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Boston Red Sox Season Preview: Can David Price pitch every day?

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The "Seeing David Price in Red is Making Us Break Out in Hives" Edition of our Red Sox season preview

I CAME IN LIKE A WREEEEEECKING BALLL
I CAME IN LIKE A WREEEEEECKING BALLL
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

So, the site is previewing the division foes the team will have to compete against in order to regain entry to the post-season wonderland and when the topic of the Boston Red Sox came up, everyone was hesitant to step up, to divert their valuable time and energy to the cause. Everyone except our site manager Danny, of course, who drooled at the opportunity, but proved he couldn't write anything without showing homer bias for his beloved team from New England.

So a new hero emerged to save his comrades from that pit in your stomach that curls whenever the team from the extreme northeast is mentioned, and the hero is me.

Rays fans (as well as most of the baseball world) have had numerous reasons to dislike the Red Sox.  And this year is no different.

Their projected 2016 payroll is $166 million, and yet they will surely complain about how difficult it is to keep up with Yankees spending.  They are like millionaires who are whining about income inequality because they are not billionaires.

We'll have to look forward to final year of the lovable ol' David "That Dugout Phone Had Insulted My Mama" Ortiz, who has charmed the majors with his passion, leadership, and calm maturity. Think of all those times he pointed his bat at an opposing pitcher, complimenting the tremendous pitch that just fooled him into thinking the pitch would hit him. I for one will certainly miss his admiration of a well-struck pop-up.  If his farewell tour is as drawn out as his home run trot we will surely still be saying our goodbyes in 2018.

If this were not enough, they spent a record breaking $217 million to land David He's Dead To Us Now Price... who used to be the heart and soul of the Rays rotation...

Anyway, let's take a look at the perennial "Best Team Evuh"  the Boston Red Sox.

The Pitching

In 2015, the Red Sox had one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball as they posted 10.7 fWAR, good for the 22nd lowest in the majors. They ranked similarly in Fielding Independent Pitching, while having the 25th highest Earned Run Average.

This was an obvious weak spot, so Red Sox front office spent the winter trying to address it.  They signed David Price to a record breaking $217 million, seven year deal.  They traded Wade Miley to the Mariners for Roenis Elias and Carson Smith, a potentially elite reliever. Then to put the cherry on top, the Red Sox sent a king's ransom to the Padres to obtain possibly the top closer in all of baseball, Craig Kimbrel.

So their pitching has massively improved.

The starting rotation:

STEAMER W L ERA FIP K% BB% IP GS fWAR
David Price 16 8 2.99 3.13 25.1% 5.0% 215 32 4.9
Clay Bucholz 11 9 3.66 3.67 20.2% 6.4% 170 28 2.7
Rick Porcello 10 8 3.84 3.75 18.4% 5.4% 158 26 2.3
Eduardo Rodriguez 8 7 3.84 4.03 19.1% 7.3% 121 21 1.4
Joe Kelly 8 7 4.05 4.03 18.6% 8.2% 129 19 1.2

David Price will lead the staff, as easily the top pitcher in the rotation. The Red Sox will have to hope for solid years from their 2-5 guys. Bucholz was great during his limited time off the shelf last season. Rick Porcello has one of the worst years of his career last season, still wasn't too bad, but he has to rely on a good defense behind him, which he doesn't have.

Rounding out the Boston rotation will be Eduardo Rodriguez -- who is currently on the DL -- and Joe Kelly. Both could provide stellar years, or could implode and cause a massive hole in the back end of the Red Sox rotation.

The bullpen:

STEAMER ERA FIP K% BB% IP fWAR
Craig Kimbrel 2.65 2.68 32.2% 9.0% 65 1.2
Koji Uehara 2.97 3.42 24.7% 5.8% 65 0.6
Carson Smith 3.07 3.03 25.9% 8.7% 55 0.7
Junichi Tazawa 3.34 3.59 22.3% 6.7% 55 0.4
Robbie Ross 3.59 3.72 19.9% 7.6% 45 0.2
Matt Barnes 3.75 3.89 21.7% 8.3% 40 0.1
Roenis Elias 4.26 4.36 18.2% 8.6% 55 0.7

The Boston bullpen could, based on starter projected innings, face a massive workload this upcoming season.  This would require bullpen depth beyond a strong 7-8-9 inning trio.

The main arms that an opposing team will see during the season are Carson Smith (injured), Koji Uehara (old), and Craig Kimbrel (ok he's pretty good). Meanwhile Roenis will serve as a spot starter, or later, the long man in the pen. There's not much to fear there though, besides the back end, and they'll be without Smith to begin the year.

*Roenis Elias was indeed optioned, which makes their pen even worse.

The Hitting

The Lineup

PECOTA AVG OBP SLG TAV HR VORP WARP
Mookie Betts, RF .297 .360 .470 .292 18 38.6 4.4
Dustin Pedroia, 2B .288 .340 .418 .274 12 26.5 3.5
Xander Bogaerts, SS .282 .334 .414 .266 13 27.7 2.2
David Ortiz, DH .276 .361 .508 .299 30 25.8 2.8
Hanley Ramirez, 1B .272 .339 .454 .280 20 16.8 1.8
Pablo Sandoval, 3B .280 .333 .447 .273 17 15.0 0.8
Rusney Castillo, LF .264 .311 .400 .250 12 9.7 1.3
Blake Swihart, C .265 .310 .393 .248 9 11.2 1.0
Jackie Bradley, CF .245 .317 .400 .254 13 9.0 1.5

As with most lineups, the level of productions trends downwards from the leadoff spot to the bottom with Mookie Betts being expected to provide some nice pop as well as excellent on-base prowess. In total, he is expected to be their top offensive player. The 2-3-4 guys are all expected to put up close to identical lines with David Ortiz providing the bulk of the power.

Batting fifth, Hanley Ramirez is expected to complement Ortiz, while the Red Sox are hoping for a bounce back season from Sandoval, although the projections aren't in their favor.

The bottom three players will provide more value through their defensive than their offensive play. Jackie Bradley and Rusney Castillo are above average outfield defenders and Blake Swihart is above average behind the dish. Swihart projects well on offense, too, in comparison to other catchers.

**Went through the trouble of including Pablo Sandoval, just to see the Red Sox had benched him...a player they're paying $75 million

***Wait, they're benching Rusney Castillo too? LOL

Sandoval and Castillo will be options and on the bench for the Red Sox, and in their stead, Travis Shaw and Brock Holt (\o/) will get the bulk of the starts in their places, respectively.

YAY AVG OBP SLG TAV HR VORP WARP PA
Brock Holt .279 .332 .379 .252 4 11.1 1.2 455
Travis Shaw .246 .318 .417 .257 13 4.7 0.6 377

And those projections don't inspire much confidence for the Fenway faithful, with each player having slight above replacement level years, but they're in two positions that are expected to contribute to the offensive product on the field...and they likely won't provide very much.

Conclusion

The Red Sox are relying on David Price to carry their pitching staff, which he is more than capable of doing. But if the Boston media affects him like it did Carl Crawford during his short lived Red Sox days, or Sandoval for that matter, there's a chance that Price's tenure could turn sour in a hurry.

Price, we would note, seems much more media savvy and comfortable than Crawford or Sandoval ever did, so he may be better positioned to handle the city's fickle press. However, even if Price is the Cy Young caliber pitcher everyone knows he is, he just gets one or two games a week.

So, Boston will have to get their other starters to be able consistently produce quality outings in order to remain competitive with the rest of the division.

Meanwhile, the offense is counting on big years from veterans who spent the 2015 season dealing with injuries or just poor performance. The front office focused on making big splashes to the pitching, but little attention was paid to the Boston offense while the rest of the division vastly improved in that category.

In my personal opinion, the Red Sox will have to prepare another one of these:

bos