Saturday, January 5, 2008

2008 Red Sox Pitching Projections - Starters

(Brian Snyder/Reuters)

So I just got my hands on a copy of the Bill James Handbook. It's become an annual tradition for me to view the information in it. Others might find it boring, but for me it provides some interesting food for thought when I'm in desperate need for baseball. I'm going to be discussing a lot of information in the book over the next few weeks. To begin the discussion I thought I'd look at the projections for the Red Sox starting pitchers. Here are the projections, coupled with my thoughts.

Josh Beckett - 3.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP (203 IP, 184 H, 64 BB, 187 SO)

I was a little surprised to see such a high ERA projection, even though 2007 was a career year for Beckett. Since his rookie season, Beckett's posted an ERA on the lower side of 3.50 most of the time. Other than Beckett's atypical 2006 season, Beckett's BB/9 IP has gone down every year, yet the projection expects it to go back up in 2008.

I can understand why the projection is so high, as projections must give weight to Beckett's 2006 season. But most indications point to 2006 being an off year and 2007 being an indicator of improving ability at the major league level as he enters the prime ages of most pitchers' careers.

Daisuke Matsuzaka - 3.54 ERA, 1.23 WHIP (
193 IP, 173 H, 64 BB, 184 SO)

I was surprised by these numbers too, but this time because of how low they were. But I can understand why the projection would like Daisuke so much. These numbers are similar to the ones he posted before he wore down late in the season. Matsuzaka had an ERA of 3.84 and a WHIP of 1.24 in the first half of 2007. Daisuke's ERA was as low as 3.59 on August 10th. You also have to consider that 2007 was Matsuzaka's rookie season.

Curt Schilling - 3.54 ERA, 1.16 WHIP (160 IP, 161 H, 25 BB, 150 SO)

I was quite surprised by this projection as well. Schilling hasn't posted a year like this since 2004, and he's not getting any younger. It's not that Schilling didn't have a very good year in 2007 (3.87 ERA, 1.25 WHIP). But why is his 2008 expected to be such an improvement? His projection seems to think there will be drastic drops in his hits rate and a drastic improvement in his strike out rate.

Tim Wakefield -
4.03 ERA, 1.31 WHIP (181 IP, 174 H, 63 BB, 123 SO)

Wakefield is up and down year to year but it's been a while since he's put up some numbers like these. Either the Bill James Handbook thinks Wakefield the fountain of youth, or they just assume every pitcher over 40 uses performance enhancers.

Jon Lester - 4.42 ERA, 1.55 WHIP (175 IP, 183 H, 89 BB, 149 SO)

It's easy to get excited about Lester given his raw stuff, but this is probably a fair projection for 2008. The numbers aren't great but they're about league average for a starter.

Clay Buchholz

Although Buchholz figures to play a large role in the Red Sox rotation, the Bill James Handbook could not project his statistics based on such a small major league sample size.


Michael said...

making such precise predictions seems absurd.

the real question is how accurate were his projections for 2007?

inquiring minds want to know....

Ethan Michaels said...

The reason they make them so precise is because they're numbers guys. They run past performances and factors such as age and innings they're expected to pitch through a formula that spits out exact seasons like these.

As for how accurate the projections were in 2007, I actually did something really stupid and left my 2007 version of the book at home. I'm gonna try to get my hands on the numbers as soon as possible, and I'll get back to you on that question.

Michael said...

yeah it should be interesting to find out how accurate he was last year

Amanda said...

I have the 2007 Handbook right here, if you like.

Beckett, projected: 3.68 ERA, 1.26 WHIP (208 IP, 188 H, 75 BB, 191 K)
Beckett, actual: 3.27 ERA, 1.14 WHIP (200.7 IP, 189 H, 40 BB, 194 K)

Schilling, projected: 3.50 ERA, 1.16 WHIP (180 IP, 179 H, 30 BB, 177 K)
Schilling, actual: 3.87 ERA, 1.25 WHIP (151 IP, 165 H, 23 BB, 101 K)

Wakefield, projected: 4.14 ERA, 1.32 WHIP (152 IP, 146 H, 55 BB, 108 K)
Wakefield, actual: 4.76 ERA, 1.35 WHIP (189 IP, 191 H, 64 BB, 110 K)

Lester, projected: 4.38 ERA, 1.50 WHIP (78 IP, 77 H, 40 BB, 72 K)
Lester, projected: 4.57 ERA, 1.46 WHIP (63 IP, 61 H, 31 BB, 50 K)

No projection for Matsuzaka.

Ethan Michaels said...

Thank you so much Amanda. Strange they'd project almost the exact same ERA and WHIP for Schilling after they were wrong last year.

Michael said...

thanks for the info amanda.

i don't see why they even bother making these "projections" when they're clearly of little value

Ethan Michaels said...

I think they're an interesting topic of conversation of nothing else. At times they're eerily accurate.

Michael said...

yes, you're right; it does make for interesting conversation. the fact that sometimes the predictions are freakishly accurate in a way makes them valueless since we can't know which ones will be right and which will be way off base, if you will.

BTW the piece on the "fenway effect" was really interesting!

Ethan Michaels said...

You're right Michael, generally hitting projections are more accurate than pitching projections.

Thanks, I'm working on some similar articles that will appear in the next few days.

Amanda said...

You fellows are welcome for the information.

For what it's worth, Bill James doesn't do these projections himself because he feels pitchers are unprojectable.

Michael said...

well as long as we're chatting about it, how did their hitting projections for 2007 pan out?

i'd be curious about the yankee results as well

not that i expect to be catered to :)

Ethan Michaels said...

Here they are Michael. I'll provide the projected (P) and then the actual (A).

(P) Lugo - 277/.343/.399 11 HR, 85 R, 26 SB
(A) - .237/.294/.349 8 HR, 71 R, 33 SB

Youkilis (P)- .283/.395/.433 14 HR, 101 R
(A) - .288/.390/.453 16 HR, 85 R

Ortiz (P) - .285/.391/.592 47 HR, 138 RBI, 42 2B
(A) - .332/.445/.621 35 HR, 117 RBI, 52 2B

Ramirez (P) - .305/.414/.590 37 HR, 118 RBI, 33 2B, 90 BB
(A) - .296/.388/.493 20 HR, 88 RBI, 33 2B, 92 BB

Drew (P) - .283/.398/.493 24 HR, 82 RBI, 27 2B
(A) - .270/.373/.423 11 HR, 64 RBI, 24 SB

Varitek (P) - .259/.343/.434 17 HR, 69 RBI
(A) - .255/.367/.421 17 HR, 68 RBI

Lowell (P) - .273/.341/.452 18 HR, 77 RBI, 36 2B
(A) - .324/.378/.501 21 HR, 120 RBI, 37 2B

Crisp (P) - .284/.337/.419 11 HR, 54 RBI, 30 2B, 23 SB
(A) - .268/.330/.382 6 HR, 60 RBI, 28 2B, 28 SB

Pedroia (P) - .284/.355/.418 10 HR, 72 RBI, 47 2B, 67 BB, 43 K
(A) - .317/.380/.442 8 HR, 50 RBI, 39 2B, 47 BB, 42 K

There ya go. Did you want last year's Yankees projections or this year's?

Michael said...

well he got Tek and Youk pretty accurately.

thanks for that Ethan. yeah i'd be curious to see how well he did with the yanks last year.