Revisiting 2009: Did we get what we expected?

Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers.

Coming into the 2009 season the Fire Brand community went through the exercise of giving their individual expectations of each players fortunes for the season to come. Once all the forecasts were in, I took the liberty of averaging the numbers together to come up with a singular community projection for each player. Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at results and compare our expectations to the reality that would follow.

Given the uncertain future of Jason Bay underneath the Green Monster in Fenway Park’s left field, I thought it only appropriate that he serve as our first profile.

To gauge expectations of Bay coming into the season, I looked back at Fire Brand’s “For Better or Worse” look ahead of him from last offseason.

*don’t be fooled by the author’s name, it was in fact me and not Mr. Ryne Crabb

Outside of one Major League season, Bay had been a fairly consistent bet at the plate. So it was easy enough for me to peg him with the following statement as I looked ahead;

Personally, I tend to agree that Jason Bay’s numbers will come very close to his collective efforts between Pittsburgh and Boston last season; mid-.280’s, 30 home runs and both 100 RBI and runs scored while hitting primarily out of the five hole next season. In the context of will he be better than he was in 2008, I would say not more than marginally.

Lo and behold, my projections aren’t far off and neither was my final statement. Bay was slightly better in 2009 than 2008, but only marginally. Looking at FanGraph’s Wins Above Replacement, Bay was worth an additional .6 wins year over year with a wOBA of .010 points higher (.397 vs .387). But my projection was nowhere near as accurate as our projection.

Jason Bay 2009 Community Projections
FBotAL Projection 540 106 155 40 30 108 84 10 .288 .384 .537 .921
2009 Actuals 531 103 142 29 36 119 94 13 .267 .384 .537 .921

I still have to take a double take as I look at the similarity of the community projection (the average of 30+ individual forecasts for Jason Bay) and his actual stats. In nearly every category, Fire Brand’s community projections were more accurate than any of the major prognostication tools. In fact, we were so good, we collective nailed (and I mean to the hundredth of a percent) Jason Bay’s OBP and SLG for the season. Now that is downright scary!

Sure, we missed a little on average (a miserable mid-season stretch from May through July where he hit only .240 had alot to do with that), but Bay gave the Red Sox a little bit more home run power than we expected. All in all, we were within 3-4% of nailing Bay’s collective stats over the course of 162 games. Wow.

Now that we are done patting ourselves on the back for a second, let’s think for a second about what our ability to very accurately predict what Jason Bay would be in 2009 before the season started within the context of his future with the organization.

With Jason Bay, I think it is very safe to assume, you know what you will get. He is nothing if not a proven and reliable Major League hitter. Of course, his shortcomings in the outfield are fairly apparent and well documented (you can’t rack up a -13.0 UZR without people taking notice). Even with that negative drain on his worth, according to FanGraph’s Value Wins, Bay’s contribution to the team was worth $15.7 million dollars in 2009.

So add up a reliable and consistent player with little variability in expectations vs. reality and a clean annual value around $15 million and I think you can see the Red Sox offseason negotiations blueprint. I think they’ll go as high as four years and $64 million with an option hanging on the fifth season and be happy with their investment in Jason Bay. I think the more important question is “will he be satisfied with that in return?”