Anyone who says that spring begins on Easter Sunday or March 20th. I don’t care if they have one of the biggest days in the world or this fancy thing called “science” on their side. Spring officially begins on Opening Day. If you disagree, then you probably can’t see the colors of the American flag, which makes you a commie.
Baseball season is finally here. Well, it was supposed to have already started for the Red Sox, but Mother Nature hates you and me. The Red Sox (finally) open up their season tomorrow at 1:10 in Cleveland against Corey Kluber and the Indians, with new ace David Price on the hill. After tomorrow’s game, there’s 161 more, and it promises to be an interesting, whether good or bad, ride.
I’m pretty high on the Red Sox this year. People forget that the Sox finished the season on a pretty good run, all things considered. It’s easy to write off 2015 as another last place year, and at some point, a 78-84 record speaks for itself. But let’s take a closer look at how the Sox got there.
After starting 10-7, the Sox then went an abysmal 23-36 through June 27, earning a 33-43 record. They climbed back to 42-47 by the All Star break… and then the wheels came off. They won exactly TWO games out of their next 13, and they were out of it by the trade deadline.
After that, though, the Sox won 34 of their final 60 games, which translates to a .567 winning percentage that rivaled the Blue Jays’ whole season winning percentage of .574. If you know anything about sabermetrics, or if you’ve ever heard of the phrases “moneyball,” “advanced stats,” or “common sense,” you know that 60 games is not a good sample size for an MLB team. I’m not saying that the Sox were even in the same zip code as the Blue Jays last year, but they were better than we remember. Also, the Sox had the run differential of an 81-81 team, demonstrating at least that the Sox were not a 78-84 team.
This offseason, Dave Dombrowski filled the team’s biggest needs by signing David Price and trading for Craig Kimbrel. They didn’t lose anyone significant, unless you include Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting job and should be off the team within a matter of weeks. (I was hoping he would be gone by opening day. I guess Dave Dombrowski and Mother Nature BOTH like to screw with me.)
Let’s get to some predictions. We’ll start with predictions for the Red Sox, some bolder than others.
1. Xander Boegarts’ batting average will drop, but his OBP will rise (thankfully).
Bogaerts won the Silver Slugger last year at just 22 years old with a batting average of .320, which should make you ecstatic about his future with the Red Sox. Here’s the thing, though. I have to throw a little cold water on that batting average, because X had an absurd .372 BABIP, or batting average on balls in play. I hate it when people overvalue BABIP or any other advanced stat, because I have no doubt that Bogaerts makes better contact with the ball than most MLB players. But .372 is insane. As far as Red Sox shortstops go, even Nomar Garciaparra only had a single year in which his BABIP was over the .360 mark, and that’s when he hit .372 in 2000.
However, Bogaerts’ OBP of .355 will rise. He only walked 4.9% of the time in 2015, down from 6.6% in 2014. I expect him to improve past the 6.6% mark, if for no other reason than he’ll have another big league season under his belt and he’ll be smarter at the plate. Pencil him in for a .307 batting average and a .360 OBP. I’ll take those numbers from a 23 year old shortstop any day.
2. At 1st base, Hanley Ramirez will be bad… but passable.
The Red Sox are not paying Hanley Ramirez to be a good fielder, nor are they putting him at 1st to be Doug Mienkiewicz. They’re simply sticking him there for a lone season before he moves to David Ortiz’ DH spot. Hanley has shown the willingness to dive for balls so far this spring, whereas last year he wouldn’t have dove for a ball if it meant that he got to be DH for 5 games. His shoulder surgery has helped matters there, and while I’m sure that his defense will be considerably below average and cost the Red Sox a few runs, I also think that he’ll perform well enough to not be a humongous liability like he was last year in left field.
3. Either Joe Kelly or Rick Porcello will become a significant asset to the pitching staff, but not both.
Just playing the law of averages here. My money is on Rick Porcello to rebound, as he’s still just 27. Porcello’s FIP was 4.13 last year and his xFIP was 3.72 while his ERA was 4.92, and it’s a good sign when there’s that big of a discrepancy with a pitcher. He won’t be worth $20.5125 million per year, but he’ll be fine as a #3 starter, and he might just be a quality #2 behind Price. Kelly is in a similar boat with his ERA compared to his FIP and xFIP, but I have less faith in him to become anything more than a #4 starter. He still hasn’t pitched more than 134.1 innings in a season and has never had a FIP below 4.00. My guess is Kelly will be a fine starter, and it’ll be a debate heading into October of whether or not he’s the 4th postseason starter or the 5th starter/long reliever.
4. Brock Holt will make it hard for John Farrell to play someone else over him, as hard as Farrell may try.
Brock Holt must be wondering what he has to do to get into an MLB lineup. He can play 7 positions, and I’m pretty sure he would make an awesome 3rd catcher or 15th inning relief pitcher. He plays good (not great, but good) defense at every position, and his BA and OBP have both been impressive the past 2 seasons. Yet, the Red Sox always want to find a way to get him on the bench, whether it’s by signing Chris Young or keeping Rusney Castillo on the roster when he needs more full time work in Pawtucket. Holt should not have a designated position, because a huge aspect of his value is that he can play anywhere on a moment’s notice. But he should have a spot in the lineup every day until he proves that he doesn’t deserve it. I don’t think that day will come in 2016.
5. David Ortiz will still hit 30 homers because he’s David #$%^ing Ortiz.
It’s been awhile since I bet against Big Papi (since he was on the Twins, actually), and I won’t start now. The dude is motivated to go out on top. Ortiz wants you to know that he’s not going out like Derek Jeter.
If you think that I’m resorting to old school, antiquated, non-statistical ways of analyzing David Ortiz, you’re right. Nothing about this guy’s later years has screamed “logic” or “statistics.” He keeps hitting home runs like he was put on this earth to do… because he was.