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.

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