Warm-Up Tosses: It’s book release week, so the publication of team previews will continue to be spotty. Please know that if a team’s write-up is shorter, it’s not because the numbers haven’t been run – I’m just shortening the writing process. (A good example is that I didn’t mention Nick Swisher’s departure from the Yankees’ write-up. You can be assured it’s in the numbers though.)
Here’s some exciting news on the book front:
Last month, the highly influential publication for U.S. libraries and booksellers, Publisher’s Weekly named my book, a Top 10 Baseball book for the first half of 2013. I was the only first time author/collaborator in the group. Then, last week, the editors at Amazon.com named Trading Bases a Top 10 Business book. This is a highly satisfying development as the book is intended to have broad appeal.
I’m also very excited to announce I will be appearing on the CBS Morning Show this Friday morning to discuss the book. Let’s just hope the College of Cardinals doesn’t announce the election of a new pope on Thursday night which would lead Charlie Rose to board a plane for Rome. If I don’t meet Charlie Rose in person, the only thing which will placate my mother is an appearance on the Merv Griffin show.
* * *
Boston Red Sox
What They Did: 69-93, 5th Place AL East.
Actual Runs: Scored 734 runs, Allowed 806.
Expected wins based on RS and RA: 74.1 (5.1 below actual)
Restated: Scored 703 runs, Allowed 771.
Exp. wins based on restated RS and RA: 74.2 (5.2 below actual)
(Glossary: Expected wins, based on a modification of Bill James’ Pythagorean Theorem, are the amount of wins a team should win in any season based on the amount of runs it actually scored and allowed. Deviations will be explained in the appropriate team capsules.
Restated Runs Scored and Runs Allowed are the amount of runs a team should have tallied based on its actual components of batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging achieved/allowed. In the case of the Red Sox, if they posted exactly the same stats in 2013 as 2012, they should expect to win 74 games.)
An underrated aspect of a team’s success or failure each year is the stability of its roster. This will become apparent when I address the Reds’ outlook this year, but for now suffice it to say that it is highly improbable – I’m actually comfortable saying impossible – that Cincinnati will get 161 starts out of its five starting pitchers like they did in 2012. That type of outlying health was a stealth factor in the Reds winning 97 games last year. What does that have to do with the Red Sox outlook? Well, in 2012 Boston had 21 different players make at least 100 plate appearances – and a 22nd player, Darnell McDonald, made 99. 2012 was also the first year since 2001 (when Joe Kerrigan finished the year as manager) that the Sawx didn’t score at least 800 runs, breaking their league-leading streak of 10 years in a row. (The Yankees now have the longest streak at 4 seasons.) During that ten-year stretch, the Red Sox averaged 15 players with a minimum of 100 plate appearances, with a high of just 17 players. You simply cannot have an above-average, let alone elite offense when Darnell McDonald, Ryan Kalish, Marlon Byrd, Mauro Gomez, and Ryan Lavarnway are all playing substantial amounts of time.
There are a lot of new faces in the 2013 Red Sox lineup but they are markedly better than the players they are replacing in terms of plate appearances. Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, and David Ross (who I love incidentally, but because he’s going to platoon, at least initially with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, he’s not a draftable commodity for fantasy baseball) are upgrades easily capable of lifting the Red Sox back to the 800-run level on offense. Plus, Jacoby Ellsbury, whose season was marred by a shoulder injury, had the worst year of his career in the 323 plate appearances he did make. At age 29, it’s highly probably he’ll have a much more productive year in 2013.
With improved health, the Red Sox can get to 800 runs on offense which means one-half of their run differential equation can be playoff caliber. What about run prevention? Thanks to the highly visible problems Boston had with the closer’s role last year, most notably Alfredo Aceves’ 2-10 record, 8 blown saves, and a 5.36 ERA that accompanied his 25 saves, it will come as no surprise to Red Sox Nation that Boston had the fourth worst bullpen in the AL last year. New closer Joel Hanrahan along with a healthy Andrew Bailey front a bullpen that will surely improve on last year’s crew which allowed more than 4 runs for every nine innings pitched.
The problem for Boston is its starting rotation. Lester, Buchholz, Dempster, Doubront, and Lackey is a serviceable rotation, but truthfully it looks more like a collection of #3 starters than anything that resembles an ace-anchored staff. Jon Lester was awful last year and, unlike Jacoby Ellsbury, he’s not necessarily a candidate for a bounceback year because his pedestrian peripheral skills, especially his strikeout rate, not only caught up with him, they even got a little worse. This is not the “ace” you want facing Sabathia, Verlander, Darvish, et al.
You can more or less write a variation on that last sentence for the entire staff. Ryan Dempster will probably end up the “ace” in that he will allow the least amount of runs but outside of Felix Doubront, no one has the coveted “upside” that could lead to a career year. It’s the rotation that will most likely prevent the Red Sox from making a return to the post season.
Oddsmakers’ expectations: The Red Sox market is interesting in that their opening total wins market of 82 ½ is 13 ½ wins higher than last year’s win total of 69 games. Only Toronto’s spread is higher (by one game) and, of course, they made many notable offseason upgrades to their roster. I don’t believe the Red Sox market is the result of thoughtful analysis on the bookmaker’s part. I believe, like betting on Notre Dame in NCAA football games or the Cowboys in NFL games, there is a silly premium – much like buying an Hermes scarf – that reflects the public’s obsession with the team. There is a path to the playoffs for the Red Sox, (it involves a lot of runs scored and competent performances from all five members of the starting rotation) and I don’t think it’s that far-fetched. But you should be getting paid a much better price to back that position. There is no value to making that call at these levels.
83-79 – Third in AL East
778 Runs Scored 754 Runs Allowed
Mop Up Duty:
Joe Peta is the author of Trading Bases, A Story About Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball* (*) Not necessarily in that order, a Dutton Books/Penguin (U.S.A.) March 7, 2013 release. It is available for pre-order from a number of on-line booksellers. Here are three you can currently choose from:
He is also the author of Trading Bases, the Newsletter, a companion piece to the book. If you have been forwarded this issue and would like to be placed on the mailing list, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
All newsletter archives are located at http://tradingbases.squarespace.com
You can follow me on Twitter here: @MagicRatSF
If you want to be taken off the e-mail list, please let me know at email@example.com