Analyzing Projections, Part 1

Daniel takes a look at projections for the 2014 Red Sox, starting with the team’s presumptive offensive core.

How will Daniel Nava fare in 2014? Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor.

Projections are fun. The season hasn’t yet begun, so when you project a player’s performance, they are whoever you want them to be. Does Matt Kemp stay healthy? Does Mike Trout break 10 WAR again? Are the rumors of Jose Bautista’s demise unfounded? You get to decide.

As we’ve finished almost the entirety of notable player moves this offseason, projecting is all that’s really left. We have a variety of resources available to do so, and so I’ve decided to play around with them.

I’ve taken player projections for the Red Sox from three projection systems – Steamer, Oliver, and ZiPS – as well as Fangraphs’ user-submitted ones. Using these numbers, let’s see what we can conclude about the Red Sox for this upcoming season.

(Just a note: I’m going to make my own projections here, as well, and for the record, I’m completely making them up. Seriously. Just picking numbers. Don’t think too hard about them. I am not ZiPS.)

Dustin Pedroia

2013: .307/.372/.415, 9 HR, 17 SB, 10.1 BB%, 10.4 K%, .347 wOBA, 5.4 WAR

Steamer: .288/.362/.431, 12 HR, 13 SB, 10.0 BB%, 10.5 K%, .348 wOBA, 4.0 WAR

Oliver: .288/.357/.397, 7 HR, 13 SB, 9.5 BB%, 11.3 K%, .333 wOBA, 3.5 WAR

ZiPS: .285/.352/.425, 14 HR, 18 SB, 9.3 BB%, 11.1 K%, .340 wOBA, 4.6 WAR

Fans: .300/.370/.445, 14 HR, 17 SB, 10.1 BB%, 10.2 K%, .356 wOBA, 5.8 WAR

At first glance, the near-universal regression predicted for Dustin Pedroia by Steamer, Oliver, and ZiPS has me scratching my head. Pedroia’s heading into his age-30 season, firmly entrenched in his prime, and while we can likely assume that he won’t be getting better at this stage, I’m not sure I’m ready to say he’ll be getting markedly worse, either.

Oliver in particular seems to hate Pedroia this season, predicting a near-complete offensive evaporation for Pedey. If you throw out 2010 – in which Pedroia played only 75 games – Oliver’s 3.5 WAR mark would be the lowest total of his entire career. Steamer’s 4.0 would top only his rookie season.

There’s some consistency in the peripherals here, though, even including Oliver. They all seem to agree that he’ll walk somewhere between 9% and 10% of the time, while striking out between 10% and 11%, both of which are fairly consistent with his recent track record.

I find myself – surprisingly – siding with Fangraphs’ readers on this one. I’m just not buying such a large drop for Pedroia at this stage in his career (although he’s not slugging .445, I’m confident of that). I’ll set my own projection for Pedroia as follows:

.290/.365/.420, 13 HR, 16 SB, 9.8 BB%, 10.4 K%, .355 wOBA, 5.0 WAR

David Ortiz

2013: .309/.395/.564, 30 HR, 12.7 BB%, 14.7 K%, .400 wOBA, 3.8 WAR

Steamer: .285/.378/.510, 24 HR, 12.8 BB%, 15.4 K%, .376 wOBA, 2.4 WAR

Oliver: .294/.388/.538, 29 HR, 13.5 BB%, 15.2 K%, .389 wOBA, 3.3 WAR

ZiPS: .296/.386/.552, 25 HR, 12.9 BB%, 15.5 K%, .377 wOBA, 3.3 WAR

Fans: .299/.388/.538, 27 HR, 12.8 BB%, 15.0 K%, .392 wOBA, 3.5 WAR

While they all might have been down on Dustin Pedroia, our chosen projection systems would seem to have accepted the godliness of David Ortiz into their hearts. It’s remarkable to me that, even as he enters his age-39 season, Ortiz is getting so much credit analytically that four different sources all came up with largely identical stat lines, that also just so happen to be notably impressive levels of offensive production.

I don’t really have any arguments with these. My brain wants to lean towards Steamer’s line, because, speaking rationally, he’s probably still a human being and aging is a thing for those. But my heart says Oliver, so I’m going with Oliver.

.295/.390/.540, 27 HR, 13.0 BB%, 14.5 K%, .385 wOBA, 3.4 WAR

Mike Napoli

2013: .259/.360/.482, 23 HR, 12.6 BB%, 32.4 K%, .367 wOBA, 3.9 WAR

Steamer: .245/.347/.460, 20 HR, 12.5 BB%, 29.1 K%, .352 wOBA, 2.0 WAR

Oliver: .237/.339/.445, 25 HR, 12.7 BB%, 32.2 K%, .343 wOBA, 1.7 WAR

Fans: .257/.359/.479, 24 HR, 12.7 BB%, 30.7 K%, .365 wOBA, 3.2 WAR

(Napoli was a free agent at the time the ZiPS Red Sox projections were posted, so therefore, I don’t currently have ZiPS stats for him.)

Unsurprisingly, Napoli has proven to be a tough player to pin down. His last three seasons have varied wildly from one another, with his spectacular .320/.414/.631 outlier in 2011, his .227/.343/.469 follow-up in 2012, and his .259/.360/.482 this past season.

I tend to think the real Mike Napoli is that third player: middling in terms of batting average, with a good OBP, good power, and endless strikeouts. But it has to be remembered that he is now 33 years old; he’s outside of what you would call his prime, he plays a game that doesn’t always age well, and lest we forget his hip is a ticking time bomb. So where does that leave him?

The projections agree on a few things: the strikeouts will be ever-present (I enjoyed Steamer predicting a drop all the way down to 29.1% quite a bit), he’s going to keep walking, and the power is still there. Given that Napoli hails from the Adam Dunn School of Hitting, these are the three probable outcomes of any of his at-bats.

My gut tells me we see one of only two possibilities with Napoli this season: either he maintains what he did last year, or the bottom falls off completely. For now, I’ll stick with Steamer, but Oliver or worse would not shock me.

.245/.345/.460, 24 HR, 12.5 BB%, 31.0 K%, .350 wOBA, 2.0 WAR

Shane Victorino

2013: .294/.351/.451, 15 HR, 21 SB, 4.7 BB%, 14.1 K%, .353 wOBA, 5.6 WAR

Steamer: .272/.337/.426, 11 HR, 16 SB, 7.5 BB%, 13.5 K%, .335 wOBA, 2.7 WAR

Oliver: .283/.347/.436, 15 HR, 22 SB, 5.3 BB%, 15.7 K%, .345 wOBA, 3.8 WAR

ZiPS: .269/.331/.420, 13 HR, 24 SB, 6.6 BB%, 13.4 K%, .331 wOBA, 3.1 WAR

Fans: .276/.340/.419, 13 HR, 21 SB, 7.2 BB%, 13.6 K%, .334 wOBA, 3.5 WAR

Regression is the name of the game with Shane Victorino this season, which should come as no surprise considering he’s coming off of one of the best seasons of his career at age 33 while seemingly not hailing from whatever planet gave us David Ortiz.

I really like SHANF, and would love to see him maintain what he did last season, but all four of our projections (including, shockingly, the fans) agree that it’s just not going to happen. The question, then, is how much regression we can expect.

I’m going to go along with ZiPS’s line for this one, but with a caveat: the WAR figures on each of these projections are low due to a drop-off in defensive measures. Defensive statistics are anybody’s guess, which is why I didn’t include them in these numbers, but I don’t believe that SHANF will fall as hard as these projections expect.

.270/.330/.420, 13 HR, 20 SB, 6.5 BB%, 13.3 K%, .331 wOBA, 4.0 WAR

Daniel Nava

2013: .303/.385/.445, 12 HR, 9.5 BB%, 17.4 K%, .366 wOBA, 1.8 WAR

Steamer: .270/.356/.410, 10 HR, 10.2 BB%, 18.0 K%, .339 wOBA, 1.2 WAR

Oliver: .276/.362/.417, 13 HR, 9.8 BB%, 18.3 K%, .345 wOBA, 2.6 WAR

ZiPS: .257/.344/.384, 8 HR, 8.8 BB%, 20.8 K%, .322, 0.8 WAR

Fans: .282/.368/.420, 11 HR, 10.1 BB%, 17.6 K%, .349 wOBA, 1.8 WAR

Jonny Gomes

2013: .247/.344/.426, 13 HR, 11.7 BB%, 24.3 K%, .338 wOBA, 1.0 WAR

Steamer: .246/.343/.425, 14 HR, 11.4 BB%, 26.5 K%, .338 wOBA, 1.2 WAR

Oliver: .242/.343/.431, 23 HR, 12.0 BB%, 26.2 K%, .339 wOBA, 2.3 WAR

ZiPS: .236/.335/.408, 13 HR, 11.4 BB%, 26.9 K%, .327 wOBA, 0.4 WAR

Fans: .247/.342/.398, 11 HR, 10.9 BB%, 25.5 K%, .329 wOBA, 0.7 WAR

And now we’ve come to our likely left field platoon, consisting of the un-projectable Daniel Nava and the uber-projectable Jonny Gomes.

For starters, we can all agree on something here: Jonny Gomes is going to be Jonny
Gomes, and he’ll continue being Jonny Gomes until he isn’t Jonny Gomes anymore. I’ll take this for him:

.245/.343/.425, 14 HR, 11.4 BB%, 25.2 K%, .325 wOBA, 1.0 WAR

As for Nava, he’s a much tougher nut to crack. It feels like the projections would tend to underrate him based on the relatively limited sample size we have of him in the major leagues, but at the same time, expecting him to stay in line with last year’s production seems like a hasty decision.

I really like Nava; of course, everybody does. I hope he’s the American League MVP this season. For now, though, I’m going with Steamer.

.270/.360/.410, 12 HR, 10.5 BB%, 18.0 K%, .340 wOBA, 1.3 WAR

A.J. Pierzynski

2013: .272/.297/.425, 17 HR, 2.1 BB%, 14.4 K%, .313 wOBA, 1.6 WAR

Steamer: .265/.302/.410, 9 HR, 4.0 BB%, 13.9 K%, .309 wOBA, 1.3 WAR

Oliver: .260/.292/.402, 15 HR, 3.3 BB%, 14.8 K%, .301 wOBA, 2.1 WAR

ZiPS: .267/.297/.430, 16 HR, 2.9 BB%, 15.4 K%, .312 wOBA, 2.3 WAR

Fans: .270/.308/.414, 15 HR, 4.0 BB%, 15.0 K%, .313 wOBA, 2.1 WAR

Last, but not least, we have our presumptive new starting catcher: A.J. Pierzynski. This is an easy one to finish on, because we have a long track record of consistent performance from A.J. that gives us a pretty clear idea of what to expect from him (thus, very consistent projets across the board).

Pierzynski will give the Sox quality defense at the catcher position with some pop, while avoiding walks like the plague.

.260/.290/.420, 16 HR, 4.0 BB%, 14.2 K%, .310 wOBA, 1.5 WAR

That’s all for now. Next week, we’ll take a look at projections for the pitching staff, and after that, we’ll finish up with a look at the young guns.

Categories: A.J. Pierzynski Boston Red Sox Daniel Nava David Ortiz Dustin Pedroia Jonny Gomes Mike Napoli

I'm currently an undergraduate Multimedia Journalism major at Virginia Tech and, with over 630 followers, you could say I'm kind of a big deal on Twitter dot com. I'm Fire Brand's Monday columnist, the creator of the TrollBag (sorry about that) and also the guy who writes those polls every week. I tweet far too much, but you should follow me anyways.

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