We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2010 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2010 Red Sox Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Troy and Lee over at Fire Brand of the American League.
1) There’s been a lot said/typed/blogged about the Red Sox offense having a little less punch than years past. Last year, the Red Sox had 3 players above 99 Runs (Pedroia – 115, Bay – 103, Youk – 99) and 3 above 94 RBIs (Bay – 119, Ortiz – 99, Youk – 94). Do you think any Red Sox will scale those Runs/RBI levels this year?
I don’t think you have to worry about the runs totals. This Red Sox team is built every season to do one thing better than any other team in baseball: GET ON BASE. There’s a lot of questions that RBI totals will suffer, but if hitters are reaching base, guys will drive them in. Remember all those guys Vernon Wells drove in a few seasons ago? You only get to do that with opportunities. The Red Sox will have many opportunities.
The Red Sox were 2nd in the league in OBP and 2nd in wOBA. That 2009 team was a very talented offensive ballclub, even with dysfunction at third base and shortstop for the entire year. While Jason Varitek had a hot April, he quickly flamed out as well.
After you factor in the regression of the current 2009 holdovers and the additions to the club (Cameron, Beltre, Scutaro), the Red Sox don’t look that much worse offensively. Is someone going to hit 40 homeruns? Probably not. But if the top of the order continues to get on base, there’s no reason why Martinez, Youkilis, and Ortiz don’t have enough opportunities to drive in 100 runs a piece. CHONE projects this Red Sox team to score 5.3 runs per game, good for 858 over the season. Only 9 runs less than the World Series winning 2007 team that had two prime time 40 HR players. But the Boston media says our offense is terrible. I guess I should believe them instead with all the data they have to back up their claims. Right.
Ellsbury and Pedroia shouldn’t have a problem topping 100 runs a piece, unless Jacoby makes all the Pink Hats cry and proves his OBP bump was a giant fluke. If Martinez is spelled enough behind the plate and gets a big chunk of time at 1B/DH, he could do it with enough at bats. Youk will most likely need a 30+ HR season to eclipse 100 runs, but shouldn’t have a problem leading the RBI charge and driving in 100 on his own. Losing Bay won’t affect specific player totals as much as Jon Heyman tells us so.
2) Ditto the first question’s opener regarding the Red Sox improved defense. How much of an impact ERA/WHIP-wise do you think this has for the Sox staff?
Any time a team’s defense improves, you’re only doing the pitching staff a favor. This is why Scott Kazmir continued being called an “ace” when he had that ridiculous tampa bay defense behind him the past 1.5 years. It’s the same reason why Jarrod Washburn suddenly became a star with Franklin Gutierrez’s black hole of a glove bailing him out in center…and then he goes to Detriot and goes down in a fiery blaze of nerd rage.
Once the ball touches the bat, the pitcher has been removed from the resultant outcome. With the exception of the ever confusing antics of Tim Wakefield who seems to be immune to statistical studies and logic like Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology, the Boston pitching staff should have a slight blanket-drop in their opposing BABIP. However, the park dimensions still won’t favor flyball pitchers they way Petco or Safeco does. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, both strong ground ball pitchers, should benefit the most from this defensive improvement, and would be the most likely candidates of favorable returns showing up in their ERA and WHIP.
3) Can you gives us the over/under/push on the following: Ortiz – .260/25 HRs, Beltre .275/15 HRs, Pedroia .307/15 HRs, Youk .280/25 HRs, Jason Veritek .220/7 HRs, Ellsbury 50 SBs.
Ortiz – Push/Over
If Papi gets 600 ABs, I think he still has a shot at 30 HRs. Even when considering his atrocious first two months, his power numbers came back strong to finish out 2009. Our colleague Aaron did a piece on this, and I tend to agree with him. His increasing strikeouts give me pause about the batting average though.
Beltre – Over/Push
I think this is an easy call. Beltre was walloping 25 HRs in Safeco before he almost neutered himself last year. While Fenway does reduce homeruns very slightly compared to average, it’s still more favorable for power production than Safeco. Beltre should get right to 25 HR, doubtful he’ll hit much more than that, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him add 30-40 Fenway doubles off the wall. I’d expect a line similar to his 2007 production, maybe a tad higher with the Monster helping his batting average.
Youk – Push/Over
Youk’s increasing strikeout rate tells me two things. First, he’s more a slave to a fluctuating BABIP, that cruised up to .359 last year. While it’s not the first time he’s done it, the less I see a player putting balls into play, the more I expect their BABIPs to be closer to the average, regardless of high line drive rates. I will, however, look at his increasing K rate as him striving to drive more balls out of the park, and expect his HR/FB%, which has increased 3 straight years, to continue to give him 25-30 HR power. I’ll say this is the year Youk finally hits 30, but not much more.
Pedroia – Over/Push
After a 30 point drop in BABIP from his 2007 and 2008 line, Pedrioa only hit .297 last year. A 10 point improvement doesn’t seem out of the picture, especially when his drop in BABIP also coincided with a drop in strikeouts. Less strikeouts means more balls in play, which means more possible “seeing-eye singles”, at least more than you get from a strikeout, which is zero. 15 homeruns seems to be Pedroia best aiming point for homeruns, and I’ll agree with that. I don’t think he’ll ever have the power potential Robbie Cano has, even without the rocket shoes Yankee Stadium gives left handed batters.
Varitek – Under/Under
Varitek will be lucky if he gets in 50 games. There’s no reason to put his bat in the lineup, and if you’re giving Victor a break, one of the younger defensive minded catchers in the sox system would be a better bet. I guess if you have you worry about drafting Varitek in your fantasy league, you’re probably Omar Minaya. Even if Varitek plays more than he should, I’d steer clear of him anyway. As much as I love the guy, I don’t want him anywhere near the batter’s box.
Ellsbury – Over
50+ shouldn’t be a problem for Jacoby. He could go over 70 again if he actually batted 7th-8th, but I won’t get into my disdain for Ellsbury in the #1 spot instead of Drew.
4) The Red Sox have 3 starters that are arguably in the top 20 fantasy SPs in Beckett, Lester, and Lackey and two interesting later-round picks in Buchholz and Dice-K. Whom of this bunch do you think will be the best and worst values based on their expected draft picks?
Lester and Dice-BB, respectively.
I’m still amazed at the lack of Cy Young support Lester got last year, all due to a fluky BABIP-induced April. If you put his statistics up against the 2009 lines of Sabathia, Verlander, Hernandez, and Halladay, it’s difficult to tell them apart. I even did it for you a long time ago!
Lester seems to be the last pitcher picked in the tier after Lincecum / Grienke. I find it surprising. I always wait on starters anyway, and in a redraft league, he’d be my first target. His ADP is the end fo the 5th round right now, which is basically the similar production your paying for those aforementioned players 2 rounds up. Draft your offense heavy and wait for Jon. The value you pick up by getting that offensive player in Round 3 instead of Sabathia (Votto!) justifies this enough for me.
I really won’t say much about Dice-BB. Until a pitcher walks less than 5 batters per nine, he belongs nowhere near anyone’s fantasy team. You can’t predict him having an ERA anomaly again like 2008, so why waste the draft pick on it? The Casey Kelly-era can’t come soon enough in this town.
5) Jim Rice was one of the more controversial HOF nominees if you define ‘controversy’ by causing the baseball bloggerati and sabermatricians to convulse (me included). What’s your opinion on his HOF credentials? What do you think Theo Epstein’s would be? And if you could swap him out for another more deserving ex-Red Sox player, whom would it be?
A disclaimer: I love Jim Rice. He was one of my favorite players when I was a kid. Back when you didn’t need season tickets to sniff Fenway’s gates for less than a 300% markup, my father used to sit us down on the 3rd base line so I could get a good view of him. He’s outspoken, ballsy, and was a spectacular person, even though he was rough around the edges with the Boston media. Then again, if I played for the Red Sox, I’d probably react to the CHB the way Rice and Carl Everett did.
As much as I love Jim Rice, I know he’s in that bottom rung of Hall of Famers. The guys that eventually get in because they’ve been around so long, or because someone says he was a “feared” hitter enough times to make people believe it.
Personally, my Hall of Fame standards are high. I abhor the thought of a “Hall of Very Good”, but I also understand that in practice enshrinement into the Hall is a subjective matter, and the amount of equations I throw at people won’t change a thing. At this point, I figure it’s more important to focus on making cases for players who have been unfairly snubbed rather than unfairly enshrined. Lame cop out? Probably, but it’s not like you can kick someone out of the Hall. I’d rather not waste my energy complaining about them.
I think my opinion would be the same as Epstein’s. “For everything Jim Rice did for the Red Sox, we’re happy to see him be honored as a great player in our sport.” Then I’d cry myself to sleep in my math books, disgusted at my politically correct PR stunt.
If I could/had to swap him out, it’d be for my other favorite player in my younger years, Dwight Evans. Overall, just as productive at the plate(127 OPS+ to Rice’s 128 OPS+), but an absolutely amazing fielder. From what I remember, he was Rice at the plate, but played right field with as much skill and grace as JD Drew does, albeit with a much superior mustache than the one Drew sports from time to time.
(Note from Rudy: Sorry Razzball readers that I went ‘serious’ instead of our usual facetious with the last question. I just had to ask a Sox fan about Jim Rice’s HOF credentials.)