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Total WAR Project, Part IX: Boston Red Sox

The Total WAR Project is a series of posts that analyzes the closest competition facing the Phillies in 2010. The posts use Wins Above Replacement, a metric designed to use offensive and defensive production within a single stat. You can check out the rest of the teams in our series here.

Wednesday, I previewed the Red Sox as part of the A.L. East and league preview. Really, this is a team that would be the odds-on favorite to win any other division in the game. They have excellent pitching, a fan base that takes over nearly every visiting park and a patient offense that will put plenty of runners on base.

Ah, but they rue this day, for they must contend with those omnipotent Yankees not only 18 times a year, but in the race for a division title, as well. This is hardly an enviable position. Fortunately for Boston, the wild card provides a bit of a security blanket. Many would pencil the Red Sox in for a playoff spot right now, but with games to be played, all we can do is see just how good they might be, and wonder if they could truly contend for a seemingly locked-up division title.

2009 Roster

C1: Jason Varitek (1.3 WAR)
C2/1B: Victor Martinez (4.9 WAR)

1B: Kevin Youkilis (5.7 WAR)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (5.2 WAR)
3B: Mike Lowell (1.2 WAR)
SS: Nick Green (0.4 WAR)
DH: David Ortiz (0.8 WAR)
INF: Julio Lugo (-0.2), Alex Gonzalez (0.5), Casey Kotchman (1.0 WAR)

OF1: Jason Bay (3.5 WAR)
OF2: J.D. Drew (4.8 WAR)
OF3: Jacoby Ellsbury (1.9 WAR)
OF4: Rocco Baldelli (0.2 WAR)

SP1: Josh Beckett (5.3 WAR)
SP2: Jon Lester (6.2 WAR)
SP3: Brad Penny (2.5 WAR)
SP4: Tim Wakefield (1.9 WAR)
SP5: Clay Buchholz (1.2 WAR)
SP6: Daisuke Matsuzaka (0.5 WAR)

CL: Jonathan Papelbon (1.9 WAR)
SU: Ramon Ramirez (0.4 WAR)
RP: Hideki Okajima (0.6 WAR)
RP: Manny Delcarmen (0.2 WAR)
RP: Takashi Saito (0.4 WAR)
RP: Daniel Bard (0.8 WAR)

2009 Total WAR: 53.1

Getting 17.6 WAR from your starting rotation is an excellent way to be a contender. That tops the Yankees by a solid 3.4 wins, and their bullpen added an additional 4.3 wins. Sadly, that’s two wins shy of New York, and we’re left with just a one-win advantage before we even get to the offenses. It isn’t difficult to see how the Yankees end up being 6.7 wins better.

Surprised that J.D. Drew was better than Jason Bay? Don’t be. I know we’ve tried to repress it, but J.D. Drew is a really good offensive player. Boobirds notwithstanding. Anyway.

Knowing that they had major work to do and holes to fill, the Sox went out and improved their offense, defense and pitching in one year by snatching up Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and John Lackey. Signed to a five-year, $82.5 million deal, Lackey now joins Beckett and Lester to create one of the no-doubt best rotations in the game. Beltre and Cameron provide some offensive pop – Beltre especially should outperform Mike Lowell’s 2009 comfortably – but their true value lies in run prevention. Beltre is one of the best defenders at third in all of baseball, and Cameron is notoriously well-lauded for his work in center field. So confident in Cameron’s defense are Boston that they’ve moved Jacoby Ellsbury to left.

Ellsbury, while quick, takes poor routes and has difficulty reading balls off the bat. His speed is the only reason he is able to catch up to some plays in the field*. Diving catch highlights on SportsCenter can be a bit deceiving.

* This still does not mean he is a great fielder. Instincts and sight stay with you long after the wheels go by the wayside, and if Ellsbury can not improve his route-running and reads, he will never be a true center fielder.

How will Boston’s offseason moves affect their WAR projection? Let’s take a peek.

2010 Projected Roster

C1/1B: Victor Martinez (4.5 WAR)
C2: Jason Varitek (1.1 WAR)

1B: Kevin Youkilis (3.7 WAR)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (4.7 WAR)
3B: Adrian Beltre (2.3 WAR)
SS: Marco Scutaro (3.0 WAR)
DH: David Ortiz (2.3 WAR)
INF: Mike Lowell (2.2 WAR), Bill Hall (-0.7 WAR), Jed Lowrie (1.4 WAR)

OF1: Mike Cameron (1.9 WAR)
OF2: J.D. Drew (2.5 WAR)
OF3: Jacoby Ellsbury (3.7 WAR)
OF4: Jeremy Hermida (1.3 WAR)

SP1: Josh Beckett (4.7 WAR)*
SP2: Jon Lester (5.6 WAR)*
SP3: John Lackey (3.7 WAR)*
SP4: Tim Wakefield (1.3 WAR)*
SP5: Clay Buchholz (2.4 WAR)*
SP6: Daisuke Matsuzaka (2.0 WAR)*

CL: Jonathan Papelbon (2.3 WAR)*
SU: Ramon Ramirez (0.5 WAR)*
RP: Hideki Okajima (0.5 WAR)*
RP: Manny Delcarmen (0.4 WAR)*
RP: Michael Bowden (0 WAR)
RP: Daniel Bard (1.3 WAR)*

2010 Projected Total WAR: 58.6

Notable IN: Beltre, Cameron, Hermida, Lackey, Scutaro
Notable OUT: Green, Saito

Adding five-and-a-half wins to an already impressive squad makes the Red Sox that much more dangerous. At least this gets Pat Gallen off the hook for picking the Sox to take the East from the Yankees.

In approaching 60 WAR, the Sox can absolutely be considered “elite.” Great pitching, very good offense and great defense all contribute to form a scary team, and that’s with Lester and a couple others expected to take a step back. Depth is a bit of an issue, but if Lowell ends up having as good a season as he’s projected to have (.273/.328/.429), he’ll be a top bench bat.

The only thing standing between Boston and another playoff berth is injury, because, when healthy, this team is a near lock for the postseason.

2009 Roster
CJorge Posada (3.9 WAR)
C2: Jose Molina (0.0 WAR)
1B: Mark Teixeira (5.2 WAR)
2B: Robinson Cano (4.4 WAR)
3B: Alex Rodriguez (4.4 WAR)
SS: Derek Jeter (7.4 WAR)
INF: Jerry Hairson, Jr. (0.6 WAR); Ramiro Pena (0.5 WAR)
OF1: Johnny Damon (3.1 WAR)
OF2: Melky Cabrera (2.7 WAR)
OF3: Nick Swisher (3.6 WAR)
OF4: Hideki Matsui (1.7 WAR)
OF5: Brett Gardner (2.0 WAR)
SP1: CC Sabathia (6.0 WAR)
SP2: Andy Pettitte (3.3 WAR)
SP3: A.J. Burnett (3.1 WAR)
SP4: Joba Chamberlain (1.5 WAR)
SP5: Sergio Mitre (0.2 WAR)
SP6: Chad Gaudin (0.1 WAR)
CL: Mariano Rivera (2.0 WAR)
SU: Phil Hughes (2.2 WAR)
RP: Alfredo Aceves (1.2 WAR)
RP: David Robertson (0.7 WAR)
RP: Phil Coke (0.1 WAR)
RP: Brian Bruney (-0.1 WAR)
2009 Total WAR: 59.8

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