Playing with the PECOTA projections last time out was so much fun that I just had to go back for more. Once again, we’ll look at extremes because “extreme” is an edgy word, often shortened to “X” by marketing types keen on capturing the youth market. We’re “all about” the youth market at BP (to use a phrase co-opted from the youth market of ten years ago) because we know that today’s youth is tomorrow’s BP shoplifter.

Highest Improvement Percentages: Starting Pitchers

Johan Santana, Minnesota: 65.1%

PECOTA sees him with a slightly reduced workload and, consequently, fewer strikeouts.

Zack Greinke, Kansas City: 63.7%

Better yet, Greinke has just about zero chance of collapsing. In fact, only Kenny Rogers has a smaller chance of falling down on the job this season. There’s also a very good chance he’ll exceed the 152 innings PECOTA sees for him.

Randy Johnson, New York Yankees: 63.2%

Johnson, along with fellow quadrigenarian Roger Clemens and near quadradecadian Curt Schilling has no possible attrition rate. By their ages, these men have attritted all they can attrit. Among younger players, Greinke has a low attrition number at 3.8%. Johnson (34.2%) has the best opportunity for a breakout season among starters which, if nothing else, has got to make the Yankees feel good.

Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs: 61.9%

As sometimes happens, the back-of-the-rotation guy ends up being the rock of the staff. PECOTA sees more of the same for Zambrano in ’05. How about those other two Cub aces? Mark Prior is at 50.1% and Kerry Wood is at 48.1%. In terms of VORP, Zambrano and Prior are just under 40 according to PECOTA and Wood is at 33.6. As mentioned above, Randy Johnson has the best breakout number among starters projecting to pitch at least 100 innings. Prior is the only other such pitcher to project at over 30%.

Jason Schmidt, San Francisco: 60.1%

The all-seeing eye of PECOTA likes Schmidt for a 2005 that fits within the parameters of his 2003-04 outings; that is to say, more good stuff.

Lowest Breakout Percentages: Starting Pitchers

Eric Milton, Cincinnati: 4.8%

You give a guy a few guaranteed seasons and enough money for him and everyone he ever met to live on for the next few years, and you’d like to think that maybe, just maybe, he’ll go 21-8 with a 2.24 ERA. Not going to happen, says PECOTA.

Chris Carpenter, St. Louis: 5.1%

If Carpenter keeps walking less than two men per nine innings as he did in 2004, who cares if doesn’t break out? Keep that kind of control, and a lot of the other hassles will take care of themselves. PECOTA doesn’t see him being quite that stingy with the freebies in ’05, though.

Jason Marquis, St. Louis: 5.3%

Plenty more where all those 2004 baserunners came from sayeth PECOTA. A WHIP of 1.41 in ’05 it says, just about the same as last year’s. If your best friends are Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds, you can do that sort of thing and win 15 games.

Edgar Gonzalez, Arizona: 5.9%

The amazing thing about Gonzalez is that his chances of improvement are only 36.4%. We talked about the “You Gotta Have Heart” scenario last time out–you know, “we gotta get better cuz we can’t worse.” Who fits this better than Mr. Gonzalez? Is it possible to do worse than he did in 2004? PECOTA has him with a 27.8% chance of collapsing. In this case that means literally collapsing. In a heap. Next to the mound.

Tom Glavine, New York Mets: 6.1%

Like Carpenter, he doesn’t have to break out. Just show up and do the same thing and let Pedro Martinez do the rest. He has a very nice Improvement number of 45%. That’s fourth-best among pitchers projecting at least 100 innings thrown in 2005.

Lowest Chance of Collapse: Hitters

Adam Dunn, Cincinnati: 2.4%

PECOTA’s view of Dunn in 2005 is all so beautiful that one wonders if the gods themselves aren’t offended by this statistical hubris. An 86.5% chance of improvement! That’s the best in the baseball by a margin of more than 10%.

Troy Glaus, Arizona: 5.3%

Conversely, the second-highest chance of improving. That sounds about right, given where he was and the injury-corrupted 2004 outing. 600 plate appearances from Glaus should help keep the Diamondbacks in the same area code as the rest of the division.

Andruw Jones, Atlanta: 5.4%

Jones isn’t likely to collapse because he is grooved in the .270-.290 EQA zone. He was slightly off his game last year, hence the fairly high chance of improvement (67.4%). If he were going to break out, age 28 seems like a nice time to do so.

Jim Edmonds, St. Louis: 5.3%

In answer to a query I put out for a better phrase than “qualified for the batting title” in reference to getting 3.1 plate appearances per team game, reader Barry Rubinowitz suggested, “qualified for rate stat leadership.” So, Edmonds has qualified for rate stat leadership in each of the past five years, but PECOTA has him coming up short this year. He’ll still damage egos and ERAs, though and post a plus-50 VORP.

Jose Cruz, Tampa Bay: 6.2%

The Attrition All-Stars:

Eric Chavez, Oakland: 0%
Miguel Tejada, Baltimore: 0%
Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle: 0%
Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay: 0.4%
Bobby Abreu, Philadelphia: 0.6%
Lance Berkman, Houston: 0.6%
Juan Pierre, Florida: 0.7%
Cruz: 0.9%

On another note, PECOTA sees nobody getting more than seven triples. The quartet pegged for that duty is who you might expect: Pierre, Crawford, Jimmy Rollins and Chone Figgins. Six players–including these four–got into double figures in triples last year, so this has more to do with the unpredictability of that particular event than anything else. Someone is bound to crack at least a dozen, whether it’s this quartet or somebody like Carlos Beltran who might get into a Lance Johnson groove at Shea Stadium and lead the National League in three-baggers.

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