Red Sox early player predictions for the 2018 season
By Rick McNair
PECOTA time for the Boston Red Sox and other major league teams. The yearly projections are upon us, but I will add my own in – just a hunch and join in.
The time is upon us for Baseball Prospectus and the PECOTA projections on how players will perform in 2018. I enjoy reading the projections since I liken them to astrology – it is fun to read, but don’t take it seriously. Invariably the mark is missed far too often and Bill James – a noted purveyor of analytics – will admit to it, but it is a profitable cottage industry. The now sold Boston Herald checked in with the pitchers for 2018.
The originator of PECOTA is Nate Silver who has migrated into the realm of political forecasting. The usually on target Silver whiffed on the 2016 election, but not everyone hits a home run at each at-bat. Anyways, the first glimpse of PECOTA surfaced in Baseball Prospectus in 2003 and has been a staple ever since.
Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm are what the acronym stands for. The mathematical formulas are guarded as state secrets much like the KFC recipes and how Coca-Cola is somehow formulated. If presented the formula’s I would take my mathematical skills to a worthier task such as solving the Hodge Conjecture. I have been down the writing road on PECOTA before, but that will certainly not stop a revisit.
Here are a few of my own “Projections” for the Red Sox 2018 addition based on nothing more than wild guesses, a beer-stained dartboard and a crystal ball that is severely cracked.
Mookie Betts will travel around the top of the lineup like a Christmas train. Just what is his best lineup position? The fact is Betts is the best player on the team and among the very best in baseball. Betts will join the 30-30 club and be considered a top-five candidate for the MVP.
Can Andrew Benintendi hit .300? I’m going to say yes, and it is all based on an ability to hit lefties with a bit more pizzazz than in 2017. What I also look for is Benintendi to join the 25-25 club.
Is it time to give up on Xander Bogaerts? In 2016, Bogaets appeared to be putting it together to have some real clout in the lineup. A two-time Silver Slugger Award, but 2017 was a wreck. I’m going to give XB a boost based solely on the Red Sox getting a home run bat in the lineup that will filter down to the younger players.
Third base is still a danger zone if you place defense into the equation. Rafael Devers may work to improve, but his ability to handle the hot corner is limited. What Devers can do is hit and not be fazed by going into a slump. PECOTA has Devers in for 30 home runs and I can certainly see that.
If Rick Porcello could hit as many home runs as he gives up the Red Sox would not need J.D. Martinez. That, unfortunately, is the history of Porcello and no magical pitching pixie dust will change it. What I see is the Porcello of 2014 – his last season with the Tigers – and 15 wins with a pile of innings pitched and an ERA touching on 4.00.
David Price is the Big Question, or I should say his elbow is. At 32-years-old and a bundle of innings, the Price contract is beginning to look slightly more promising than the Barry Zito one. If Price starts plus 30 he’ll be fine. If it is minus 30, the Red Sox may be looking at some serious dead money in a few years. I give Price a dozen wins.
Craig Kimbrel is getting into the serious money years of his career as free agency awaits. Ever since the Phoenicians invented money there has been a way to inspire players and Kimbrel will get his pot of gold and 35+ saves.
The good news about Steven Wright is the knuckleball does not put extreme strain on the knee. Wright may be the most important pitcher on the team with his multiple pitching abilities. I’m putting Wright down for a dozen wins with his usual – for knuckleballers – dud games tossed it.
If baseball had a 130-game schedule Chris Sale would be the Cy Young Award winner and probably more than once. As Dr. Phil would say present and future behaviors and based on past behaviors. So that means give Sale September off. I like the PECOTA 15 wins call.
Jackie Bradley will have a respectable season with 20+ home runs and 80 RBI, but it won’t be for Boston.
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My surprise position player will be Bryce Brentz. This is right from the baseball scrap pile, but sometimes a player finally matures and contributes. Brentz may just hit 15 out with enough at-bats.
How in the world did Drew Pomeranz win 17 games? A 3.6 BB/9 and 8.6 H/9 usually translates to an ERA considerably more inflated than 3.32. Pomeranz also had a few nicks and dents during the 2017 season, but did some steady work start to finish. I doubt 17 is in the picture.
Looking for failure I must go with Eduardo Rodriguez. Eddie pitches some great games until injury hits and that happens with the regularity of the sun setting. The latest is his knee and in the past recovery for E-Rod seems to go on and on and on….
A quick look at the numbers as in home runs and RBI: 19/53, 30/111, 23/62 from 2015-17. That is Hanley Ramirez. So, if one believes in a pattern then Hanley is due for a 30/100 in 2018. With his contract that will mean a wheel barrel full of money for 2019. Maybe it was the shoulder? Maybe it was declining skills?
Is Christian Vazquez a .290 hitter? In 2017 he was, and I expect him to come close to duplicating it in 2018. Vaz has found the ability to go with the pitch and has developed as a plus with the stick. If this is Chili Davis’s legacy it will be a good one.
Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, and Heath Hembree. More of the same. Nothing too bad and nothing too good.
Next: Five free agents to avoid
Alex Cora will survive his first Boston season, but not unscathed – that has already started with the “incident” in Houston last summer. The Boston media will be watching and expect some rumor mongering if the Red Sox play .500 ball in April and May.