Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Keep Calm. The Sox Will Pitch Better.

I got an interesting email from my friend Adam yesterday, who I have quoted from time to time on this blog. He is a dedicated Red Sox fan like I am, and this was from him about the struggles of the Sox' starting staff after Sunday's loss in Baltimore.

19 games is way too early to panic. All five members of the rotation have major-league track records that say they are solid. A stat like ERA are generally non-predictive because it doesn't really reflect individual performance. Right now, the Sox' rotation sits 8th of 15 AL teams by FIP; they're 6th best by xFIP and 5th by SIERA. Their results haven't matched their performance. In other words, they've been unlucky. While Miley's BB- and K-rates are a bit of a worry, we're only talking about 4 starts. Porcello has been pretty unlucky. 

 He sports a ridiculous 20.7% HR/FB, almost twice his career number. Remember when people like Buster Olney were talking about "red flags" and Clay Buchholz in the same sentence? If you take the MFY game away, Buchholz has thrown 19 inning in 3 starts, allowing 3 ER, and has struck out 26, while walking only 5 hitters. 

 I'm not saying Buchholz has "turned the corner." It's impossible to evaluate players based on a 19-game sample, and it's even harder to determine how good pitchers are based on 4 starts. Look, right now Jon Lester is 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA. Is he a bust? Nope. He has a proven track record and FIP, xFIP, and SIERA all like him so far this year. The point is, Buchholz, Porcello, Miley, Kelly, and Masterson are solid veteran starters. One, two, or three bad starts are not predictive of a bad season. 

The Sox' IF defense is fine, assuming Bogaerts can play SS. Panda, Pedey, and Napoli are good defenders. Boston is also pretty solid behind the plate. In the OF, Betts is decent in CF and Victorino, when healthy, is good in RF. Hanley and Craig are awful, and Nava is average at best. 

 BTW, for those of you wondering, "FIP" is Fielding Independent Pitching, and it measures what a player’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing. "xFIP" is Expected Fielding Independent Pitching and it is calculated in the same way as FIP, except it replaces a pitcher’s home run total with an estimate of how many home runs they should have allowed given the number of fly balls they surrendered while assuming a league average home run to fly ball percentage. And "SIERA" is Skill Interactive Earned Run Average, and it estimates ERA through walk rate, strikeout rate and ground ball rate, eliminating the effects of defense, park and luck.

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