How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the 2012 Red Sox

The 2011 Red Sox in a single Picture

This offseason has seen the insults, comments, questions and general malaise come from all angles. The team hasn’t had much to be positive about after the worst regular season collapse of all time and the resulting flight of both the manager and GM. If that wasn’t bad enough, we have added just two bullpen arms by way of trade and a stable full of aging and injured starting pitchers on minor league deals.

If that wasn’t enough, the Yankees have reestablished their place atop the AL East by adding Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda to their rotation; both of whom would have looked great in a Red Sox uniform. So why shouldn’t we plan a mass exodus from Fenway this year and maybe a trip off the Tobin Bridge? Because the Red Sox are still even today without a completed lineup one of the two best teams in baseball on paper.

The Rays might want to argue that fact, but the Red Sox on paper would come in second with only injuries having limited them in the recent past. That might not change as many pieces are back, but with J.D. Drew no longer in the outfield and Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey out for most if not all of 2012, those have been two of the main culprits when it comes to DL stints.

The Red Sox offense has been arguably the best in baseball for the past two years (if not much longer than that). Per wRC++, they finished a close second to the Yankees in 2010 and a clear number one with a 116 in 2011.* There isn’t much to report in changes here as the offense is going to stay largely the same except right field and on the bench. That is actually a good thing though, as even Josh Reddick couldn’t save the right field position last year, which had a combined split of .233/.302/.369 and a wRC++ of 75 in 2011.

*wRC++ is a weighted measure of overall offensive skill. It accounts for league and park factors and 100 is league average.

Ryan Sweeney is not a great right field bat, but he can surely top that based on his historical numbers and a move out of Oakland. So put in that improvement and a full season of Jarrod Saltalamacchia with either Kelly Shoppach or Ryan Lavarnway backing up at catcher and the offense should have no problems matching that league leading output.

In the field, the team saw an amazing jump from 2010 to 2011 according to UZR going from a -13 for 2010 to 42.8 in 2011, which ranked them fourth overall in MLB rankings. This year will see some change without J.D. Drew’s trusted glove, but that should be offset by never seeing Jed Lowrie play short stop again in a Red Sox uniform.

Right about now everyone must be wondering about the pitching.  That was the problem in September, and the team has only made minor moves other than adding a closer and seen several major injuries. That’s where one of the big things I learned this offseason when looking at the numbers. The Red Sox pitching, other than Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, was awful in 2011.* If you total the WAR from all the starters not named Lester or Beckett you get a grand total of 4.7. That is one really good ace or two middle of the rotation guys taking up a combined three spots.

*or injured

Having a healthy Clay Buchholz in the rotation will cut nearly half of that by himself, leaving the experiment with Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves or one of the injury risks to total 2.7 WAR in the last two spots of the rotation to just equal what they got in 2011. I wrote earlier that I liked the addition of Aaron Cook and that he could be the one to add that value.

I was not a huge fan of the Bard move, but could see him being an average starting pitcher and that should be worth 2 WAR if he can stay healthy and total 150+ innings this year. I am not as confident with Aceves, and would prefer he stays in the bullpen.

The bullpen has had some huge changes this year, but they look to have more talent. Though the individual talent is not as good as Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, the skill seems more even throughout the group. The talent should be even better if Aceves stays in the pen. If Bobby Jenks can get healthy, the team should be confident that getting just 6 solid innings from their starters should be enough in a majority of games.

So they haven’t made many changes and they didn’t add any big name pitching, but the Red Sox took a team that failed in one regard last year. That factor was pitching in September from injuries. This year the team has a boat load of pitchers they are lining up to fill that spot and even more to be there in September if the injury bug strikes again.

My guess is the team goes with Bard and one of the three options from Cook, Carlos Silva, or Vicente Padilla. That will give them Aceves as their first option to move from the pen. They can also look for Daisuke Matsuzaka to be returning in the fall as well as several minor league arms not named Kyle Weiland.

The 2012 Red Sox will remind a lot of fans of the 2011 debacle, but they’ve made enough changes or tweaks the team to change the things that happened last fall. So everyone join me and relax and love the 2012 Red Sox, at least until the first time Bobby Valentine makes his first questionable choice. Then all bets are off.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz Daisuke Matsuzaka Jon Lester Josh Beckett

After taking an interest in sabermetrics and statistical analysis Troy began trying to use it to an advantage in fantasy baseball. He started the website RotoSavants.com and also spent time at HardballTimes.com and FantasyPros911.com. After a few years the interest in the Red Sox drew him to start a Red Sox-oriented site (Yawkey Way Academy) with fellow writer Lee Perrault. A short time later he joined Fire Brand. Writer from: December 14, 2009 – July 24, 2010, March 3, 2011 – May 10, 2012.

15 Responses to “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the 2012 Red Sox” Subscribe

  1. ChipBuck January 19, 2012 at 10:21 AM #

    This post deserves a +1 just for the title alone. Nicely done, Troy.

    • TroyPatterson January 19, 2012 at 11:08 AM #

      I thought about adding Dr. Yocum to the title.

      • ChipBuck January 20, 2012 at 7:44 AM #

        "Gentlemen! You can't fight in here! This is the war room!"

  2. TopherDD January 19, 2012 at 11:29 AM #

    A healthy and effective Jenks would make Bards jump to the starting rotation a much less riskier proposition.Todays game being what it is with pitch counts and situational pitching(Larrussa's WS champs St.Louis Cards.) a deep and effective bullpen is a must if you want to compete. Can Jenks ,Melancon,or anyone else on the roster give us (the Sox) what Bard did ? September not withstanding. Also I liked that you defined wRC++ as well as gave a league average for that 'equation'. It makes for a much easier read when you don't have to refer to the Bill James handbook or fangraphs website ,constantly

    • TroyPatterson January 19, 2012 at 11:39 AM #

      A healthy Jenks is not as flashy as Bard, but would be as effective. Melancon as well would be only a slight downgrade in that 8th inning spot.

      I know in the past I have used some stats with no explanation, which can be troublesome to the reader. I hope to give further explanation as well as link to relevant sources/definitions.

  3. marcos January 19, 2012 at 11:38 AM #

    I could never love a team with this many flaws. Especially knowing they could fix all of them if they wanted to.

    • Brian B January 19, 2012 at 2:22 PM #

      then your not a real red sox fan so cares what you think. i know we collapsed but really you look at it personnel wise it was the 6th 7th and 8th starters of the rotation that were the biggest cause. They've quietly addressed those issues in a cost effective way looking ahead to bigger free agent pools and avoiding the long and loaded contracts theo gave out that have cost this team in recent yrs. you dont like the team, i dont care, just dont change your mind when halfway through the season when they are a top 5 team in the league again.

      • marcos January 19, 2012 at 8:58 PM #

        Let me see if i follow what you're saying. You're telling me that i am not a true fan because i am not blindly buying into the propaganda the Red Sox are trying to sell as a fan??? geez i guess i'm not real fan. Please email a list of rules i should follow to be considered a "true" Red Sox fan. Here's my email [email protected]

      • ChipBuck January 20, 2012 at 7:48 AM #

        As much as disagree with marcos (like 90% of the time), it's not fair to say he's not a "real" fan. Everyone enjoys their fandom differently. He just does it by being a little more pessimistic than you and me.

        With regards to the rest of your comment, I wholeheardtely agree. It may not have been the ideal way to go about building the 2012 club, but it appears it was necessary. It's still a 90+ win team, and I think they'll make the moves in season that they need to in order to make the playoffs.

        • Brian B January 20, 2012 at 10:42 AM #

          1. i would say there is a difference between being a fan, and having a rooting interest. A fan likes the team when they suck and when they win. so flawed or not, thats your team.
          2. the flaws he is speaking about is 2 positions. we already score the most runs in the league so signing a carlos beltran would have been nice., but nessasary.. definetly not.
          3. last year the yankees won with 2 considered washup pitchers and a rookie. Its hard to judge flaws until you see them perform. Give bard, aceves and anyone else they've signed recently a shot at the number 4 & 5. it might just surprise you.
          4.. this is a 90+ win team just as it was last yr. except they have provided depth to that very back end of the rotation. so that a collapse like last yr doesn't happen again. I wish they got a strong 4th to let bard slip into the 5 whole and keep aceves in the bullpen but they seem to have a plan. i'll judge them on it next September.

          • marcos January 20, 2012 at 1:52 PM #

            I love the red sox through and through. That being said i don't agree with everything they do.

    • ChipBuck January 19, 2012 at 2:49 PM #

      I am Jack's total lack of surprise.

  4. Dave January 19, 2012 at 2:17 PM #

    Excellent post. I too am a glass is half full kind of fan.
    Unfortunately, you have probably now guaranteed that you will never write for the Globe or get a stint on Boston sports radio (how dare you not preach doom and gloom).

    • TroyPatterson January 19, 2012 at 2:42 PM #

      It's a shame, but true that negativity and being contrarian is what gets you attention in the mass media. It's a good thing my day job pays well so I don't have to transform into CHB to make a living.

  5. Aimee January 20, 2012 at 11:58 AM #

    I have no problems loving the 2012 Boston Red Sox. I will attend my annual game with my family (live too far away to attend more than one), and I look forward to the Ben and Bobby Era. Indeed, given the Real Sports Scandals that have arisen since September (Penn State, Ryan Braun, Paul Pierce's waistline, etc), chicken and beer seems pretty trivial to me at this point. Tito? Looking forward to visiting with him on ESPN. Theo? Good luck with those Cubs; glad they're not my team. Ben? Hope you found this year's Freddy Garcia in your forays into the scrap heap. Bobby? Hope your enthusiasm doesn't wane. Give me the grittiness of Nick Punto, the fist pump of Andrew Bailey. Bring it on. I'm ready.