Last week, Fenway Pastoral ran through key Red Sox hitters’ projections based on Bill James’ proprietary system. Today, Boston’s impact pitchers and what James’ system sees in store for them during 2013. The forecasts are undoubtedly more optimistic than not in most cases.
The top three pitchers in the rotation as of this writing – Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront – are all expected to pitch over 200 innings and generate ERA results that are roughly a full run better than in 2012. If the front office puts any credence into James’ system or one with a similar predictive methodology, that alone suggests the team may not be all that concerned with the front end of its rotation.
The rotation’s two wild cards at this point are John Lackey as he returns after Tommy John surgery and Franklin Morales. In Lackey’s case, James’ system has him performing much more in line with his career norms than his disastrous 2011 season. If the James projections for Morales are close, he could potentially fill the role of a fifth starter or long reliever out of the bullpen.
Putting it all together, if the Sox rely mainly on the five starters listed above, the team would get a combined ERA and FIP significantly better than the 2012 league average. Again, though, expecting four Red Sox starters to top 200 innings – particularly after the team’s injury history over the last few seasons – is a bit charitable.
Out of the bullpen, James’ system expects the Sox will get the Andrew Bailey they thought they were getting based on his 2011 stat line. The forecast for Daniel Bard is based on the presumption that all of the jerking around done with him during 2012 did not do the righty any permanent damage. Bard is probably the best case in point on this list for the general limitations of projection systems since they can’t possibly account for a pitcher’s confidence level.
Alfredo Aceves, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller and Mark Melancon all project as key cogs in the middle relief arsenal. As relievers, however, expectations for their final statistical lines are useful mostly just in theory.
Based on the largely bullish projections for pitchers already on Boston’s 40-man roster, the front office will likely target undervalued players in the marketplace rather than making a big splash by signing a front-end talent like Zack Greinke. Greinke and Kyle Lohse are therefore included primarily as reference points.
Roy Oswalt could be particularly intriguing if he were healthy enough to contribute to a club earlier in the season and if the team were willing to write off his time in 2012 in Texas as a fluke. The Sox would presumably be one of a handful of teams for whom the veteran may be willing to pitch if the price were right. Boston could also be in position to offer someone such as Brandon McCarthy more on a average annual basis than other interested clubs.
Finally, just for fun, former Sox ace Josh Beckett is projected to bounce back from an uninspiring 2012. He will almost surely benefit from moving out of the AL East and if he is able to reinvent himself into more of a finesse/location pitcher, he could be an effective pitcher in 2013. Maybe James’ system accounted for Beckett’s bizarre seesawing career of being at his best in odd-numbered years and poor in even-numbered years?
**All data taken from player pages at FanGraphs.com.