April 3, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: Bill James and the stats for 2008 ó Take Two
by Dave Long

Itís time for part two of my little competition with sabermatician Bill James to see whoíll do a better job of forecasting Red Sox production in 2008. The timing is good too, as he was on 60 Minutes on Sunday. But the winner of our competition probably should get the gig next spring. Two weeks ago we looked at the starting pitching; today itís the starters and a couple of key relief pitchers. Jamesí forecasts follow the playerís name; mine are at the end.

Dustin Pedroia: .300, 77 runs, 40 2B, 50 RBI. Through history, rookies of the year have had a way of going south. But Iím done not believing in this guy. The big issue here is the 77 runs. Way too low considering he hits in front of Manny and Papi and that he scored 12 in 14 post-season games. I think heís better this year and with a rejuvenated Julio Lugo and Jacoby Ellsbury hitting in front of him his RBI goes up too: .313, 109 runs, 43-2B, 63 RBI.

Kevin Youkilis: .290, 89 runs, 15 HR, 89 RBI. He has staggered badly coming down the stretch in his two seasons, though he was huge in the playoffs. Was that due to missing two weeks after getting hit with a pitch in September to get a second wind? Or because he stayed in the two hole in the playoffs and got to hit fastballs in front of Papi and Manny? Still he improved over year one and I think the rise continues: .294, 103 runs, 40-2B, 18 HR, 93 RBI.

Manny Ramirez: .301, 34 2B, 33 HR, 113 RBI. The only time in his career he had lower numbers than in 2007 was his rookie year. A bad year or decline? It didnít look that way in the playoffs, but at 36 Manny is a big question mark. Heís got a $20 million option riding on a good season and heís in shape. But history says of the Top 20 career leaders in total bases, only Barry Bonds got better at 36 when he hit his 73 homers. Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron had two solid years left, but every other one followed up a decline year at 35 with more of the same. Players are in better shape at later ages today, so I think Manny has a highly productive, but not quite peak, year or two left. I predict . 296, 31 2B, 35 HR, 116 RBI.

David Ortiz: .298, 109 runs, 45 2B, 41 HR, 130 RBI. Iíve got no problem with anything here, as I see Big Papi becoming the line-upís most feared threat, as Lou Gehrig did when the Babe began to slide in 1932. So .309, 113 runs, 45-2B, 41 HR, 131 RBI.

Mike Lowell: .282, 34 2B, 17 HR, 81 RBI. No way he can be as good as last year, can he? Probably not, but he wonít slide back to his average year predicted by James, both because 34 is still a prime year and because Fenway inflates the numbers for everyone. So .287, 39-2B, 22 HR, 94 RBI.

JD Drew: .278, 90 runs, 29 2B, 20 HR, 78 RBI. Everyone expects him to be better in year two, but I bet you didnít know his horrendous 64 RBI in 2007 was still his fourth-best season in 10. Still itís not easy, as the big issue is trying to figure out how many games the Tony Eason of baseball will play. Iím going with 135 (James says 143), which should yield .283, 31-2B, 18 HR, 74 RBI.

Jason Varitek: .253, 30 2B, 17 HR, 70 RBI. Tek is a wonder at 36, but by then Yogi Berra was a left fielder. Johnny Benchís last big year was at 29 and he retired at 35, Gary Carter a part-timer after 34, Mike Piazza was done as a catcher at 33. Only the amazing Carlton Fisk was a productive two-way player (and Jorge Posada) at 36. So heís got to decline soon, though this year itíll be just a drift to .248, 21-2B, 15 HR, 62 RBI.

Julio Lugo: .264, 30 2B, 9 HR, 57 RBI. Unless he goes 0-275, he canít have a worst first half, so he takes the biggest jump. Plus his 73 RBI were more than Drew and Pedroia, so he was productive without the benefit of a lot of hits. And heís always been a better hitter, so I say .278, 35-2B, 11 HR, 73 RBI

Jacoby Ellsbury: .320, 78 runs, 29 2B, 46 RBI. I keep telling myself: even though he hit .353 after his rookie call-up and .360 in the post-season, donít get carried away. Still at 23, Roberto Clemente hit just 289, Johnny Damon .275 and Ricky Henderson .262. Nomar hit .306 with 30 homers and 98 RBI. Donít expect that, but Iíll say .296, 84 runs, 32 2B and 33 stolen bases.

Jonathan Papelbon: 4 wins, 2 losses, 2.70 ERA, 39 saves, 60 appearances. When Mariano Rivera became the closer he had three straight years under 2.00 and did it four other times after that. But in those three years he struck out 156 batters in 208 innings. So far Pap has an ERA of 1.62 and struck out 159 in just 128 innings. Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter had comparable years through their careers but the start to Papelbonís is better than any closer ever. So why does the computer have him regressing? I think 5-2, with a 2.11 ERA and 86 Ks in 63 innings.

Hideki Okajima: 5 wins, 2 losses, 3.15 ERA. He was great the first four months, but not so after that. So was it fatigue at the end of the year, or did hitters figure him out? I think itís a little of both, but more of the latter. So I say 4-6, 3.78 ERA in 70 innings.

If you want to see who wins, check out my new ďGuide to the Red Sox 2008 SeasonĒ that hits the streets on April 8. It will have a month-by-month breakdown of how the season unfolds that lets you get in on the fun by making your own set of predictions and forecasts to follow and see who among them is best.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM Ė The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool

3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury ó that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK ó it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Mís for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat