Xander Bogaerts

Revisiting PECOTA’s Preseason Red Sox Projections

One of the annual traditions every spring around the baseball corner of the internet is the release of the many different projection systems. We use the ones we agree with to gloat about how right we are about our favorite players, and rip the ones we disagree with to shreds.

While so much focus is put on them before the season starts when we’re starving for baseball, we all sort of forget about them once the games start. Projections are not something that most people continuously go back to look at, myself included. However, considering how disappointing this Red Sox season was, I thought it would be worth it to look back at what PECOTA said about them before the season to see what the system got right and what it got wrong.

Before we dive into the individual player projections, let’s note that PECOTA was quite high on the overall team back in April. The day before the season started, Boston was projected to win 88 games, enough to win the East and give them the second best record in the American League. Of course, PECOTA wasn’t the only entity that was high on the Red Sox before the season. Which specific players did it get wrong that swung the season in such a poor direction?

One last qualifier before we begin: I only used players that both were projected to play something close to a full-time role and actually played something close to a full-time role. So, guys like Eduardo Rodriguez, Blake Swihart and Henry Owens aren’t included as PECOTA only projected them for a handful of starts/games played. Now, onto the offensive players!

Player TAv (PECOTA) TAv (Actual) WAPR (PECOTA) WARP (Actual)
Xander Bogaerts





Mookie Betts





Hanley Ramirez





Pablo Sandoval





David Ortiz





Dustin Pedroia





Brock Holt





Starting at the top, it’s clear that the two star young players in Boston’s lineup outproduced what PECOTA foresaw back in April. The strange thing about Bogaerts’ season is, despite the huge strides we all saw him make at the plate, his True Average was actually worse than what was projected for him before the season. Now, if we were to break this down by all of the triple-slash components, we would see some major differences. This, of course, is because of how average-heavy his 2015 was, as I talked about a few weeks ago. The huge difference for Bogaerts this season has been his defense. Coming into the year, we figured that he would be an average-at-best shortstop, and even that may have seemed optimistic. He outperformed every reasonable expectation, and that’s where we see the big increase in WARP.

If you go back in time to April, there was no player’s projection who caused more of a stir than Mookie Betts. Many thought he was just another overrated Red Sox player, and there was no way he was going to hit as well as the projection systems (PECOTA certainly wasn’t the only one so high on him) said he would. Well, after all that, he wound up out-performing the projections. Even I, who was expecting a solid season from Betts, couldn’t have predicted him to blow PECOTA out of the water. Beyond his offense, which was slightly better than expected, his defense in center field was tremendous. So, that’s an extra three wins from the two young players. If you told me that would happen before the season started, I would’ve thought there’d be no way the Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs.

Of course, now we get to the two veteran free agents, who were also two of the most disappointing players in the league. It’s not a huge surprise that PECOTA was so far off on these guys, as basically everyone in the world was off. In fact, it was the biggest reason the Red Sox were so much worse than projected, as these two players caused a negative-eight game swing. Ramirez in particular was a disaster, as PECOTA saw him as both a great hitter and an average defensive player.

The two veteran mainstays in the organization had some lofty projections coming into the year, and while they both had good seasons, they both fell short of what was projected. Pedroia’s projection was particularly off, but that’s just a playing time issue as he missed a good chunk of time with injury.

Finally, we have All-Star Brock Holt, who obviously outproduced what was expected from him before the year. That’s not a shocking revelation, but he deserves a mention for being the only good thing about the first half. Oddly enough, his second-half was poor enough that playing time was really the only difference between his actual production and his PECOTA projection.

Now, to the pitchers!

Rick Porcello







Joe Kelly







Wade Miley







Clay Buchholz







Oddly enough, all of the starters who threw at least 100 innings outproduced their PECOTA projections, although most of them were coming from extremely low starting points. If you remember correctly, PECOTA was a harsher critic of Boston’s rotation than any other one. It’s worth noting that these actual WARPs are based on FRA, not the new DRA model, as DRA hadn’t been released at the time PECOTA came out.

Porcello’s actual performance would have been a lot uglier had it not been for a strong run to end the season. In the end, he was only a little worse than everyone expected, although he did it in a completely different fashion. Instead of being a ground-ball machine, he relied on strikeouts and a lack of walks for his success. It’s a good strategy, but it’s tough to succeed when you give up more than a home run every nine innings.

Next we have Joe Kelly, who PECOTA hated more than just about any pitcher who was set to get a significant amount of playing time. For much of the year, they were right, but he also had a solid run to end his season. Kelly, to his credit, was able to induce more strikeouts than PECOTA could have ever predicted.

Wade Miley’s projection vs. actual production is easily the most confusing on this list. PECOTA pretty much nailed his season, as they weren’t significantly off in any area. However, the 1.5 difference in WARP is anything but insignificant. While his projected line represented a replacement-level player, it actually ended up being worth more than a win.

Finally, we have Clay Buchhoz, who is just about the hardest player to project every season. PECOTA saw him being an average pitcher, which any sentient being could have seen as being a mistake. Buchholz is never average. It’s either way above-average or way below-average. This season, he was outstanding, of course. His 2.5 WARP was far and away the highest in the rotation despite him throwing just 113 innings before injury.

For as bad as the rotation was all year, it really wasn’t the reason Boston played below their expectations. The main culprits were the bullpen and the veterans. Whereas previous disappointing Red Sox seasons happened because too much faith was put into young players, it was the old ones who failed this time.

Photo by Winslow Towson/USA Today Sports Images

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2 comments on “Revisiting PECOTA’s Preseason Red Sox Projections”


It is difficult to imagine a player performing at a worse level than Ramirez did and while his WARP was near the bottom of all players it still seems no where near what it should have been. His defense alone was , as more than one observer has said, simply the worst ever seen in the major leagues and should have been scored at least a -5 because he directly cost the Red Sox that many games and never made a good play.


In the underperforming veterans category, I wonder how much Napoli and Victorino had been projected to contribute.

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