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Friday, December 21, 2012

Edes: Bill James projects bright Sox future

XXVII: Putting the criminal justice system Boston Red Sox back together.

James writes that his forecasts are hardly perfect, but he’s proud of his batting average and the number of players whose performance he predicted with uncanny precision last season.

“We’re serious people,” James writes. “We’re not fortune tellers, and we’re not always right, but we’re not idiots, either. We’re right about a whole lot of things every year.”

...But the Red Sox lineup, from top to bottom, offers considerable hope seen through the James crystal ball.

He predicts, for example, that David Ortiz will resume his slugging ways, hitting 32 home runs while posting a team-best .919 OPS, just below his career mark of .927. But Ortiz said the Sox could not win without adding some thunder, and James projects 29 home runs for newcomer Mike Napoli, assuming his contract issues are resolved, and another 29 for third baseman Will Middlebrooks, whose rookie season was cut short by a fractured wrist.

By James’s reckoning, all nine players in the Sox lineup will hit 10 or more home runs, with newcomer Jonny Gomes hitting 16 in a platoon role in left field, with Ryan Kalish adding another 10 from the left side.

James projects a solid, but not spectacular, bounce-back year for Jacoby Ellsbury, with 100 runs scored, 37 stolen bases, 15 home runs and a .781 OPS. Those numbers are only slightly better than the ones he sees for newcomer Shane Victorino (.755 OPS, 14 home runs, 29 stolen bases), which may suggest to the trade-Ellsbury faction that the Sox wouldn’t lose as much as some fear if Ellsbury were traded.

...Maybe the most surprising component of the Jamesian view of Boston’s future in 2013 is his expectation of the Sox rotation. Tampa Bay’s starting rotation had a league-best 3.34 ERA, followed by Detroit at 3.76. James projects four Sox starters to beat Detroit’s number next season—Clay Buchholz (3.64), Felix Doubront (3.70), Jon Lester (3.71) and newcomer Ryan Dempster (3.74). And he sees better things for John Lackey, who has been defined by ineffectiveness and injury during his years in Boston. James has Lackey winning a dozen games with a 4.05 ERA; there’ll be fireworks over the harbor if Lackey comes close to those numbers.

Repoz Posted: December 21, 2012 at 11:03 PM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: red sox, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. The Piehole of David Wells Posted: December 21, 2012 at 11:25 PM (#4330736)
I have a boner.
   2. Gamingboy Posted: December 21, 2012 at 11:38 PM (#4330745)
Last night, I fought Quetzalcoatl in a battle of wits during my dreams. This has nothing to do with the above article, but I thought I should mention that. You're welcome.
   3. J.R. Wolf Posted: December 22, 2012 at 12:07 AM (#4330760)
They're not selling jeans there. Really,
   4. Bhaakon Posted: December 22, 2012 at 12:20 AM (#4330767)
They're not selling jeans there. Really,


Is there anything team aren't selling?
   5. J.R. Wolf Posted: December 22, 2012 at 12:24 AM (#4330770)
Good God, they ARE selling jeans.
   6. The District Attorney Posted: December 22, 2012 at 12:44 AM (#4330774)
And also projects a bright future for the other 29 teams, is the problem.
   7. DJS, the Digital Dandy Posted: December 22, 2012 at 01:10 AM (#4330791)
And also projects a bright future for the other 29 teams, is the problem.

Poor Jeff Zimmerman was trying to crunch the numbers for the James projections and estimated that they imply the Royals having a 94-68 mean projection.

It'll probably work out in the end that Trout didn't get the MVP. After all, the James projection have him a little better next year!

I'm like 97% sure, from playing with the Bill James projections, that they contain zero regression toward the mean. And estimating how the Bill James projections differ from three-year averages, the league has a net positive improvement due to aging. The distribution is a problem. Mean projections should be a tighter distribution than real-life because, by definition, they're mean projections. But James's distributions are as wide as real life results and for some statistics, even wider. I've been playing with the projections and I calculate they imply a league in which the average team is 89-73.

They're good for headline-grabbing though. Since the BJ projections are optimistic overall, he'll generally hit the players that do the best in the ROY voting better than the rest of us, simply because ROY contenders are more likely to be overperforming than underperforming.
   8. Bruce Markusen Posted: December 22, 2012 at 01:18 AM (#4330793)
So if I'm reading the excerpt right, James (accurately) predicted an awful season for the Red Sox in 2012.
   9. Darren Posted: December 22, 2012 at 12:19 PM (#4330902)
This is crazy, the guy whose projections were used in putting together the Red Sox has projections out that really like the Red Sox? Next thing you'll be telling me that the Red Sox scouts think the Red Sox players have good skills.
   10. Darren Posted: December 22, 2012 at 12:20 PM (#4330904)
And they're going to need to hire more grounds crew if they're going to have all those ponies out on the field.
   11. TomH Posted: December 22, 2012 at 02:19 PM (#4330946)
James' book has the Sox main SPs all with W-L records at about .500. So I guess it ain't all that optmistic.

Look, James admits his projections of PT are made on some assumption of reasonmably good health and not being benched. A team like Boston who has a few injury-prone types of course is going to projec to do well if the pieces hold together.
   12. dave h Posted: December 22, 2012 at 07:33 PM (#4331123)
A coworker recently told me that ponies aren't that expensive to acquire, so we may have to rethink our archetype.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: December 22, 2012 at 08:49 PM (#4331166)
A coworker recently told me that ponies aren't that expensive to acquire, so we may have to rethink our archetype.

If they're on the field, they have to be paid league minimum.

I wasn't clear from the intro ... was James talking the "official Bill James projections" (which I'm not sure he has much responsibility for at this stage) or his proprietary projections for the Red Sox.

And isn't the main problem with his projections that he's still projecting to something akin to a 2002 run environment? Note, the variance and the mean are pretty much always strongly related in count and rate stats so if you project to a higher scoring environment you might end up with a higher variance than reality. I would think regression to the mean would more than counter-act that though.
   14. Jim Furtado Posted: December 23, 2012 at 04:06 AM (#4331345)
Walt, although a few of the numbers are slightly off, comparing the projections to the Bill James Projections on Fangraphs, it looks like it's the "official Bill James projections".

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