Tuesday, July 03, 2007

2007 Giants: June PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of June, as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book and they published the details here. I wrote on this last season and compiled their stats on a regular basis and I'm continuing it this season for continuity and historical comparison (there is the "PQS" label that you can click to see the old posts on this).

This is the Quality Start with a sabermetric DIPS twist, and it gets really easy to calculate once you get used to it. I don't think it's the end all or be all, but then nothing really is that. It is, as I like to say, another piece of the puzzle. A dominating start is scored a 4 or 5 and a disaster start is scored a 0 or 1. DOM% is the percentage of starts that are dominating, DIS% is the percentage of starts that are disasters (any start under 5.0 IP is automatically a 0, or disaster).

Basically, you want to see a pitcher's DOM% to be over 40% and ideally over 50%, and you want their DIS to be under 20% and ideally under 10%. For example, Johan Santana has a 76% DOM and 3% DIS in 2006 (2.77 ERA), whereas Orlando Hernandez had a 52% DOM and 28% DIS (4.66 ERA), and Adam Eaton had a 31% DOM and 31% DIS (5.12 ERA). See my explanation down below on methodology plus read the link, there's a nice chart there showing the combination of high DOM% and low DIS%, and particularly how low DIS% is so important.

Giants Starters' PQS for 2007 Season (as of June 30, 2007)

Matt Cain - (56% DOM, 13% DIS; 9:2/16): 4, 3, 5, 3, 3, 0, 3, 5, 5, 4, 4, 2, 5, 4, 1, 5
Tim Lincecum - (50% DOM, 40% DIS; 5:4/10): 0, 5, 5, 4, 5, 3, 0, 0, 0, 5
Noah Lowry - (31% DOM, 13% DIS; 5:2/16): 5, 3, 4, 2, 2, 5, 3, 3, 3, 0, 3, 2, 4, 0, 2, 5
Matt Morris - ( 25% DOM, 13% DIS; 4:2/16): 3, 1, 4, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2, 5, 3, 3, 5, 4, 0, 2, 2
Russ Ortiz - ( 20% DOM, 20% DIS; 1:1/5): 2, 4, 2, 2, 0
Barry Zito - ( 25% DOM, 19% DIS; 4:3/16): 2, 3, 4, 3, 3, 3, 4, 2, 0, 3, 5, 4, 0, 3, 0, 3

Giants season overall - 35% DOM, 18% DIS out of 52 games pitched (28:14/79)
Giants Month of April - 29% DOM, 4% DIS out of 24 games pitched (7:1/24)
Giants Month of May - 43% DOM, 18% DIS out of 28 games pitched (12:5/28)
Giants Month of June - 33% DOM, 30% DIS out of 28 games pitched (9:8/27)

After doing pretty well in April and May, the Giants pitchers had a pretty bad month of June, Lincecum in particular with three disaster starts in a row, but Zito had two disaster starts in June himself. As the pitchers showed in April, a low DOM does not necessarily sink a month (or a season), but a high DIS does.

A DOM at or above the 40% mark is indicative of good pitching; above 50% is great; above 70% is elite. A low DIS is also indicative of good pitching, just look at the table in the link above showing DOM% and DIS% on the axes.

If you had to chose a high DOM% or a low DIS%, pitchers tend to have a lower ERA when you have a low DIS% vs. a high DOM% (obviously if you combine both, you have a much better chance of having an elite pitcher). That's how Lowry was able to pitch well last year, keeping his ERA low while still recovering from his strained oblique and being unable to strike out hitters as much as before, he had very few disaster starts until he had his arm problems and got bombed in September, he had a good ERA, in the high 3's until those starts.

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The staff has been on a falling trend in terms of disaster starts, month by month. As May showed, a high DOM% does not translate to wins readily, but a high DIS% does translate to losses readily. And thus the Giants had a June Swoon of great proportion, dropping them to last place and about 10 games (or more) below .500 for much of the month.

The staff was led on its downward spiral by Lincecum and Zito, who had 20%DOM/60%DIS and 20%DOM/40% DIS, respectively. They had 3 and 2 disaster starts respectively, and the rest each had one each as well; to keep your DIS% low, you can only afford 1 disaster start every two months.

This fits in with what I've been saying about the Giants starters, that because there are pitchers who can keep their BABIP lower than average, like Zito and Cain, and maybe Lincecum when he is on, plus Russ Ortiz, this PQS methodology does not capture their full abilities as a pitcher, as they can walk more and strikeout less than others and still be successful even though they don't have as many DOM starts. However, disaster starts are disaster starts, and that appears to apply to all pitchers equally well.

Lincecum's Towering Inferno

Lincecum had a particularly bad month in June, going through his learning period in a similarly timeframe to Cain's particularly bad start to 2006: after a number of very good starts when they were unknown to the league, suddenly they became batting practice pitchers and beaten like a drum. They were so underwater that the Poseidon Adventure was a disaster that happened on land (ba-dum-bum! :^)

Presumably, the league caught on to them, but that does not appear to be the reason in either of their cases, from what I've read and surmised.

In Cain's case, it appeared that it was a matter of Cain thinking that batters were better than they were and him not being as good as he was. I recall somebody noting that after Cain started doing well again, perhaps it was Morris or Righetti. Once he lost that fear, and stopped nibbling at the corners because he thought they were that good, he started pitching as well as advertised and has been pretty unwavering since then, except for a brilliant month or so in August of last season where he was untouchable for the most part.

In Lincecum's case, with two sterling shutout outings in a row, it appears that he just had a typical hiccup in any young prospect's early career in June (Cole Hamel had a similar problem last season as well). In his case, as it appears based on Barry Bonds comments after his great outing last Sunday, Lincecum reverted back to the little league technique of getting batters out: if he is having problems getting them out, throw the ball harder and faster.

However, while that worked brilliantly with little leaguers, and perhaps high schoolers and college batters, when he does that against major league hitters, he loses the ability to locate his pitches (something Bonds noted he needed to do, not throw harder, but to locate better) and, I would bet, his breaking pitches probably didn't break as much, much as it didn't break for Zito and Lincecum in their first start this season (and Zito in his A's starts). And major league batters, unlike lower skilled hitters, do not swing and miss at balls out of the strike zone, many more of them just let the ball go and wait for a fat pitch in the strike zone.

More Speed Not Always Mo' Better

Generally, when a pitcher is amped up and brimming with adrenaline or just flinging the pelota up there like Lincecum was, the separation you need for your breaking pitches to be effective goes away. And when that happens, batters are not as fooled as they were when you are not amped up, because the difference in MPH typically drops greatly. That happens sometimes to pitchers in at least their first major league start, to pitchers in their first starts with their new team, to pitchers in their first few starts against their old team.

I think it takes great mental will to be able to be zen enough (calm enough) to not let those factors distract you - which is something that the majority of people (as well as players) do not have, we're only human, as Human League once sang. Players I would name as having great mental will include Will "the Thrill" Clark, Jack "the Ripper" Clark, Jeff "Hackman" Leonard, and Dave Stewart. They were able to rise to the occassion on a consistent basis.

July and August: Surge Up?

I think July and August will be very interesting and could find the Giants returning to .500 territory again. Lincecum is on a hot roll. Cain and Lowry should start to go into their superman mode and totally dominate, with Cain already having 3 DOM starts in his last four starts and Lowry 2 of four. Zito has had some time to get used to things and now has gotten the A's out of the way, he had a nice stretch of starts after his initial flub until he met the A's, but now he has all those distractions out of the way and can concentrate on pitching. Morris on the other hand, has faded in the past during the second half, so hopefully he can at least continue to be competent, which I think he can as long as he is uninjured; if he can, we could have a good run of starting pitching from all five starters.

In July, the Giants have a very nice and favorable schedule. They face a number of middling to poor teams in Cincy, the Cards, Cubs, Braves, and Marlins. They also have 4 games against LA, so they can catch up fast in the standings against them if they can win 3 or 4 out of 4. They also face the hot Brewers for three games. And, of course, there is the All-Star break, which gives our team 4 days of rest off (except for Bonds), before undertaking a stretch of 17 straight days of games. In total for July, they have 17 games against .500-ish or worse teams in August - 6 against teams with records as bad (or worse) as they do - 8 games against teams with very good records.

In August, the Giants finish off their series with two against the D-gers, then three against the 'Dres, before facing sad sacks Nats and Pirates at home, then has an odd double-header in Pittsburgh to make up for two rained out games, before continuing on the road to Atlanta and Florida. Then they get the Cubs and Brewers at home before 3 at home with the Do'Rocks to complete a stretch of 31 games in 30 days; they have only one day of rest in August, on the 30th. In total for August, they have 23 games against .500-ish or worse teams in August - 14 against teams with records as bad (or worse) as they do - 8 games against teams with very good records.

Unfortunately, the teams above us are playing a similar set of teams, randomly distributed across them, so they could go on a run themselves. For the D-gers, the offense is nothing special and probably will continue to do so, but their pitching has been very good. Penny and Lowe are not likely to continue to pitch so well, but perhaps it is their season. For the 'Dres, it is not likely that Peavy, Young, and Germano can continue to pitch so well, but perhaps it is their season. But their offense is nothing to write home about, even with Barrett added on.

I don't know how the D-backs are doing it, their hitters are OK, perhaps good in Byrnes and Hudson and Reynolds/Tracy, and their pitchers are OK, good in Webb and Johnson, I guess it is their relievers who have been out there great, with Lyon, Pena, Valverde, Slaten, Cruz and Nippert pitching really great. They should start reverting to career norms but maybe it is their year as well.

Still, they all have things that are going better than expected and if they revert back to norm, their record will not be as good anymore. The Giants, meanwhile, have a lot of things which are below norms, and I would argue that none of the pitchers are doing anything that they have not shown themselves to be capable of previously, and while Morris might regress, Zito should get better too to offset that. Plus Cain and Lowry has gone on torrid hot streaks during this time period.

That gives us the chance to get back to .500, and a slim chance to get back into the race. But when you are this far behind and it is July already, all you can do is first focus on getting to .500, then second to get within 5 games of first place, then finally can we think about being in the pennant race.

A pennant race and the Giants are not in the same vocabulary right now. The offense has to lick its wounds and try to start things up in July. It has a nice start thus far in July but now they need to score runs on a regular basis, not only in one game explosions. Go Giants!

Cain Gets a Win?

Tomorrow, Cain faces Matt Belisle, who has a 5.51 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, at home. Belisle has stunk for about two months now after a great April. He has only one really good start out of his last nine starts. This is his first year starting full-time in the majors, though he has a number of starts while relieving mainly previously.

Cain has never pitched in Great American Park, but it's a park that punishes flyball pitchers like Cain with homers. However, Cain has done well in Colorado, so perhaps that's overstated for him. He had three great starts out of four, his only bad one against the good Yankees offense.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back Martin. Nice stuff you have here.

    ReplyDelete

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