamer works for pitchers. For instance, is it based more on a FIP style, where it looks at their ratios, or a combination of past results? My point was more for guys like RA Dickey, who tend to look awful by things like FIP, but good to great when we recognize they induce enough weak contact to beat their FIP (meaning they should be judged more on runs allowed and RA/9 WAR instead of fWAR).

For instance, the Jays had a 3+ WAR gap just among their SP between fWAR and RA/9 WAR, so if Steamer focuses on FIP, it might miss that. Likewise, a guy like Porcello is going on 1000+ innings of a fairly significant ERA/FIP differential. At first the thought was that the Tigers defence was responsible, but he still had a fairly decent difference in Boston. So by the same token, would Porcello and the Sox look better because Steamer ignores this difference as well?

evo34
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evo34
4 months 15 days ago

Might it be quicker for you to type “steamer baseball projections” into the Google machine?

Twitchy
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Twitchy
4 months 15 days ago

I did and got no useful results. Which is why I came here. But thanks to not answering my question with smart ass response instead.

evo34
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evo34
4 months 13 days ago

It’s literally the second link listed when you search “steamer baseball projections,” dumbshit.

kevinthecomic
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kevinthecomic
4 months 16 days ago

Any numbers on how John Farrell’s use of starters compares to other teams? Anecdotally, it seemed to me he left starters in WAY too long last year, especially Porcello. Their very good bullpen isn’t going to mean much if Farrell refuses to use it.

Paul22
Member
Paul22
4 months 15 days ago

He didnt have a very good pen last year so was reluctant to use it. I do agree his performance last year in all aspects of the game was poor. Maybe it was the illnesss before he was diagnosed. He will be on a short leash, or should be.

Napoli was awful and Papi refused to play 1B and he backed down, and Farrell was reluctant to use Shaw. Starting the season and staying with Victorino as long as he did. Letting Pedroia come back w/o rehab when he obviously was not ready. The pitching did not turn around until he left, guys like Porcello, Miley and Kelly all pitched better when they came back. Maybe that was coincidence.

equist
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equist
4 months 16 days ago

Pedroia will never get 600 PA this year. 450 is more reasonable.

Paul22
Member
Paul22
4 months 15 days ago

The problem is not the PA he gets, but how many PA he gets when healthy. His insistence to play hurt kills the team because he does not hit. His comeback before he was ready after the AS break and without rehab simply killed the teams momentum. He went something like 1-22 and they lost 7 straight and put them out of the WC race.

ice_hawk10
Member
ice_hawk10
4 months 16 days ago

yea i agree with your corrections. after 3 straight years of decline, it would be very hard to see Sandovals ISO bouncing back to the projected levels

it would really shock me if they score more runs than the Blue Jays though, but that has more to do with the Blue Jays projection.

Baron Samedi
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Baron Samedi
4 months 16 days ago

If the Red Sox outscore the Blue Jays I will eat my dick.

Brians Sticky Sock
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Brians Sticky Sock
4 months 15 days ago

Be sure to post it on the internet and provide a link here when that happens.

jruby
Member
Member
jruby
4 months 15 days ago

No you won’t.

Anon21
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Anon21
4 months 16 days ago

Typo: “But this isn’t really a huge change from a year ago, because the Red Sox scored 4.64 runs per game in 2014 (748 total runs), and most of the core players are expected to do something pretty close to what they did a year ago.”

Should be 2015.

somaholiday
Member
somaholiday
4 months 16 days ago

I didn’t really get Sandoval’s .353 wOBA Steamer projection last year after .338, .331, .323 over the prior 3 years. Though less optimistic this year, it still seems too high at .330 after .331, .323, and .288 given average BABIPs. I would love to see a detailed breakdown of how Steamer effectively gets there with Sandoval.

Malcolm-Jamal Hegyes
Member
Malcolm-Jamal Hegyes
4 months 15 days ago

wOBA (next year) =

wOBA (last year) x

[Ball-park factor (next year) / (Ball-park factor (last year)] x

[Weight(next year) / Weight(last year)]

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 15 days ago

I suspect over-use of park factor splits.

ashlandateam
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ashlandateam
4 months 15 days ago

The amount of hostility inspired by the Red Sox among an otherwise level-headed readership is astounding.

DCE
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DCE
4 months 15 days ago

Unfortunately it appears to be just one poster with a severe combination of insecurity and envy creating the hostilities. But he/she is very good at it

Damaso
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Damaso
4 months 15 days ago

severe combo of insecurity, envy, and…rightness, you mean.

Paul22
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Paul22
4 months 15 days ago

Well, there does seem to be a bit of Red Sox bias here and at ESPN, which turns people off. I mean, this is a team that has made the playoff ONCE in 6 seasons, and finished last in 3 of 4 seasons, but pretty much every season great things are projected. Its been a pretty dismal performance for a team thats been 2nd or 3rd in payroll for most of these years. Ok, they won a Wold Series one of those years when they had a team BABIP that was the highest in MLB history since the depression. Almost everyone exceeded their projections by a good amount.

redsoxu571
Member
redsoxu571
4 months 15 days ago

There is no Red Sox bias, unless you consider covering relevant baseball “biased”.

Boston has had one of the premier fan bases for decades, most especially due to it being very appealing to college kids in a HUGE college town, creating a lot of fans across the country.

From 1986 to 2004, it was one of the premier storyline teams, a franchise dying for a title and often coming JUST short of grabbing one, and that made it appealing for even casual fans to pay attention to. Since 2004, the team has frequently won and netted three titles, so any claim that the team hasn’t been relevant on the field is silly.

Even in bad years, Boston vs NY is a six-time-a-year story, and with high payrolls and at least some good players come high expectations, leading to plenty of early-season attention.

If there were really a bias, Boston wouldn’t have been largely irrelevant in the second half of each of the past two seasons…but it was largely irrelevant then. But teams succumbing to flaws and/or bad luck (for example, 2012 is a foolish team to use as an example of a team that didn’t deserve attention, as the bad luck that led to it failing was the VERY REASON smart people projected the rebound in 2013 that then occurred) don’t in any way affect expectations for FUTURE seasons. Boston is seen as having a strong core with few key aging players and plenty of quality youth that could serve as reinforcements or improved play.

There are plenty of teams that deserve just as much (or more) attention as Boston, and the reality is that many of those teams get their appropriate attention. The only bias is the strong anti-Boston one that exists in a group of people, who then protest “pro-Boston bias” any time the team gets written about.

Damaso
Member
Damaso
4 months 15 days ago

there is clearly a bias.

you can see this most clearly in the rosy outlooks given to players with no track record, and in otherwise brilliant writers like Dave quite literally contradicting their own orthodoxy in order to put a positive spin on the team.

see, the thing is, there is plenty of statistical evidence from previous track records that the last couple of years were not flukes.

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 13 days ago

Damaso,
Tell us, which competing AL East team do you jerk off to at night? You’ve supplied zero evidence that Steamer is engineered to reward Red Sox players abnormally. (And no, two data points are not evidence, but rather fully expected variance). Until you do so (get off your ass and actually do some work show what the bias in Steamer is precisely), you’re just an angry fanboy polluting comment boards with unfounded accusations.

Tom Dooley
Member
Tom Dooley
4 months 15 days ago

ONCE in 6 seasons

Interesting cutoff.

chuckb
Member
chuckb
4 months 15 days ago

Interesting that you downplay their World Series championship year because they had an unusually high BABIP and exceeded their projections but also accuse the site of pro-Red Sox bias when the Red Sox have unusually low BABIPs and underperform their projections. I guess the poor performances relative to projections are somehow more indicative of true talent than the great performances relative to projections.

Where exactly is the bias again?

jdbolick
Member
Member
4 months 15 days ago

A year ago, FanGraphs published one column after another regarding the Red Sox impending greatness. While that massive failure does not necessarily imply a repeat, I was genuinely hoping that this column and preferably additional ones would have looked back to see why things went so wrong and what could be learned from that. Alas…

DCE
Member
DCE
4 months 15 days ago

Could you please link to all these articles from 2015 regarding the greatness of the Red Sox? I never saw them

Tom Dooley
Member
Tom Dooley
4 months 15 days ago

He’s making it up.

jdbolick
Member
Member
4 months 15 days ago

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley. ;)

jdbolick
Member
Member
4 months 15 days ago

My post is stuck “awaiting moderation,” perhaps because it has so many links within it, so I’ll try posting them one by one. I’m flabbergasted that I have to do this at all given that FanGraphs being incredibly high on the Red Sox was so widely discussed this time a year ago, but maybe you’re new to the site. In any case: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/now-the-red-sox-look-like-the-best-in-the-league/

jdbolick
Member
Member
jdbolick
Member
Member
4 months 15 days ago
jdbolick
Member
Member
Damaso
Member
Damaso
4 months 15 days ago

are you new here?

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 15 days ago

You understand a projection system doesn’t know what uniform the players wear, right? Do you think Steamer is an employee of Fangraphs? It’s a projection system created by Jared Cross years ago that is Fangraphs has decided to offer. Half the commenters here have no idea what is going on.

jdbolick
Member
Member
4 months 15 days ago

Including you, obviously, because I was not suggesting that FanGraphs writers are secretly Red Sox fans. I am suggesting that FanGraphs writers and Steamer are both biased towards the type of approach employed a year ago by Ben Cherington. Amidst the blizzard of columns heaping glowing praise on the Red Sox a year ago, FanGraphs commenters told the writers that they were overrating the value of #3/#4 starters, especially relative to #1/#2 starters. The commenters were correct. FanGraphs commenters also told the writers that they were underrating the value of the bullpen and downplaying Boston’s question marks there. The commenters were correct. FanGraphs commenters additionally told the writers that they were underestimating the potential downside of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. The commenters were correct.

A few years ago I wrote a column that ended up being spectacularly wrong. My response to that was to acknowledge being wrong in a subsequent column and analyze why that occurred. I was hoping for a similar approach from FanGraphs.

Damaso
Member
Damaso
4 months 15 days ago

“am suggesting that FanGraphs writers and Steamer are both biased towards the type of approach employed a year ago by Ben Cherington”

precisely.

I’d add in that the love in for the red sox prospects system has been an additional factor in the overly rosy outlook for the team.

Famous Mortimer
Member
Member
4 months 15 days ago

Firstly, it’s absolutely ludicrous that your post was downvoted above. And I would also love to see the Fangraphs staff admit they were wrong, and try and figure out why they were wrong.

At this point, projections seem little better than clickbait (way too many enormous gaps for them to be useful) so perhaps they ought to look at why they use them to the detriment of useful and interesting sport journalism.

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 14 days ago

So a projection system that got three very specific (cherry picked) things wrong in a single season should be not just investigated for, but immediately convicted of systemic bias?

In your wild conspiracy theory, is the Red Sox front office using Steamer, or did Jared Cross create Steamer based on their analytical preferences?

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 14 days ago

Where is your “spectacularly wrong” article, by the way?

jdbolick
Member
Member
4 months 14 days ago

Famous Mortimer:
Most people who click on FanGraphs are not much different from the people who traffic BleacherReport. They feel compelled to angrily defend the site and its writers even if they can’t come up with legitimate reasons to do so, hence the downvotes.

evo34:
It’s been an ongoing problem discussed for years here, so you’re either new or else you haven’t been paying attention. The Red Sox whiff was simply the most recent and most egregious example. As for the rest, pretending that I didn’t post those links is rather silly, don’t you think? What do you imagine is going to come from angrily defending FanGraphs in their comments section? Do you think Dave or Jeff are going to notice your devoted service and thank you for it? Your rebuttals are not thoughtful, they are purely emotional, so you’re not contributing to any discussion of the sport or its evaluation. Ask yourself what your purpose is.

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 13 days ago

JDbolick:
Unsolicited, you mentioned that you once authored a “spectacular failure” on this site. I simply asked you for a link to that article (still waiting, btw). That makes me and angry defender of Fangraphs?

Whatever emotional issues you bring to this site are your own. Please don’t project them to others. Rational behavior is understanding that projection systems are mechanical and not biased toward a certain team or GM. Emotional behavior is cherry picking one outcome in one year and concluding that the team you hate (grrr) is being over-valued every year by everyone who even mentions said projection system.

You still have not answered whether Steamer was created to over-value Red Sox players, or rather the Red Sox were built using Steamer player valuations. Both are fascinating theories. Would love to hear a detailed defense of either one.

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 13 days ago

If Steamer is so, so horrible and biased:

1) Why does it win almost every projection system accuracy contest?

2) Why don’t you create your own projection system that properly adjusts for the “Cherington-bias” which Cross has so obviously injected into the Steamer algorithm?

alang3131982
Member
Member
4 months 15 days ago

It’s not taht hard to ascertain what happened to the Red Sox.

Hanley became simultaneously one of the worst defenders ever and a poor hitter (people would assume he’d be bad, but that bad is hard to fathom).

Pablo Sandoval had a horrendous year. His production does tend to fluctuate, so counting on him to be a plus player, might have been a tad faulty. But not crazy.

And Mike Napoli completely cratered. That’s three offensive players that absolutely sucked.

And their starting pitching was quite poor and not overly healthy.

Why is it so hard for people to grasp that some crazy, somewhat surprising, things happened with last year’s Sox team?

Moreover, what more do you want about the Sox and the Steamer projections. Dave just outlined why he thinks the Sox are an averish team…maybe slightly above average. They do have David Price now, they have some nice young players, they have an even better bullpen. They should be able to address the horrid defense — it’s not shocking to assume teh Sox will improve.

Lastly, their pythag record was 81-81 last year. Add Price, bullpen pieces, a non disastrous Hanley/Pablo and you get 6 wins.

Jeez people

dl80
Member
dl80
4 months 15 days ago

Like many others, I don’t expect “non disastrous seasons” from either Sandoval or Ramirez, and certainly not both.

They are out of shape aging players who neither work hard off the field or play hard on it. Hoping for good luck isn’t enough.

Damaso
Member
Damaso
4 months 15 days ago

the notion that everything went wrong for the sox last year is just not true, just like it wasn’t true the year before.

Willysteam1
Member
Willysteam1
4 months 15 days ago

That makes 87 wins, how do you get to the 92 that is mentioned at the beginning of the article? I find it highly unlikely the 2016 team gets 92 wins.

Paul22
Member
Paul22
4 months 15 days ago

These projections come with a standard error of+/- 6 wins, and one could argue teams with a greater than average degree of uncertainty have an even higher potential error.

Its basically a 3 team race in the AL East, maybe even a 4 team race if the Orioles sign Gallardo and Upton or Davis.

Red Sox will live or die by Hanley and Pablo. This is potentially the worst corner IF in MLB history, or a pretty good one. I would also be concerned about Papi in retirement mode and his farewell tour. Could be a huge fall off. When he isnt playing for a contract or incentives, he just isn’t the same player.

Not having Victorino and Napoli will be a big boost for the Red Sox offense, and a healthy Pedroia if thats possible. Farrell did a pretty poor job before he got ill with player management. Team really didn’t turn it around till he was gone. That’s probably a coincidence, coinciding with moving Napoli and Victorino out, adding Erod and improvement from starters like Porcello, Miley and Kelly, but if they get off to a slow start look for him to get a quick hook.

redsoxu571
Member
redsoxu571
4 months 15 days ago

Boston won’t live or die by Ramirez and Sandoval. Those two will determine whether the team is just competitive or right near/at the top of the AL. If they struggle at least part of the time, the team will be uneven and so be streaky. If they return a large way to their former selves, the team will lack much in the way of holes, and depth leads to short losing streaks and strong win totals.

And saying that Sandoval+Ramirez could be the worst corner IF duo in MLB history is pretty ignorant of MLB history.

Please present evidence that Ortiz isn’t the same player when “not playing for a contract or incentives”. Anecdotally, that’s garbage, as Ortiz has typically left money on the table when he could have easily squeezed for more, and outside of a short string of seasons in the late 2000s when he was dealing with injury he had long been very STEADY. Decline could easily occur, but there’s no reason to project that to happen due to motivation or distraction.

BB25
Member
BB25
4 months 15 days ago

It’s not ignorant to say that Sandoval+Ramirez could be the worst corner IF combo in MLB history. They put up an atrocious combined -3.8 WAR last year. Most people who play that poorly get benched, but with long track records and big FA contracts, they will get more of a chance to continue playing at a sub-replacement level than some quad-A type player. I think it’s unlikely they’ll get a combined 900+ PA if they keep playing like that, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities.

0bsessions
Member
0bsessions
4 months 15 days ago

“I would also be concerned about Papi in retirement mode and his farewell tour. Could be a huge fall off. When he isnt playing for a contract or incentives, he just isn’t the same player.”

This is a completely unfounded statement. He could fall off, but it’ll be based on age if anything.

Ortiz’s last major extension (Four years with a player option) was signed in April of 2006; the two year stretch following that extension were easily the best of his career (With OPS+ of 161 and 171 over 2006 and 2007 respectively).

Hell, by my reckoning, he’s only actually even made it to free agency twicwe in the last decade, signing an extension early in the season every year, so he’s honestly only played for a contract twice and he only played 90 games in one of those seasons.

Joey Butts
Member
Joey Butts
4 months 15 days ago

This is probably a Fangraphs faux pas, but that high-80s projection you came up with feels right.

redsoxu571
Member
redsoxu571
4 months 15 days ago

The important thing to keep in mind is that the above discussion understandably went looking for the downsides in the projections, but even if some of those downsides come to pass there are significant UPSIDES that were not discussed.

For example, Mr. Cameron noted that most of Boston’s offensive core has been projected to take a solid step back. While that’s quite reasonable for the older/more injury uncertain players such as Ortiz and Pedroia, that’s not only NOT to be expected from some of the younger players, but it also actually quite unreasonable.

Betts- .234/.293/.366 through June 11th, .329/.372/.552 for the ROS
Swihart- .216/.263/.288 through June 17th, .311/.354/.458 for the ROS
Bogaerts- .263/.312/.369 through May 30th, .340/.370/.439 for the ROS
Castillo- .230/.260/.284 through June 21st, .261/.299/.387 for the ROS
Bradley- .133/.229/.233 through July 2nd, .267/.352/.539 for the ROS

See a pattern here? Boston is expected to start these five young players next season, and last year (at ages 22, 23, 22, 27, and 25) they ALL universally were garbage through some point in the middle of the season. Not surprisingly, the three super-young former top prospects all improved rapidly, the solid Cuban talent who was still shaking off rust from a year off from baseball got better, and the low-experience decent talent in Bradley became world’s different after making a MAJOR mechanical timing change to his swing. All unsurprising in the baseball world.

And how did this affect the team? 27-38 on June 15th, and 51-46 for the ROS, including 32-22 over the final two months.

Now, if you look at those ROS lines for each player, you can’t reasonably expect them all to replicate the efforts. There is likely some “hot streak” tied into those portions. But ONE OR TWO likely will, meaning a MAJOR improvement over a full season, and for the rest, keep in mind that the cited 2015 production values for these five included the good AND the bad, so pull down the best of the ROS and prop up the worst of the first portions and there is little reason to project ANY of these players to take an offensive step back next year, except for Bradley (as he might lose his mechanical adjustment as easily as he found it, for all we know).

So go ahead and see a slight step back for Bogaerts and a bigger one for Bradley, but when Betts actually takes a step forward and Swihart and Castillo approach (or even exceed) net 0 OFF players, you’ll see why there is a safety net even if things don’t rebound for Ramirez and Sandoval.

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 15 days ago

My fingers hurt just thinking of the excessive effort that went into your comment. Unfortunately, you’re committing one of the most basic errors of data mining: endpoint optimization. Show me a shred of evidence that performance after a cherry-picked day of the season is more predictive than a full season of data for young hitters, and then we’ll have something to talk about.

P.S. If you genuinely think there is “little reason to project ANY of these players to take an offensive step back,” do a quick study of how young players with mediocre speed fare after posting a .370+ BABIP.

John DiFool2
Member
John DiFool2
4 months 15 days ago

I think the simple and effective point being made by redsoxu571 is that all (well, except Castillo) of these players are young, and some at least are likely to develop. Projection systems are conservative by nature.

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 14 days ago

There’s a reason they’re conservative.

gavzac
Member
gavzac
4 months 15 days ago

Xander’s .370 BABIP comes up a lot when trying to project him for next season. As well it should, it is unsustainably high compared to the average hitter’s. But if you actually watched him him, it was glaringly obvious that he had deliberately changed his approach to hitting to capitalize on outside pitchers that he could put into the outfield grass. It was some of the most Jeterian hitting I’ve seen in a while. Jeter also always had a high babip (.350 for his career).

Now I’m not saying that he’s going to be .350 career babip guy, but Xander’s 2015 batted ball profile shows me two things – one, he has very good control over his approach at the plate, so he could continue to be a high babip, low power guy, or he could harness his ability to make big adjustments and produce more power, more doubles, go the other when the infield leaves a hole, etc.

gavzac
Member
gavzac
4 months 15 days ago

Well I sort of mashed my two things from the second paragraph into one- he could simple be a high babip singles guy if he wanted to, and that he has the ability to consciously change his approach drastically and produce in other ways if he felt like it.

Damaso
Member
Damaso
4 months 15 days ago

1. Bradley (26) and Castillo (28) aren’t young.
2. Bogaerts (.370) and Swihart’s (.361) babips were likely unsustainable.

JackS
Member
JackS
4 months 15 days ago

I doubt you’re ever going to see this comment; but I just want to say thank you, Dave “Mr. Fangraphs” Cameron, for all of the work you do.

I genuinely appreciate it.

Thanks again, man!

bobo
Member
bobo
4 months 15 days ago

#6Org all over again…

Willysteam1
Member
Willysteam1
4 months 15 days ago

Anyone or any site that believes, thinks the Red Sox will win 92 games is tripping….there is no way in hell that will happen, sorry. Id love for that to be the case but the math just doesnt add up, I see them more as a 3rd, maybe 2nd place team with wins in the 80’s, likely mid 80’s.

Eric M. Van
Member
4 months 14 days ago

Steamer doesn’t know that an inept coaching staff had Rick Porcello alter his pitch mix disastrously, and thinks that his 4.71 FIP / 4.11 xFIP in his first 20 starts, versus 2.96 xFIP and FIP in his last 8 after he reverted to his old approach (reportedly at the direction of Brian Bannister) was entirely random. He’s very likely to beat his projection, and perhaps comfortably.

Nor does Steamer know that Eduardo Rodriguez added a very good 2-seamer to his three-pitch mix in August, and then added a very good cutter in his last start (while not throwing the sinker). I’m not sure why Steamer thinks he’ll regress slightly at his age, but beating his 1.6 projected WAR is one of the safest bets you can make this offseason.

I think that’s two wins of underprojection (or more, since ERod has #2 breakout potential), which will also help make up for the obviiously too rosy Ramirez 1B defensive projection.

Steamer also has Roenis Elias as the 5th starter, and he’s in fact in a 3-way scrum for the 7th spot on the depth chart (with Owens and Johnson), with a relief conversion likely if he can get past his first-inning and RISP difficulties.

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