It may be snowing yet again in the greater Boston area, but I can smell spring right around the corner. Yes, baseballprospectus.com has released their initial PECOTA forecast spreadsheets. For geeks like me who spent/spend a disproportionate amount of time reading about too many baseball statistics, projections, valuations and evaluations, the excitement about the most accurate projection information is palpable.
So let's take a sneak preview of how the Red Sox batters are projected to perform in 2009 Batters: VORP (Value Over Replacement Player -- with batters, it is runs contributed over a normal fringe position player. A normal fringe position player is a 0.0, a good player is a 10.0, all-star level is 20.0+ and over 30.0 is when you get into game changers) & WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player -- basically, how many wins the individual player is worth over a season above a normal fringe player)]:
Dustin Pedroia - VORP 31.8 / WARP 4.7
My comment: Pedroia, an undersized 2nd round pick, has emerged as the AL MVP (never thought I'd see the day) and into a consistent defender and excellent hitter.
David Ortiz - VORP 28.7 / WARP 3.2
My comment: I am certainly optimistic that PECOTA expects a bounce back from Big Papi. Of course, the WARP may seem low for Big Papi, but remember he is the DH and not contributing defensively.
Jason Bay - VORP 22.0 / WARP 2.1
My comment: I was surprised to see Bay ahead of Youk on VORP, but then, on WARP we can see the effect of Youk's glove and Bay's lack of defensive impact in left field in Fenway Park.
Kevin Youkilis - VORP 20.3 / WARP 3.3
My comment: Youk rounds out the Sox line-up with four 20+ VORPs. Hmmm. I wonder where the line-up drops into the dead zone.
Jed Lowrie - VORP 14.7 / WARP 2.4
My comment: Hmm, guess the "who plays shortstop" debate is all but over.
J.D. Drew - VORP 12.7 / WARP 2.4
My comment: I guess the always challenging question is when does Drew put it together, healthy and playing to potential for a full season?
Jacoby Ellsbury - VORP 11.6 / WARP 4.1
My comment: I thought the VORP was a little low for Ellsbury, but then I remembered some of those horrible funks he went through in 2008 and thought it may be pretty accurate. His WARP rating shows why the Sox were willing to trade defensive stalwart Coco Crisp to Kansas City.
Mike Lowell - VORP 10.6 / WARP 2.6
My comment: Again, surprised with the lower VORP rating, but then he is at his decline phase of his career and is coming off major hip surgery. I certainly understand the conservative rating.
THE LINE-UP KILLERS:
Rocco Baldelli - VORP 6.6 / WARP 0.9
My comment: Yup, a decent back-up you do not want to run out there everyday.
Josh Bard - VORP 4.7 / WARP 1.0 & Jason Varitek - VORP 3.2 / WARP 1.3
My comment: OK, I'll concede Varitek may be slightly better defensively than Josh Bard, but certainly Bard's bat is expected to make a more positive impact in the nine hole this year.
Julio Lugo - VORP 2.8 / WARP 0.5
My comment: Well, at least they have him as a positive VORP/WARP rather than the negative numbers of the past year or so.
Mark Kotsay - VORP 0.3 / WARP 0.4
My comment: Uggh. 24th man on the bench seems an appropriate assessment.
Eight of nine line-up spots as a source of strength is again evidence of Theo Epstein's theory of line-up strength top to bottom. Catcher will be a black-hole for a few more years, I assume (Kottaris & Brown both came in the negative VORP/WARP range) and Mark Wagner is likely a few years away still. Lugo will remain the albatross of the Epstein era, and I bow down to the power of PECOTA and will no longer (publicly at least) think about new options at shortstop.
Tomorrow (hopefully) the pitching staff will be examined.
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