Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2016 Bill James Projections: Clay Buchholz

2011 projection: 13-9, 29 starts, 193 IP, 3.54 ERA, 74 BB, 168 SO
2011: 6-3, 14 starts, 82.2 IP, 3.48 ERA, 31 BB, 60 SO
2012 projection: 13-8, 30 starts, 191 IP, 3.53 ERA, 73 BB, 162 SO
2012: 11-8, 29 starts, 189.1 IP, 4.56 ERA, 64 BB, 129 SO
2013 projection: 12-11, 30 starts, 205 IP, 3.56 ERA,  72 BB, 163 SO
2013: 12-1, 16 starts, 108.1 IP, 1.74 ERA, 36 BB, 96 SO
2014 projection: 12-9, 29 starts, 190 IP, 3.46 ERA, 64 BB, 153 SO
2014: 8-11, 28 starts, 170.1 IP, 5.34 ERA, 54 BB, 132 SO
2015 projection: 12-10, 29 starts, 196 IP, 3.58 ERA, 62 BB, 156 SO
2015: 7-7, 18 starts, 113.1 IP, 3.26 ERA, 23 BB, 107 SO
2016 projection: 10-9, 28 starts, 171 IP, 3.47 ERA, 44 BB, 136 SO

I don't know about you guys, but I've long since given up the idea that clay Buchholz will ever be the kind of pitcher who can give the Red Sox 200 innings - and it seems that Bill James and his team have decided to give up the idea that he'll even come that close.

And you know what? That's okay. One of the many, many reasons the Red Sox needed to sign themselves an ace was to take the pressure to perform at that level off of Buchholz's shoulders. Buchholz's best season in recent years was in 2013, when he was the number 4 pitcher entering the World Series (following Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jake Peavy). Even at the season's outset, when expectations were low, the undisputed "ace" was always Lester.

Buchholz has never seemed like a guy who handles pressure well. That, plus an inability to stay stay healthy (probably linked to an inability to keep any bulk on his thin frame) means that while he still shows flashes of brilliance, the addition of David Price to the rotation can only help Buchholz's overall performance.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

2015 Bill James Projections: Xander Bogaerts

2013: 18 games, .250 BA, .320 OBP, .364 SLG, 1 HR, 5 RBI
2014 projection: 156 games, .283 BA, .357 OBP, .450 SLG, 19 HR, 84 RBI
2014: 144 games, .240 BA, .297 OBP, .362 SLG, 12 HR, 46 RBI
2015 projection: 156 games, .264 BA, .328 OBP, .407 SLG, 16 HR, 66 RBI
2015: 156 games, .320 BA, .355 OBP, .421 SLG, 7 HR, 81 RBI
2016 projection: 152 games, .298 BA, .348 OBP, .425 SLG, 12 HR, 76 RBI

Without Xander Bogaerts and his similarly young and talented teammates (Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., etc.), the entirety of 2015 would have been spent wallowing in despair over the absolute joke of a pitching staff and the injury bug that seemed to keep every veteran player off the field for extended periods of time.

Bogaerts really came into his own in 2015 - and with a monopoly on the shortstop position, he performed at the plate. It seems that some predictability on the defensive side of things helped his consistency on offense. Bogaerts won his first ever Silver Slugger award in 2015, after a season that saw him top several offensive categories among AL shortstops.

Bill James and his team project another good year at the plate for Bogaerts in 2016, with perhaps just a smidge more power. As always, the single best thing about Xander Bogaerts is his age: he won't be a free agent until 2020 - but don't get too attached, as he's represented by Scott Boras.

For the foreseeable future, though, Bogaerts will don a Red Sox uniform, and I for one plan to enjoy each and every minute.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

2016 Bill James Projections: Dustin Pedroia

2011 projection: 158 games, .297 BA, .372 OBP, .462 SLG, 17 HR, 77 RBI 
2011: 159 games, .307 BA, .387 OBP, .474 SLG, 21 HR, 91 RBI 
2012 projection: 143 games, .299 BA, .378 OBP, .469 SLG, 17 HR, 73 RBI
2012: 141 games, .290 BA, .347 OBP, .449 SLG, 15 HR, 65 RBI 
2013 projection: 156 games, .296 BA, .367 OBP, .459 SLG, 17 HR, 76 RBI 
2013: 160 games, .301 BA, .372 OBP, .415 SLG, 9 HR, 84 RBI
2014 projection: 157 games, .298 BA, .371 OBP, .443 SLG, 14 HR, 77 RBI
2014: 135 games, .278 BA, .337 OBP, .376 SLG, 7 HR, 53 RBI
2015 projection: 151 games, .290 BA, .361 OBP, .421 SLG, 12 HR, 70 RBI
2015: 93 games, .291 BA, .356 OBP, .441 SLG, 12 HR, 42 RBI
2016 projection: 136 games, .288 BA, .359 OBP, .427 SLG, 13 HR, 64 RBI

The 2015 season saw Dustin Pedroia take the field fewer times than any year since he broke his foot in 2010. Pedroia looked promising out of the gate, clubbing two home runs on Opening Day in Philadelphia, but would soon be sidelined with a hamstring strain, speanding the rest of the season bouncing on and off the disabled list.

Pedroia's all-in, every play, every day approach is endearing, but dangerous. He puts his body on the line in every situation - even when it might not be totally necessary, and as he gets older, that kind of dedication will only result in more pains, strains, and pulls. 

But the good news is that Pedroia often turns in an excellent season the year after an injury - possibly because his body has a little extra time to recover from the abuse he puts it through. Bill James and his team project Pedroia to stay on the field a bit more in 2016, and there's no question that Pedroia will be giving it his all each and every day.

Monday, December 14, 2015

2016 Bill James Projections: Mookie Betts

2014: 52 games, .291 BA, .368 OBP, .444 SLG, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 7 SB
2015 projection: 154 games, .321 BA, .405 OBP, .493 SLG, 15 HR, 76 RBI, 40 SB
2015: 145 games, .291 BA, .341 OBP, .479 SLG, 18 HR, 77 RBI, 21 SB
2016 projection: 150 games, .309 BA, .375 OBP, .504 SLG, 20 HR, 85 RBI, 28 SB

Though Mookie Betts came in on the low side of most of Bill James' 2015 projections, I don't think many Red Sox fans could find much fault in his first full season in the big leagues. Betts blossomed into a great center fielder who holds his own at the plate, and he won't hit twenty-four until next October.

One of the things that might be overlooked in Betts is his plate discipline. The 2016 Bill James Handbook rates him as Very Patient at the plate, even singling him out in the following tidbit: "In 650 plate appearances, [Kris] Bryant whiffed* 448 times, or 303 more than Mookie Betts in four fewer plate appearances."

That's right, Betts swung and missed just 145 times in 654 plate appearances, striking out 82 times (Bryant struck out 199 times in 2015). Not a bad season when you can be very favorably compared to the Rookie of the Year.

But aside from his prowess at the plate, Betts has seamlessly transitioned from a second baseman into a center fielder. While it's easy to recall one of the several spectacular grabs Betts made in the outfield this season, he put in the work day in and day out, and was in the top 10 in runs saves for center fielders in 2015 with nine.

In a season where a lot of things went wrong, Betts and other young Red Sox players provided the bright spots. I can't wait to see what kind of a show he puts on in 2016.

*"Whiffed" in this context means swinging and missing, not striking out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The NFL Doesn't Care About Women

Let's be clear on one thing right off the bat: the NFL doesn't hate women.

No, the NFL can't hate women, because to hate someone or something, you have to give that person or thing a measure of attention and importance, and it's obvious by now that the powers that be at the National Football League have never in their lives spared a passing thought for women.

Oh sure, long enough to dye some merchandise pink - but that's not about women, really, it's about women's money.

Then again, why should we be surprised? The NFL doesn't care about the health and safety of its own players until its bottom line is threatened, so why should it care about the women those players spend their time with?

The NFL decided that "probably knowing" that someone was deflating footballs was worth twice as many games suspended and $941,177 more in fines than beating a woman. Sure, Ray Rice ended up missing more games, but not until a horrific video surfaced and the NFL was facing public anger.

But we never stay very angry for long, do we? Ben Roethlisberger, serial rapist, takes the field every Sunday for Pittsburgh. Oh, and by the way, the suspension he served? Four games.

Darryl Washington smoked marijuana - a victimless crime, and completely legal now in multiple states - and he was suspended sixteen games. So, according to the NFL's metric, using a drug that can hardly be considered performance enhancing is eight times worse than beating a woman, and four times worse than sexually assaulting multiple women.

Terrelle Pryor was suspended five games for accepting gifts while in college. So accepting free stuff [when the NCAA is phenomenally broken] is two-and-a-half times as bad as beating a woman, and 25% worse than sexually assaulting multiple women.

[In case you think the Ray Rice penalty was some sort of exception, Sam Brandon, Leroy Hill, Brandon Underwood, and Cary Williams  were all suspended just two games for beating women.]

"But what they do off the field doesn't interfere with the integrity of the game the way deflating footballs does," you might protest, if you're an asshole who thinks having rapists and woman-beaters on the field doesn't affect the integrity of the game.

If you genuinely see no problem with the punishments laid out by the NFL in response to various infractions, I want you to look every woman you know in the face and tell them that you are more concerned with deflating footballs and smoking marijuana than you would be by their abuser being on the field.

Even if there was video proof that Tom Brady let air out of those footballs personally, while smoking a blunt and giggling to himself, his transgressions would not be worse than those of Rice, Roethlisberger, Brandon, Hill, Underwood, and Williams.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that cheating on the field is acceptable, or even that Brady shouldn't be punished - the point of all this is that the NFL's own metric for punishment values the lives and safety of women less than it does a few hisses of air from game balls.

The NFL doesn't care about women. The NFL has never, ever cared about women - even when they try to pay lip service to the idea, it rings hollow.

The NFL doesn't care about women, so I'm done with the NFL. I'm not buying any more merchandise, or watching anymore games until they make this right.

Given their track record, I think it's safe to assume I'll be strictly a baseball fan from here on out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Importance of Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson with Martin Luther King
Today is Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball, and while Jackie Robinson's importance to Major League Baseball is recognized and understood, his importance to the American Civil Rights movement as a whole is largely overlooked.

Robinson was a lifetime Civil Rights advocate. Though he promised Dodgers GM Branch Rickey that he would "have the guts not to fight back" against the racist taunts and threats from white fans, players, and coaches, he spent his entire life fighting against racism. 

During his playing days, he proved racist expectations wrong again and again, performing at the highest level of the sport under 24/7 emotional siege. Robinson and his family were constantly targeted for harassment - somehow he not only survived that kind of stress, he led the league in multiple statistical categories.

Robinson's excellence in the previously all-white major leagues was a powerful symbol to Americans years before Brown vs. Board of Education began the slow process of school desegregation. His perseverance in the face of unspeakable bigotry served as an inspiration for thousands of people.

After retiring from baseball, Robinson wrote letters to several US presidents, urging them to take action against racism. He corresponded with Martin Luther King, and attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Robinson and his family at the March on Washington
Robinson was only 53 years old when he passed away in 1972. Just before his death, he attended the World Series, where he once again advocated for the breaking of barriers, urging MLB to employ more black people in coaching and management positions: "I'd like to live to see a black manager, I'd like to live to see the day when there's a black man coaching at third base." 

Sadly, Robinson didn't live to see that particular dream realized. He died much too young, and there's a lot of speculation that the extreme stress of his life contributed to his short lifespan

As I've done many times before in this space, I'm going to highly recommend Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy

As Red Sox fans, we have a responsibility to understand the kind of racism perpetuated by our team less than 70 years ago. The Red Sox were the very last team to integrate, twelve years after Robinson made his debut for the Dodgers. Boston had a reputation for being wholly unwelcoming to nonwhite players well into the 1990s. For more on this topic, I recommend It Was Never About the Babe: The Red Sox, Racism, Mismanagement, and the Curse of the Bambino, and Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

 They say hope springs eternal, and nowhere is that phrase more embraced than in baseball. When the calendar rolls to April, all thirty MLB teams start anew with a clean slate. Some, this year the Giants, hoist a Championship flag to celebrate last season's achievements, while the rest will heave a sigh of relief that 2014 is officially in the baseball history books.

But whether you cheer for the defending champs or one of the twenty-nine clubs that came up short, Opening Day is a magical time. It marks the beginning of spring, a slate of (mostly) day games to remind us that those warm summer nights will come again, and that the best things in life come without a clock (pace of play initiatives notwithstanding).

Anything is possible on Opening Day: veterans will return to their stomping grounds, or make debuts for new teams and in new leagues; rookies will set foot on the lush grass of big league fields for the first time. Home runs will jump off of bats with the most satisfying crack you've ever heard, and catcher's gloves will pop with the sound of strikeouts.

Little kids will eat hot dogs and sing about cracker jacks, while their parents buy overpriced beer and whatever weird food their home ballpark is debuting this season.

I've never been to an Opening Day persay, but I did go to Opening Night in 2010, when Pedro Martinez emerged from the Green Monster to throw out the first pitch. Then in 2013, I attended the Red Sox Home Opener. Both were amazing, particularly since the Red Sox won both games, but there's just something indescribable about the atmosphere when the offseason finally comes to an end.

Today is that singular day for everyone outside of Cubs and Cardinals fans - they got their special time on national television last night. After today's slate of fourteen games, we'll be back to business as usual. But for today, all is right with the world: baseball is back again.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

2015 Bill James Projections - Dustin Pedroia

 2011 projection: 158 games, .297 BA, .372 OBP, .462 SLG, 17 HR, 77 RBI
2011: 159 games, .307 BA, .387 OBP, .474 SLG, 21 HR, 91 RBI
2012 projection: 143 games, .299 BA, .378 OBP, .469 SLG, 17 HR, 73 RBI
2012: 141 games, .290 BA, .347 OBP, .449 SLG, 15 HR, 65 RBI
2013 projection: 156 games, .296 BA, .367 OBP, .459 SLG, 17 HR, 76 RBI
2013: 160 games, .301 BA, .372 OBP, .415 SLG, 9 HR, 84 RBI
2014 projection: 157 games, .298 BA, .371 OBP, .443 SLG, 14 HR, 77 RBI
2014: 135 games, .278 BA, .337 OBP, .376 SLG, 7 HR, 53 RBI
2015 projection: 151 games, .290 BA, .361 OBP, .421 SLG, 12 HR, 70 RBI

As a matter of principal, I'm going to go on record as saying that Bill James and his team have underestimated Dustin Pedroia's numbers for 2015. Why? Because people have been underestimating Dustin Pedroia his entire career, and he proves the doubters wrong every time.

Aside from that, Pedroia came into camp this year having had a productive offseason with no limits - the first such offseason in a number of years. As much as I love Pedroia (and I love him a lot), he can be his own worst enemy, thowing himself around the field with no regard to his own safety.

It's amazing to have a man on the field who puts the Red Sox winning over his own body and wellbeing - but Pedroia has a tendency to hurt himself sometimes in situations that didn't require such a balls-to-the-wall approach.

Red Sox fans know that Pedroia won't (can't!) tone things down situationally: his 110% all the time style of play is as much a part of him as trash talking and premature balding. It's a trade that anyone would make to have the tenacity and talent Pedroia possess suiting up for their team every day.

Former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona was known to say "If I had nine Dustins we'd win every game." Despite the inherent risks of a Pedroia-type player, I agree wholeheartedly with Tito, and I expect big things from my favorite Red Sox this season.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2015 Bill James Projections: Christian Vazquez

2014: 55 games, .240 BA, .308 OBP, .309 SLG, 1 HR, 20 RBI
2015 projection: 110 games, .256 BA, .326 OBP, .343 SLG, 3 HR, 35 RBI

Though Red Sox catchers talk this season has been focused on the possibility that prospect Blake Swihart might get packaged to Philadelphia for Cole Hamels, the Sox have quite a catcher already in Christian Vazquez.

Though Swihart is widely regarded as the best catching prospect in baseball, Vazquez has some serious supporters of his own. Joe Kelly calls Vazquez "Mini-Yadi," a nod to Yadier Molina of the famously talented Molina catching brothers.

The comparison makes some sense, even if it's quite a lot to live up to, as Vazquez spends part of each offseason working out with the Molinas in their native Puerto Rico. For his part, Yadier Molina has confidence in Vazquez's abilities, both behind the plate and with the bat, proclaiming, "He's going to hit."

In 55 games with the Red Sox last season, Vazquez hit a light .240, but his teammates are rooting for him, and he did show improvement near the end of the year. Bill James and his team project only minor improvement for Vazquez this year, but catcher isn't typically a position that's expected to should a huge offensive responsibility.

If Vazquez can hold steady or even improve behind the dish with Kelly singing his praises to the pitching staff, the bridge to Swihart appears to be very solid.

Friday, February 13, 2015

2015 Bill James Projections: Mookie Betts

2014: 52 games, .291 BA, .368 OBP, .444 SLG, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 7 SB
2015 projection: 154 games, .321 BA, .405 OBP, .493 SLG, 15 HR, 76 RBI, 40 SB

Despite the very crowded Red Sox outfield heading into spring training, Bill James and his team expect Mookie Betts to burst onto the Red Sox scene and never look back. Betts made his major league debut in June of last year, and bounced between Pawtucket and Boston a few times before finishing the season with the Red Sox.

When Betts was in the lower levels of the Red Sox minor league system, he primarily played second base, though he'd also excelled at shortstop and outfield in high school. Though he was blocked at second by Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox valued his athleticism and prowess with a bat enough to retrain him as an outfielder rather than shipping him off in a trade.

Betts no longer counts as a Red Sox prospect, or he'd be near the top of all the ratings lists floating around the internet this month. If he even approximates the numbers James has laid out, the Red Sox will be thrilled: at only 21, Betts won't be eligible for arbitration until 2018, and he's under team control through 2021.

Betts' success would probably mean one of the older and more expensive outfielders on the Sox roster being shown the door, but the Red Sox have handled their farm system well, and Betts is just one of a number of young players looking to make a name for themselves this coming season.

Given the fact that he barely flinched at the adjustment to facing major league pitching last autumn, Betts seems like the kind of player to establish his star-power early - and woe to anyone who might stand in his way.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

2015 Bill James Projections: Shane Victorino

2011: 132 games, .279 BA, .355 OBP, .491 SLG, 17 HR, 61 RBI
2012 projection: 149 games, .277 BA, .344 OBP, .441 SLG, 17 HR, 64 RBI
2012: 154 games, .255 BA, .321 OBP, .383 SLG, 11 HR, 55 RBI
2013 projection: 155 games. .269 BA, .338 OBP, .418 SLG, 14 HR, 59 RBI
2013: 122 games, .294 BA, .351 OBP, .451 SLG, 15 HR, 61 RBI
2014 projection: 148 games, .270 BA, .336 OBP, .415 SLG, 14 HR, 58 RBI
2014: 30 games, .268 BA, .303 OBP, .382 SLG, 2 HR, 12 RBI
2015 projection: 129 games, .265 BA, .326 OBP, .410 SLG, 12 HR, 50 RBI

Shane Victorino's 2013 was derailed early on with hamstring and back problems, and then he underwent season-ending back surgery in August. In 2013, he was an integral part of the World Series run, but with just one year left on his deal and a crowded outfield situation, we may be saying goodbye to the Flyin' Hawaiian sooner rather than later.

I like Victorino a lot, and I hope he sticks around at least through the end of his deal, but this might be one of those situations where the Red Sox showcase him a lot during spring training and early on in the season before dealing him to a team in need to open up some space in the outfield.

Bill James and his team project a return to form for Victorino in 2015, but it's hard to guess what any player will do after such an extended time away from baseball activities. The Red Sox owe Victorino $13 million in 2015, so they'll be looking for a trade partner that might be willing to take on a significant portion of that money.

If Victorino does get to stay around, that salary is likely to be a factor in determining playing time - you don't pay a guy that much to ride the bench four days a week. Victorino is a great clubhouse guy, and he's seriously embraced playing in Boston, so his presence might help some of the young players and transplants adjust.

Wherever Victorino ends the 2015 season, he's sure to be a solid contributor. But here's hoping he ends his Red Sox tenure the way he started it: celebrating a World Series victory on the field at Fenway Park.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2015 Bill James Projections: Joe Kelly

2012: 5-7, 16 starts, 107 IP, 3.53 ERA, 36 BB, 75 SO
2013 projection: 4-4, 0 starts, 67 IP, 4.16 ERA, 23 BB, 48 SO
2013: 10-5, 15 starts, 124 IP, 2.69 ERA, 44 BB, 79 SO
2014 projection: 6-7, 14 starts, 118 IP, 4.12 ERA, 41 BB, 81 SO
2014: 6-4, 17 starts, 96.1 IP, 4.20 ERA, 42 BB, 66 SO
2015 projection: 8-11, 28 starts, 172 IP, 4.19 ERA,70 BB, 117 SO

Joe Kelly came to the Red Sox from the Cardinals at last year's trade deadline as part of the John Lackey trade. Until then, Red Sox fans might have remembered him as the guy who started World Series Game 3 in 2013.

The Cardinals won that contest, though Kelly's 5.1 IP, 2 earned runs performance wasn't enough for him to get the W. In the end, of course, the Red Sox won that World Series, and Joe Kelly probably left Fenway Park feeling incredibly disappointed, not knowing he'd be traded for the Game 6 (and World Series) clinching pitcher just nine months later.

Kelly had a bit of a rough time last season, and Bill James and his team project him to have an almost identical ERA in 2015, albeit with a significant jump in innings pitched. You might have heard that Kelly has other ideas about his 2015 potential: the 26-year-old has predicted he'll be the American League Cy Young winner this year.

While I'm not ready to jump on the end of season award winner bandwagon yet, there are some compelling reasons to believe Kelly could have a breakout year in 2015. For starters, his 2014 was marred by an early hamstring injury, and then he had to get used to the AL after being traded.

Now healthy and with a few months of facing AL lineups under his belt, Kelly will be able to start the season in his comfort zone. It's also worth noting that now that he's made such a bold prediction, he'll have a serious incentive to reach it; pitchers are notoriously ego-driven, and Kelly has set himself a laudable goal.

But perhaps the greatest thing about Joe Kelly's still-new Red Sox tenure is his age: just 26, he's eligible for arbitration after this season, but under team control until he can first file for free agency in 2019. Even if his first full season in Boston turns out to be disappointing, he has plenty of time for improvement.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2015 Bill James Projection: Rick Porcello

2010: 10-12, 27 starts, 162.2 IP, 4.92 ERA, 38 BB, 84 SO
2011 projection: 10-11, 29 starts, 188 IP, 4.21 ERA, 52 BB, 102 SO
2011: 14-9, 31 starts, 182 IP, 4.75 ERA, 46 BB, 104 SO
2012 projection: 10-11, 31 starts, 190 IP, 4.22 ERA, 49 BB, 105 SO
2012: 10-12, 31 starts, 176.1 IP, 4.59 ERA, 44 BB, 107 SO
2013 projection: 9-11, 31 starts, 178 IP, 4.50 ERA, 45 BB, 102 SO
2013: 13-8, 29 starts, 177 IP, 4.32 ERA, 42 BB, 142 SO
2014 projection: 9-11, 30 starts, 186 IP, 4.31 ERA, 45 BB, 117 SO
2014: 15-13, 31 starts, 204.2 IP, 3.43 ERA, 41 BB, 129 SO
2015 projection: 11-13, 32 starts, 209 IP, 4.00 ERA, 45 BB, 132 SO

It's curious to me that Bill James and his team project Rick Porcello's ERA will go up significantly next season, considering he's consistently improved in that area every season since 2010.

Porcello is a member of the much-debated and sometimes-maligned 2015 Red Sox rotation. The group is often referred to as a staff of number 3 starters, but I think that's unfair. Is Rick Porcello a bona fide ace? Absolutely not [yet]. But he could certainly be a solid number two.

Rick Porcello was an important member of the vaunted Detroit Tigers staff for the last few seasons, and while his contributions were sometimes forgotten behind those of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, there were times when Porcello outperformed them both.

All of this, plus the fact that Porcello is just 26 years old, makes him a fantastic addition to the Red Sox. The downside is that he's a year out from free agency, and apparently uninterested in discussing an extension.

But with a potential payday on the horizon, the Red Sox will be getting a young, talented pitcher with an incredibly large incentive for giving the 2015 season everything he has in the tank.

I think James' projections for Porcello are underestimating him. Despite the naysayers and the "We should have signed Shields" whiners, I expect big things from Porcello this season.

Monday, February 9, 2015

2015 Bill James Projections: Justin Masterson

2010: 6-13, 29 starts, 180 IP, 4.70 ERA, 73 BB, 140 SO
2011 projection: 9-10, 26 starts, 175 IP, 4.11 ERA, 73 BB, 147 SO
2011: 12-10, 33 starts, 216 IP, 3.21 ERA, 65 BB, 158 SO
2012 projection: 11-12, 32 starts, 205 IP, 3.82 ERA, 70 BB, 164 SO
2012: 11-15, 34 starts, 206.1 IP, 4.93 ERA, 88 BB, 159 SO
2013 projection: 10-12, 34 starts, 204 IP, 4.01 ERA, 79 BB, 160 SO
2013: 14-10, 29 starts, 193 IP, 3.45 ERA, 76 BB, 195 SO
2014 projection: 10-12, 30 starts, 198 IP, 3.82 ERA, 78 BB, 165 SO
2014: 7-9, 25 starts, 128.2 IP, 5.88 ERA,  69 BB, 116 SO
2015 projection: 9-13, 31 starts, 194 IP, 4.22 ERA, 93 BB, 164 SO

 As much as I liked Victor Martinez, and as happy as I was to see him come to the Red Sox in 2009, I was always a little sour about that deal requiring Justin Masterson's departure.

Masterson was a home grown guy who came to the mound every outing determined to win. He had a funky delivery and a goofy smile on his face, and he seemed like the kind of person everyone wants to be around.

All that said, the deal was a good one for the Red Sox at the time - but it also means that I was totally ecstatic to see Masterson signing a free agent deal with the Sox this offseason.

No, there isn't an obvious ace in the Sox 2015 rotation, and it's unlikely Masterson will evolve into one overnight. But the front office has put together a staff of solid pitchers, and seem content to assume one or more of them will have a good-to-excellent season.

Joe Kelly's self-confidence aside, Justin Masterson would love to be the guy who steps up big for Boston this year. He signed a one-year deal in the hope that he'll perform well and be able to cash in next season.

Obviously, Masterson's numbers haven't been great for the last few years, but he's also struggled with lingering injuries. Already in Fort Myers, Masterson reports he's pain free for the first time in a long while.

If Masterson can only deliver what Bill James and his team projected for him in 2015, the Red Sox will have seemingly wasted $9.5 million. But the contract has an additional $2.5 million in incentives, and Masterson's health is keeping me optimistic.

I think we'll see a big year from Masterson in 2015. At the very least, it'll be nice to see him in a Red Sox uniform once again.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

2015 Bill James Projections: Wade Miley

2011: 4-2, 7 starts, 40 IP, 4.50 ERA, 18 BB, 25 SO
2012 projection: 4-5, 14 starts, 80 IP, 3.94 ERA, 30 BB, 61 SO
2012: 16-11, 29 starts, 194.2 IP, 3.33 ERA, 37 BB, 144 SO
2013 projection: 12-10, 30 starts, 199 IP, 3.57 ERA, 50 BB, 150 SO
2013: 10-10, 33 starts, 202.2 IP, 3.55 ERA, 66 BB, 147 SO
2014 projection: 12-11, 32 starts, 203 IP, 3.68 ERA, 59 BB, 151 SO
2014: 8-12, 33 starts, 201.1 IP, 4.34 ERA, 75 BB, 183 SO
2015 projection: 10-11, 30 starts, 184 IP, 3.91 ERA, 63 BB, 145 SO

The Red Sox traded for Wade Miley shortly before losing Jon Lester to the Cubs, and the trade almost suggested that Boston knew it wouldn't be luring Lester back to Fenway Park.

But let's be perfectly clear: Wade Miley, despite being a big southpaw, is not Jon Lester. Red Sox Nation mourned the loss of Lester, a true left-handed ace - but Ben Cherington made the right long term call, as the years committed by the Cubs are overzealous at best.

So what does Miley bring to the table? He throws his ~90mph fastball about two-thirds of the time, though he leaned on it slightly less last year than in previous years. He also throws a slider, a changeup, and (rarely) a curveball.

The biggest advantage Miley will bring to the Red Sox is the near-guarantee that he'll throw a lot of innings: since making the jump from 40 IP to 194 IP in 2012, Miley has neared or topped the 200 inning mark in each of the last three seasons. The importance of that durability on a staff that includes Clay Buchholz cannot be overstated.

The other thing about Miley is that he'll be just 28 this year. He's been good if not spectacular throughout his career, but he still has plenty of time to grow as a player - and John Farrell has an excellent track record when it comes to molding young arms.

Bill James and his team calculated their projections with the assumption Miley would be pitching in the NL West, so it's likely there will be an adjustment period when he moves to the AL East. Still, Red Sox fans should absolutely be optimistic about Miley's future in Boston. He's a solid pitcher with a high ceiling, and as of today, the only lefty in the Red Sox rotation.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Haters Gonna Hate (Our Duckboats)

Another year, another championship, another parade for the people of Boston - and for those of us who have sadly left the friendly confines of New England, but always keep our hometown teams in our hearts.

The turn of the millennium signaled a shift change for the once-beleaguered fans of the Patriots and Red Sox (and for the less unfortunate Bruins and Celtics fans). Since 2000, New England sports fans have enjoyed an unprecedented run of success, with nine major sports championships in fifteen years.

Boston hasn't gone more than three years without witnessing a duckboat parade in that span. Sure, Boston has a competitive advantage over some cities simply by virtue of having a team each in the NBA, MLB, NHL, and NFL... but New York has two of each, and Chicago has two MLB teams and one of each of the rest, yet Boston still has the edge.

So we're spoiled. And having moved to the New York metro area recently, I've witnessed firsthand that people are jealous.

But can I admit something? The jealousy of other city's fans (and particularly that of New York's fans) is absolutely delicious. I relish in their protestations about Spygate and Deflategate, and there's nothing I enjoy more than laughing in their faces when they spout absurd conspiracy theories about Curt Schilling's apparent affinity for ketchup.

Boston fans were once known for our inferiority complex, though whoever came up with that was obviously more focused on the "cursed" Red Sox and the previously-hapless Patriots than the winningest team in NBA history, the Boston Celtics.

Every championship won by a Boston team is another nail in the coffin of the lovable loser reputation we endured for so long. Sure, there are benefits to being the perennial underdog, but I'll take jealousy and bitterness from other fans over their pity any day of the week.

So congratulations, Patriots! You've enhanced my pride at hailing from New England - even if many of my coworkers and friends could do without the smug smile I've been wearing all week. But as Taylor Swift recently put into song, haters gonna hate, and I'll happily enjoy their chagrin.