Here are the top five issues facing the Red Sox this year.
5. Was Mike Napoli’s 2011 a Fluke? We have to say yes. Gravity and regression to the mean are the strongest forces in fantasy baseball. Though this is not necessarily a fair way to examine the issue, remove 2011 from his stats page, and what do you see? We see a consistent production level far below his 2011. Now realize he is 31 years old, and he had a BABIP of almost .360 in 2011 and it seems clear that 2011, or anything close, cannot be expected.
4. Is Will Middlebrooks for real? We have to say no. Our general rule is that you can knock off .050 from any rookie’s BA if they do not have strong batting skills. This is a general rule of thumb, not empirical, but reinforces the point that gravity is a lot stronger than we think. Middlebrooks strikes out five times as often as he walks, only hit 35% of his balls in the air, and his performance last year was purely a result of a 21% HR/FB rate. You may disagree if you are so inclined, and if you are, don’t let us talk you out of him, but there is a 50-50 chance he ends up back in the minors for a stint.
3. Will Shane Victorino lead the offense? Victorino is already 32 years old, but has shown virtually no skills erosion over the years. In the last few seasons we have seen some high profile players change teams only to struggle mightily; some turned it around and some ended up with disastrous seasons. In the last three seasons Victorino put up a below-league-average BABIP, and his xBA took a dive last year, though it was offset by increased steals. There are mixed signals.
2. Will Jon Lester rebound? His is a case of “as the team goes, so goes the player,” and we are confident in a rebound. In fantasy baseball, gravity isn’t always a negative force; sometimes it means a player will approach his higher established norms. Lester won 16 games in 2008 with a virtually identical skill set, the difference is that his actual ERA in 2012 was a run higher, but in both years his xERA was a full run lower. Sure, his K rate dropped, and he has a lot of innings on his arm, but the flip side is that he may turn a huge profit.
1. Is Joel Hanrahan going to keep the job all season? My Closer Identifier Algorithm says yes, but barely. His skill set is below the minimum acceptable skill set, but because of his SV% greater than 90% – 36/40 on the year, and 16 of his last 17 – on the year and in his last ten, CIA predicts a “hold” for now. His first half was rocky in the saves department, but he turned it around in the second half, despite pitching far worse. There are a lot of negatives, and few positives, but 2012 may be a fluky year; we will not know until 2014, which does not help us much.