Over/Under: 2017 Boston Red Sox ZiPS Projections

Sep 13, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) and his teammates take the field before their game against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 13, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) and his teammates take the field before their game against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

Unsurprisingly, the 2017 Boston Red Sox are expected to be very, very good.

Following the Buchholz to Philadelphia trade, the 2017 Red Sox roster looks to be set barring any unforeseen moves by Dave Dombrowski and the front office. With that in mind, I thought it best to get an early start on projections season and take a look at how Dan Szymborski views the team.

An annual endeavour, Szymborski’s ZiPS projections provide the most in-depth statistical outlook for each MLB team. Released earlier this week, his computer-based projection system viewed the Red Sox very favourably. Though that was to be expected after the team topped the American League East in 2016 and added one of the top-5 arms in the American League by trading for Chris Sale.

The detail involved in the projections is quite extensive, covering nearly every player that could possibly touch the field in a Red Sox uniform in 2017. While most estimates are conservative and require little in terms of inspection, there are a few that jump out. Let’s play over/under on the stats I disagree with most.

Mookie Betts: 24 Home Runs

Let’s begin with the team’s best player and 2016 AL MVP runner-up, Mookie Betts. Known for his speed more than power as a prospect, Betts hit a surprising 31 home runs last season – 13 more than his previous career high. Splitting the difference down the middle, ZiPS projects the right fielder to regress towards his career average, but I disagree. Mookie’s HR/FB ratio jumped from 8.2% to 13.2% between 2015 and 2016, a product of his increased contact and hard hit ball rates. He might not be a perennial 30-home run hitter, but 2016 wasn’t a fluke.


Dustin Pedroia: 3.2 WAR

When Dustin Pedroia’s healthy, he’s one of the best second basemen in baseball and easily worth more than 3.2 WAR a season. The only problem is, predicting Pedroia’s health is nearly impossible. A player that gives maximum effort on every play, the former-MVP has played 150 games or more just three times in the past five seasons. Though he did play all of 2013 with a torn ligament in his thumb, which seemed to only affect his power numbers. Having said that, Pedroia’s posted a WAR lower than 3.2 just once in all of his 10 full seasons in the MLB (2015 in which he played just 92 games). 2016 was a bounce-back season both on the field and in the trainer’s room for Pedroia as he played 154 games and regained his power stroke en route to posting 5.2 WAR. He’s a lock to best his ZiPS projection in 2017.


Drew Pomeranz: 3.69 ERA

After leaving the left-hander off the team’s postseason rotation in 2016, Pomeranz figures to be the Red Sox’s fifth starter behind their three-headed monster and Eduardo Rodriguez. While a 3.69 ERA is by no means bad, it is in fact far better than average, the Pomeranz that the Red Sox acquired in 2016 is unlikely to be the one we see in 2017. There’s no doubt the front office is high on his potential, Dave Dombrowski declined to rescind the trade that acquired him after it was found that the Padres withheld medical information. And in San Diego Pomeranz posted a 2.47 ERA over 102 IP. His move to Boston and decline in health manifested in a decreased strikeouts per 9 innings pitched and increased home run rate, easily explaining his poor performance following the deal. Expect a healthy Pomeranz to resemble the pitcher the Red Sox thought they acquired, not the one taking the mound for them last season.


Chris Sale: 199.2 IP

Last but certainly not least, is the Red Sox’ major acquisition of the offseason Chris Sale. ZiPS expects Sale to start 29 games in 2017, behind David Price‘s 32 and Rick Porcello‘s 30 making Sale the de-facto 3rd starter. While any of them could make their case for taking the ball on opening day, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Sale took over the number one spot by the All-Star break and earned the extra start. He’s also pitched less than 200 innings just once in the last four seasons, after losing 5 starts to an injury in 2014. Sale was brought into Boston to do exactly what he’s done over his career: guarantee 200+ IP with 220+ strikeouts and an ERA close to 3.00. It would be a disappointment if he couldn’t break the 200 innings plateau in 2017.