Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2016 Bill James Projections: Joe Kelly

2012: 5-7, 16 starts, 107 IP, 3.53 ERA, 36 BB, 75 SO
2013 projection: 4-4, 0 starts, 67 IP, 4.16 ERA, 23 BB, 48 SO
2013: 10-5, 15 starts, 124 IP, 2.69 ERA, 44 BB, 79 SO
2014 projection: 6-7, 14 starts, 118 IP, 4.12 ERA, 41 BB, 81 SO
2014: 6-4, 17 starts, 96.1 IP, 4.20 ERA, 42 BB, 66 SO
2015 projection: 8-11, 28 starts, 172 IP, 4.19 ERA, 70 BB, 117 SO

2015: 10-6, 25 starts, 134.1 IP, 4.82 ERA, 49 BB, 110 SO
2016 projection: 7-9, 25 starts, 144 IP, 4.25 ERA, 56 BB, 104 RBI

Despite his laudable ambitions for 2015, Joe Kelly fell far short of his Cy Young goal last season - and despite a better win-loss record than predicted, he failed to measure up to every other statistical projection.

There were flashes of brilliance, a few hints that Kelly might have a good (or even great) season buried somewhere deep inside. Most notably in August, when Kelly achieved the Holy Grail of Red Sox pitchers: a coveted - and warranted - comparison to Pedro Martinez. With an undefeated August, Kelly became the first Red Sox starter to earn six wins in a calendar month since Martinez did it in 1999.

The early season struggles and demotion to AAA Pawtucket were difficult to watch, but Kelly's late-season resurgence proved that the relatively young righthander has the resilience to stick it out and make the necessary adjustments to be a successful pitcher in the major leagues. 

I hate to lay even more responsibility at the feet of David Price, but his presence at the top of the rotation can only help the younger pitchers on the staff. He's proven in the past that he's a willing and able mentor for any teammates who might come to him for advice, and I have to believe that Kelly is the type of player to take full advantage of that.

If Kelly only manages the slight improvements projected by Bill James and his team for 2016, I'll admit to being a bit disappointed, seeing as he's already shown us he has the potential to be much, much better than that. Kelly will turn 28 this season, and while still on the young side, he should be entering his prime. The ceiling on Joe Kelly's potential is high, but he has a lot of minds to change in the course of reaching it.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bonds and Clemens Belong in the Hall

It seems that every year I end up writing a post opining the  "sanctimonious nonsense" of Hall of Fame voters regarding their personal hangups over voting for suspected steroid users:
It's ridiculous. I don't need baseball writers to teach me about morality, thanks all the same. I want to see the best of the era in the Hall of Fame, and if that includes PED users (and it most certainly does), so be it. Why should some players get the benefit of the doubt, while some get tainted by the brush of their peers?
This year we saw a little movement in the vote totals for players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, not to mention the actual election of one Mike Piazza. Rumors of steroid use have followed Piazza for years - and most people within the sport are reasonably convinced those whispers are true.

Steroids or none, Mike Piazza was one of the greatest offensive catchers in the history of the game, and he deserves his plaque in Cooperstown. But you know who else deserves to be enshrined in those hallowed halls? The best pure hitter of a generation, Barry Bonds, and the Rocket himself, Roger Clemens (both of whom were enjoying Hall of Fame worthy careers before they allegedly began dabbling in artificial enhancement).

There's no way for any of us to truly know who was clean and who was using; some estimates bandied about in the baseball industry guesstimate that up to 70% of players between 1990 and 2005 used performance enhancing drugs at some point. Even if the real number is much lower, who are we to make the judgment call about who was clean, and thus deserving of admiration, and who was dirty, and deserves to be ignored or scorned?

Baseball in the era of free agency is completely transformed from the pastoral game that once took up lazy afternoons across the country. The season is longer, the money has exploded, and with that there have been advancements enjoyed by today's players that those of yesteryear couldn't conceive of.

It's perfectly legal (and really, expected) for players to employ personal trainers and chefs, to get lasik eye or Tommy John surgery, and to generally take advantage of every modern edge they can to mold their bodies into the best possible tools to win. Decades ago, players drank and caroused all season, then spent the offseason working another job, because baseball didn't pay the average player enough to live off year round.

Why are some modern enhancements encouraged and others shunned as despicable cheating? Who does this line in the sand benefit? Anyone interested enough in baseball to visit the Hall of Fame already knows that Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, et al are suspected steroid users, but if it makes you feel better, we could demarcate every plaque between 1990 and 2005 with an asterisk denoting the era they played in, and the suspicions that accompany that.

Mike Piazza will enter the Hall of Fame in a few short months. Personally, I'm hoping that Bonds and Clemens eventually follow suit. You can scream about the sanctity of the Hall all you want, but so long as it includes avowed racists, drunks, and misogynists, that argument is absurd.

The Hall of Fame has never been the Hall of Saints. It's a place meant for the best of the best from every part baseball's illustrious (though sometimes shameful) history. If you don't think Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens fit that bill, I don't know what to tell you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2016 Bill James Projections: Jackie Bradley Jr.


2013 projection: 148 games, .258 BA, .351 OBP, .419 SLG, 13 HR, 65 RBI
2013: 37 games, .189 BA, .280 OBP, .337 SLG, 3 HR, 10 RBI
2014 projection: 131 games, .248 BA, .329 OBP, .420 SLG, 15 HR, 55 RBI
2014: 127 games, .198 BA, .265 OBP, .266 SLG, 1 HR, 30 RBI
2015 projection: 129 games, .226 BA, .298 OBP, .341 SLG, 6 HR, 36 RBI
2015: 74 games, .249 BA, .335 OBP, .498 SLG, 10 HR, 43 RBI
2016 projection: 145 games, .253 BA, .329 OBP, .416 SLG, 14 HR, 62 RBI

Jackie Bradley Jr. started the 2015 season in limbo. Shipped off to Pawtucket out of the gate despite tearing it up in spring training, Bradley cycled through a few short trips to Boston before making the permanent jump at the end of July. 

Then in August something amazing happened. The guy we'd been told was all-field, no-hit began mashing. In 26 August games, Bradley hit .354, with a .734 slugging percentage. That's not a typo: Bradley had 28 hits, and 17 of them were for extra bases, including 5 home runs. Of course, he fell back to earth somewhat down the stretch as major league pitchers began to figure him out, but Bradley proved that he's much more than an excellent glove.

The highlight reel catches kept on coming between the big hits, and even as Bradley's offensive numbers leveled off as the season drew to a close, there was no member of Boston's highly regarded outfield more reliable than he was. 

The Red Sox are reportedly planning to start 2016 with Bradley in center field where he belongs, and putting Mookie Betts in right. It makes a lot of sense: even with Fenway's rather expansive right field, it's a waste to have the spectacular Bradley playing anywhere but center.

Bill James and his team project Bradley to make some gains over a full season in 2016. But the Red Sox will be content if he can perform at even an average level at the plate, seeing as he'll doubtless save plenty of runs with his glove.