On the eve of the Sox inaugural outing of the 2006 campaign, it's time to put up or shut up. ESPN the Magazine picks the Sox 3rd in the AL East, Peter Gammons picks a hated Yankees-Cardinals Series (and Bobby Crosby to be AL MVP), and ESPN online has the Sox winning the wild card.
The Yankeefan.blogspot.com website ran multiple seasons (1000) using the Diamond Mind Baseball software program, and came up with some interesting results. The hated Yankees win the AL East 619 times to the Bosox' 283. Combining the Division titles and Wildcard, the Sox project to make the playoffs 522 times.
Adjusting for statistics from Baseball Prospectus, the Sox continue to make the playoffs about 52% of the time. For what it's worth, the Blue Jays project to win the division 84 times and reach the playoff 177 times, and the Tampa D-Rays get shut out, in both the original Diamond Mind simulation. Of course, I don't know how this accounts for injuries, especially with the geezers present on some of the best teams. Obviously, the hated Yankees and the Sox have the capacity to acquire (buy) players to fill gaps. And it doesn't account for the 'Juice Guys', Sheffield and Giambi, or Johnny Damon's Samson-like weakness while shorn.
I consider a good start essential to project a favorable season, but lacking that data, I'll pick the Sox to win the wild card in a tough battle with the White Sox, with the Yankees, Indians, and Athletics winning the divisions. I'm more concerned about the Sox offense than anything else, expecting disappointing production from the infield especially. Of course, ultimately it's about the pitching. Gammons picks Josh Beckett to win the AL Cy Young, and if he produces to that extent, I'd expect the Sox to win at least 92 games.
I'm concerned about Gonzalez' offense, particularly in the offspeed-pitching happy American League. With a couple of seasons under his belt, Terry Francona should handle the headaches, media, and pitching more effectively (Mike Timlin should take consolation there), and the pitching coach is overrated on a geriatric staff.
Let's get it on.