MLB expert ranks Sox Hitting and Pitching

 

It’s Pre-Season Ranking Time and we citizens of Red Sox Nation are interested to know if our team is highly-ranked, injustly ranked, or judged just rank.   And, just as we are smarting for a good argument at the neighborhood tavern, in walks MLB.com Columnist, Anthony Castrovince, and tells us that he has created a Top Ten for three categories: Lineup, Starting Rotation, and Bullpen.

[http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120214&content_id=26686804&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb]

Without giving away his results, let’s focus on where the Sox fell on the three Top Ten lists.

LINEUPS

10. Royals, 9. Diamondbacks, 8. Rockies, 7. Cardinals, 6. Blue Jays, 5. Reds, 4. Rangers, 3. Tigers, 2. Yankees and, you can exhale now; the Red Sox finished #1.

Here is Mr. Castrovince’s assessment:

“This club collapsed in September through no fault of the offense, which actually ranked third in the Majors in runs scored that month. This was the most productive lineup in the game for the 2011 season (875 runs), and there’s simply no reason to expect them to regress significantly. Jacoby Ellsbury (.928), Adrian Gonzalez (.957), Dustin Pedroia (.861) and David Ortiz (.953) all finished in the top three among all Major Leaguers at their position in OPS in 2011, and, banged up as he was, Kevin Youkilis (.833) finished sixth. One would assume, perhaps wrongly, that Carl Crawford will show at least marginal offensive improvement in his second year in Boston. Either way, this is, arguably, one of the most stacked lineups in the game.”

OK, they gotta know, so please tell us what you said about the second place Yankees, Mr. Castrovince:

“New York finished second in the Majors in runs scored with 867, even as Derek Jeter started slow (his second-half surge might be attributable to an abnormally high batting average on balls in play), Mark Teixeira regressed (his OPS+ of 117 was the lowest since his rookie year) and Alex Rodriguez battled a variety of ailments. The continued brilliance of Robinson Cano and the incredible improvement of Curtis Granderson against left-handed pitching went a long, long way. The Yanks figure to remain an elite offensive unit that works up pitch counts, and it will be particularly punishing if A-Rod’s experimental blood-spinning therapy on his right knee and left shoulder keeps him healthy. The Yanks, though, did sacrifice a good deal of offensive potential when they dealt Jesus Montero to the Mariners to land Michael Pineda.”

IMAGINE: If the A’s add Manny to their just signed Cuban star, Yoenis Cespedes, and toss in Gomes, it could move Oakland up a few notches, even into the top twenty zone. Add former Sock, the homeless Johnny Damon with his 2,723 hits, slouching toward 3,000  and maybe even bring back that hapless playing author  Jose Canseco  andlook out, Seattle Mariners!

STARTING ROTATION

Spoiler Alert: “No.”

10. Nats, 9. Yanks, 8. Braves, 7. Tigers, 6. D’backs, 5. Rangers, 4. Giants, 3. Rays, 2. Rangers…
The envelope please…Phillies #1

So, where are the Sox? Sorry, he only listed the Top Ten with an Honorable mention to the Dodgers, Brewers, Cards, and Marlins; oh, wait, here at the bottom he added:

“The Red Sox rotation, more than fried chicken and beer, was directly responsible for the club’s historic collapse. But with Clay Buchholz back and the potential upside of Alfredo Aceves or Daniel Bard, it could emerge to be an elite unit.”

His afterthought seems wistfully hopeful, but those grouchy curmudgeons of Red Sox Nation remind us daily that Clay is a fragile substance, The Pen Bard only authored 80 innings in a season so far, and Aces Aceves has only nine starts in his four-year career and his best stat comparison is to Tyler Clippard, says Baseball Reference.

Yet, the optimistic Red Sox fan in a pub could make a good case that the #10 ranked Nats are not better than the Boston starters 1 thorough 5.

• 1. S. Strasburg
• 2. G. Gonzalez
• 3. J. Zimmermann
• 4. E. Jackson

And then, who is in that 5 slot?
Candidates include:
J. Lannan
C. Wang
R. Detwiler

Sure Stephen Strasburg is back, but his innings will be limited after elbow reconstruction. Jordan Zimmermann manage 161 1/3 innings pitched in 2011. Gio Gonzalez is one of the better young lefties in the game and will eat up 200 innings and could be two wins over .500 in 2012, but his short, four-year, track record shows a weak 1.94 K-W % and a high 1.41 WHIP. Edwin Jackson, will likely rack up 200 innings, but only break even on W-Ls and his 4.46 ERA puts him at about #40 of 50 in NL pitchers.

Let’s assume the starting five for each rotation will be:

• 1. S. Strasburg
• 2. G. Gonzalez
• 3. J. Zimmermann
• 4. E. Jackson
• 5. J. Lannan

And

• 1. J. Lester
• 2. J. Beckett
• 3. C. Buchholz
• 4. D. Bard
• 5. A. Aceves

Taking a short cut method, we can compare the Nats and Sox rotations by ERA and WHIP and find:

ERA  WHIP
Nats   3.01   1.11
Sox     3.16   0.94

The stats are close enough to argue the case for the Sox replacing the Nats at #10, or, at least suggest that the Sox are not further down the total of 30 than, say, between 11th and 15th…or better.

Now let’s  take the 2012 projections of Baseball Reference [162-game avg. based on career] and just consider W-L totals for the two 5-man rotations.

• 1. S. Strasburg           12-8
• 2. G. Gonzalez          14-12
• 3. J. Zimmermann    8-12
• 4. E. Jackson             11-11
• 5. J. Lannan              10-14

And

• 1. J. Lester                 17-7
• 2. J. Beckett              15-10
• 3. C. Buchholz          15-11
• 4. D. Bard                  14-10*
• 5. A. Aceves               14-10**
(*Estimate based on career 197 innings, ERA, 3.65, 1.29 WHIP
compared to this pitcher: 197.2 innings, ERA, 3.47, 1.26 WHIP.
[Buchholz’ stats are career innings, highest year ERA and 2011 WHIP], while the other comparable pitcher’s stats are all from 2011.
Since Clay and the other pitcher are so close, we can take the mystery man’s W-L stats, 17-7, deduct for higher ERA and WHIP, say 3 Ws and use 14-10 for Buchholz in 2012. Oh, our comparison pitcher? Jon Lester.)
(**For comparison, we noted Aceves for 240 career innings, 2.93 ERA, 1.03 WHIP are much better than Lester’s stats and Baseball Reference projects him, as a starter for 13 Ws and just 2 Ls; that is not a misprint: 13-2 record. But, factoring that he only tossed only 114 innings in 2011, we will simply adjust his record to the same as Bard’s 14-10.)

Whew! OK, here are the total Ws and Ls for both 5-man staffs [staves?] for 2102:

W – L
Red Sox   75-48
Nats          55-57

Even allowing for some slippage in the stats; Zimmerman in the #3 slot should have an above .500 record, say, being generous, he matches Gonzalez with 14-10; that would improve the Nats to 61-57; still not close to the Sox 75-48.

With those two chunks of data, it seems that a citizen of Red Sox Nation at the pub could make a very good case for the Sox replacing the Nats in Mr. Castrovince’s ranking list.

BULLPEN

Spoiler Alert: “No.”

10. Tigers, 9. Jays, 8. Marlins, 7. Reds, 6. Nats, 5. Indians, 4. Rangers, 3. Giants, 2. Braves…
The envelope please…Yankees #1

So, where are the Sox? Sorry, he only listed the Top Ten with an Honorable mention to the Dodgers, Brewers, Cards, and Marlins; oh, wait, here at the bottom he added:

“The Red Sox have completely rebuilt their ‘pen in the wake of Jonathan Papelbon‘s departure. Andrew Bailey is a nice pickup for the ninth, but his arm history comes with some red flags.”

This seems whack! Mr. Castrovince avers that the Red Sox pen with Bailey as closer and Melancon as set-up man are not as good as the Tigers with • J. Valverde (CL) and J. Benoit?

                  SVs ERA WHIP K-Wratio
Bailey       24  3.24   1.10      3.42
Valverde  49  2.24   1.90     2.03
Melancon 20 2.78   1.22     2.54
Benoit        2   2.95   1.05     3.71

Combined saves favor Detroit 51-44, so does the ERA by 1.17 and the Sox win WHIP 0.63 and K-Wratio 0.22. Pen depth is another factor in the rating.

Tigers:

• O. Dotel
• P. Coke
• A. Alburquerque
• D. Schlereth
• C. Balester
• D. Below
• A. Wilk
• M. Hoffman

Sox:

• B. Jenks
• M. Albers
• F. Morales
• A. Miller
• M. Bowden
• F. Doubront
• S. Atchison

Without running the stats, a cursory review suggests that Dotel has outperformed Jenks, but, the Sox match up slightly better at the remaining slots. Let’s give Tigers a thin edge and that suggests that the Boston pen should rank between 11th and 15th on this list.

The traditional image of the Red Sox has been high-scoring offense, high ERA starters and average relievers. [Papelbon was the best closer in many years.]

This review augers another season of 9-7 wins at Fenway, and the Sox as the highest scoring team in the AL, possibly all of MLB. It hints at the possibility that, if Bard and Aceves [or other #5 starter] can make the transition from reliever to starter, the rotation could be the best in a decade. And, if the starters can give Valentine six solid innings and he can find a one-inning rope bridge to reach set-up man Melancon and closer Bailey, the pitching stats could alter the Boston image of mediocre pitching.

Then, instead of winning “nail-biters” by just one or two runs in those classic 9-7 and 11-9 games, the Sox may win more blow outs and close the performance gap between the hitting and pitching.

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Topics: 723 Hits, A. Alburquerque, A. Miller, A. Wilk, AL East, Alex Rodriguez, Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Bailey, Anthony Castrovince, Author, B. Jenks, Baseball Reference, Blue Jays, Bobby Jenks, Bullpen, C. Balester, C. Wang, Cardinals, Carl Crawford, Categories, Clay Buchholz, Closer, Columnist, Curtis Granderson, D. Below, D. Schlereth, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Diamondbacks, Dustin Pedroia, E. Jackson, F. Doubront, F. Morales, Fenway Park, Former, G. Gonzalez, Gomes, J. Lannan, J. Valverde, J. Zimmermann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jesus Montero, Johnny Damon, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Jose Canseco Mariners, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, Lineup, M. Albers, M. Bowden, M. Hoffman, Mark Teixeira, Melancon, Michael Pineda, MLB, MLB.com, Nats. Boston, New York Yankees, O. Dotel, Oakland, OPS+, P. Coke, R. Detwiler Clay Buchholz, Rangers, Rank, Ranked, Rankings, Red Sox Fan, REDS, Robinson Cano, Rockies, Rookie Year, Rotation, Royals, S. Atchison, S. Strasburg, Set-up, Sock, Starters, Starting, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Tigers, Top Ten, Toronto Blue Jays, Tyler Clippard, Victor Martinez, Yankees, Yoenis Cespedes, [#2]

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