Red Sox Spring Training Analysis (Part 3)

This is the third and final stats-drive spring training analysis, mostly
because spring training is now over. If you haven’t read the first two
articles, check them out:
Part 1 and Part 2.

Today we’re going to look at J.D. Drew and Jason Bay, then take a quick look at the Red Sox pitching staff. 

start with the oft-injured J.D. Drew. I think he’s going to have a
great year, because he’s under no pressure to carry the team like he
did last June. He’ll bat 5th, in between Youkilis and Bay, which is a
great place for him. J.D. Drew has come up with some of the most clutch
hits in the history of baseball, no pitcher is going to walk Youkilis
to get to Drew, and similarly, no pitcher would willingly walk Drew to
get to Bay.

Drew’s back will be the
main concern this season, but with capable back-ups, Francona will have
an easy time giving Drew the rest he needs. Think about it, when Drew
came back from his back issues for the playoffs, he hit some seriously
clutch hits and helped the Red Sox reach game 7 of the ALCS.

2007, Drew hit .321 with 13 hits, 1 home run, and 7 RBI in spring
training, then hit .270 with 126 hits, 11 homers, and 64 RBI. Of
course, Drew’s biggest contribution in 2007 was the 14 million dollar
two out Grand Slam in the ALCS , which we all remember fondly as the
day Boston fans officially forgave J.D. Drew. 

2008, Drew’s Spring Training posted frighteningly similar numbers: .321
average, 9 hits, 1 home run, and 5 RBI. for the 2008 season, where he
was absolutely on fire the month of June and then kind of…fizzled,
Drew hit .280 with 103 hits, 19 dingers, and 64 RBI.

beginning to wonder if a good spring is bad for Drew’s regular season,
which fills me with hope, because his 2009 spring training numbers are
down. He hit .265 with 9 hits and 1 RBI. 

what’s the projection for Drew this season? It’s difficult to say,
honestly, because we never know how many at-bats he’ll get or how much
his back will bother him.

projection is he’ll hit somewhere in the .270-.290 range with maybe 15
home runs, it could go higher if he is rested when he starts slumping.

Next we’ll look at Jason Bay.

Jason had a monster season last year, coming off an injury-dampened 2007. How will he look in his first full year as a Red Sox?

2008 spring training, Bay hit .231 with 9 hits and 5 RBI. He hit .286
with 165 hits, 31 homers, and 101 RBI during the regular season.

This spring, including his brief stint at the World Baseball Classic, Bay hit .285 with 12 hits, 4 home runs, and 11 RBI.

what’s the projection for 2009? Can Jason Bay replace Manny’s bat in
the line-up? No. But he can get pretty close. I’d look for Bay to have
another 30+ home run season, and bat around .280-.300. That could be
overly optimistic, but I have faith in him


The pitching staff
might be the strength of this Red Sox team, despite a talented line-up.
With three aces, four if Smoltz or Penny come back with a good bit of
their past form, and one of the best bull pens in the league, the Sox
are looking to make another run at the post-season.

this I’m going to look at the (current) starting five: Beckett, Lester,
Dice-K, Wakefield, and Penny. Then, in honor of the stellar ‘pen, we’ll
look at Papelbon to close things out.

Beckett is slated to
start opening day at Fenway against the Rays, so what should we expect
from him? Will he be good but not great like last year, or lights out
like he was in 2007? I’m banking on 2007, since he was never really
healthy in 2008.

My projection for
the 2009 season is that Beckett will be on form again, pitch about 200
innings, with 70-75 earned runs, 40-45 walks, and 185-190 strikeouts.
I’d look for him to post an ERA around 3.15-3.25.

we have Jon Lester, who emerged as one of the game’s elite southpaws
last season, and should continue to build on that in 2009.

only concern facing Lester this year is the number of innings he threw
last year. He pitched 210 innings, and was clearly gassed by game 7 of
the ALCS.

I don’t expect him to pitch that many innings again, I project he will
throw about 190-200, with 70-75 earned runs, 60 walks, and 155-160
strike outs. I’d look for him to post an ERA of about 3.18-3.28.

we have Daisuke Matsuzaka, the heart attack-inducing MVP of the World
Baseball Classic. Dice-K has looked good this spring, at the WBC and
with the Sox. While you should never count on him to eat innings, or
have a low number of walks, he’s just looking to have a break-out year.
I’d look for him to go about 176 innings, with 73 earned runs, 85-90
free passes, and 165-170 strike-outs. I’d look for him to post an ERA
around 3.45-3.65, but don’t discount him, it’s just as likely for that
ERA to settle out around 2.90-3.10.

we have Tim Wakefield, the longest tenured Red Sox, and still pitching
strong. That’s mostly due to the fact he’s a knuckleballer, and thus
the pitching motion doesn’t wear on his shoulder like the normal
pitching motion.

will Wake look good again this year? Sure. He’s consistent. He should
eat about 186 innings, with 90-95 earned runs, 65-70 walks, and 115
strike outs. He should post an ERA of 3.85-4.00, but this won’t matter
as much if he can get the run support.

Tim Wakefield is going to give up two or three runs a game. His season record depends on how much run-support he gets.

Penny is the newest addition to the pitching staff, and like many of
the Red Sox additions, he’s coming off of an injury. Assuming he
recovers and gets back to some of his form, I’d look for Penny to go
between 170-190 innings, 75-80 earned runs, and post an ERA of
3.20-3.50. I have a wide range here because I’m not sure how Penny will
perform. It’s a sort of waiting game with him.

And now we’ll close this series off with one of the game’s elite closers, Jonathan Papelbon.

has posted great stats the past three years, with more than 30 saves in
2006, 2007, and 2008. I wouldn’t look for that to change at all. Last
year, Papelbon had 41 saves, I’d look for him to have between 40-45
saves this season and post an ERA of 2.60-2.80.

is the capstone of a stellar bull pen, and should have fewer four,
five, and six out saves this year because the road from the starter to
Papelbon is paved with pitchers like Takashi Saito, Justin Masterson,
lefty-specialist Javier Lopez, and many others.

that, I end my stats freak predictions. What’s my prediction for the
season? I think the Red Sox win the AL East, but it’s a tough road with
the Yankees and the Rays, so I think we’re in for a very exciting season.

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