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.