2009 Offseason: What we really need


I’d like to try a thought experiment. Let’s examine what the Sox lineup, rotation and bullpen looks like for next year, and figure out where we really need help. Can we realistically expect to be as good as last year?

Lineup

Here is what I project our lineup to look like next year, along with some projections. I am going to assume the Red Sox re-sign Jason Varitek.

Ellsbury, CF .298/.346/.419 with 10 HR
Pedroia, 2B .316/.368/.462 with 12 HR
Ortiz, DH .289/.407/.587 with 35 HR
Youkilis, 1B .297/.384/.487 with 18 HR
Bay, LF, .260/.353/.479 with 27 HR
Drew, RF .270/.384/.470 with 15 HR
Lowell, 3B .309/.365/.492 with 19 HR
Lowrie, SS .274/.360/.416 with 4 HR
Varitek, C .242/.333/.397 with 13 HR

That is a high-OBP, fairly balanced lineup from 2-7. Of course, much depends on how fully David Ortiz recovers and Mike Lowell bounces back from hip surgery. Drew and/or Lowell could move up based on their higher OBP than Bay, but I can’t see Francona moving Bay’s 27 HR below 6th in the order.

Plug that into the Baseball Musings Lineup Analysis Tool, and you get an offense capable of scoring 5.779 runs/game, or 936 runs over the course of a season. Last year’s projected lineup gave 5.772 runs/game, or 935 runs for the year. Basically, we’ve swapped out Manny Ramirez for Jason Bay, and nothing’s changed. Our actual run production was 835 runs (because we don’t play the everyday lineup every day), good for 2nd place in the AL. With power down all over the league, I wonder if we’ll need to score much more in order to be competitive.

Rotation

Josh Beckett 193 IP, 3.79 ERA
Jon Lester 176 IP, 4.13 ERA
Daisuke Matsuzaka 186 IP, 4.05 ERA
Tim Wakefield 171.2 IP, 4.75 ERA
Justin Masterson 160 IP, 3.99 ERA
Clay Buchholz 120 IP, 4.38 ERA

With the trade for Ramon Ramirez. I’m assuming this means that Masterson will get another shot in the rotation, where he’s more comfortable; he will be more useful there, or he could be traded. These numbers convert to an expected rotation ERA of 4.17, not as good as this year’s 4.02 ERA. We will need Lester to sustain his improvement in order to beat these numbers.

Ideally, the Sox should get about 1000 IP out of their starters in a season (1006.2 IP are represented here), so if Masterson and Buchholz don’t turn in this many innings, we could fall very short. Having two youngsters in the top 6 starters is not typical of the Sox. Plus, we should expect an injury to at least one starter, so I’d say this rotation could use an extra arm to help shoulder these innings.

Bullpen

Jonathan Papelbon 65.1 IP, 2.16 ERA
Hideki Okajima 65.2 IP, 3.47 ERA
Ramon Ramirez 52 IP, 3.35 ERA
Manny Delcarmen 57.1 IP, 3.31 ERA
Javier Lopez 38.2 IP, 4.18 ERA
David Aardsma 44.2 IP, 4.71 ERA
Assorted relievers 120 IP, 5.50 ERA

The Sox have addressed the bullpen with the trade for Ramirez. We will need about 450-460 innings out of our bullpen, so we are still short about 120-140 innings here, which will be made up by various callups. If they have a combined ERA of 5.50, then our bullpen ERA will be 3.96, which is favorabel to the 2008 bullpen ERA, which was a flat 4.00.

Defense

The defense is pretty solid all over the diamond, and if Lowrie continues his great work at shortstop, we won’t have a weak spot anywhere (possibly Bay in left field, if you believe OOZ and RZR). Ellsbury is fast developing into a plus centerfielder. We could be even better defensively than last season.

Overall

As the team is currently constituted, and using the projections here, we might expect a .615 winning percentage (I have cut the offensive runs down to what we scored this season, since the projection is almost the same as last year). That is equal to… drum roll… 99.7 Pythagorean wins. So yes, we can expect to be good, even if we stand pat.

There’s the catcher of the future problem, and of course, we need a 4th outfielder; someone right-handed with some experience who can play centerfield is ideal. My one other recommendation is that we land a reliable starter who can give us something around a 4.17 ERA, the current rotation expectation. The main questions with the 2009 team are health issues, namely Lowell and Big Papi. If one or both of them does not live up to our expectations, we should have a backup plan.

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3 Responses to 2009 Offseason: What we really need

  1. mark says:

    wow man you basically nailed it.
    looks like that 4.17 era will be penny but still not sure bout tek

  2. redsoxtalk says:

    I sure hope I have it nailed, because 100 projected wins would be great. However, playing in the tough AL East will mean that we will probably lag that a little bit. As I said, it would be nice to have some insurance for Lowell and Papi’s bats.

    I have Penny currently projected at a 4.26 ERA for 2009, so if he can give us some decent innings, he’s a good pickup.

    Scott Boras is holding out for Varitek, but it doesn’t look like he’ll get the offers he was expecting; I think he’ll re-sign with the Sox in late January for one year plus an option.

  3. Pingback: 2009 Preview: Expected Pythagorean record « Red Sox Talk

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