Sunday, May 04, 2008

2008 Giants: April PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of April 2008, PQS as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book and they published the details here. I wrote on this first in 2006 and have compiled their stats on a regular basis, so 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 2008 Season (as of April 30, 2008)

Matt Cain - (43% DOM, 29% DIS; 3:2/7): 3, 0, 4, 0, 5, 2, 4

Kevin Correia - (75% DOM, 25% DIS; 3:1/4): 4, 4, 4, 1 (did not count start where injured)

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (80% DOM, 0% DIS; 4:0/5): 4, 5, 4, 4, 3 (didn't count relief outing as start)

Pat Misch - (50% DOM, 50% DIS; 1:1/2): 4, 0 (counted relief after Zito since 6 IP)

Jonathan Sanchez - (33% DOM, 17% DIS; 2:1/6): 0, 5, 2, 3, 5, 3

Barry Zito - ( 0% DOM, 67% DIS; 0:4/6): 1, 1, 3, 3, 0, 0

Giants season overall - 43% DOM, 30% DIS out of 30 games pitched (13:9/30)
Giants Month of April - 43% DOM, 30% DIS out of 30 games pitched (13:9/30)

First, some procedural notes. I didn't count Lincecum's relief session as a start, nor did I count it as a start for Valdez, in the D-gers game. I also didn't count Correia's injury start where he only pitched a third of an inning. However, I did count Misch's first outing, in relief of Zito, as a start because he went 6 innings and I felt he deserved it.

The Giants starters had as good a DOM as they did last season, but much worse DIS. But, obviously, that was due to Barry Zito's implosion as a starter this season. Without him, the team would be 54% DOM, 21% DIS, which would be pretty good as a whole (see below for "What's Good and What's Not").

As expected, The Kid lead the way with four dominating starts in 5 starts in April. And Lincecum just missed by one strikeout from a fifth dominating start (or one less hit given up). Tied for second with three dominating starts were Cain and Correia. Correia was arguably the second most valuable starting pitcher, with 75% DOM and Cain inconsistent, alternating good starts with not as good starts. Sanchez had the two DOM starts, but what great starts they were, they were on par with what Lincecum can do on his best starts. So the potential is there for the four of them to all start clicking together and the Giants would regularly put together streaks where they win 8 or 9 of 10, but given the inconsistencies, we see what we are currently seeing.

What's Good and What's Not

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. Thus what Correia has done so far in limited starts is startingly good, that's why he is now in the mix for the #5 starting position for the 2008 season, as Sabean had noted in one of his post-season talks, along with Sanchez, who previously was the favorite for that spot; now it's a competition.

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.

April's Comments

I was going to post separate on the team but will just do it here. The pitching was outstanding outside of Zito. If Zito would have been even half decent, the Giants might have made .500 in April. As it was, they were 13-16 and not anywhere near as bad record-wise as many of the naysayers have been saying.

And this was with a number of players not doing what they are capable of, starting with Zito, but also Cain was not pitching like he is capable of. Sanchez and Correia has pitched about what could be expected, and Lincecum, well, we can just smile about that, can't we?

In addition, the offense has been hampered by a wide variety of problems. The older guys, Aurilia and Durham not hitting all that well. Winn too, who is also getting on the older side. Worse of all was Roberts until he was mercifully DLed and operated on. You can't have lead off hitters hitting .285 OPS. Add to that Rowand getting and playing hurt and not hitting all that well for a couple of weeks, plus Bocock doing about as well offensively as could be expected for someone who could not even be average in Advanced A last season, and Castillo being a poor substitute for Pedro Feliz, a sadder statement that couldn't be made, that is a whole lot of offensive badness.

It has been offset by great play by Fred Lewis and some good play from Velez and Bowker, Bowker mainly in his first week, though he appears to heat up a little in Philly in May. Ortmeier has also done OK in limited play and appears to have heated up once he stopped switch-hitting and only bat right-handed. Meanwhile, Molina, who missed games with injuries, Rowand, and Aurilia appears to have heated up in recent May games.

So the Giants were near .500 with a hampered offense that appears to be better now (they are 13-10 in games that Roberts didn't play in) and a starting rotation that looks to get better overall now that Zito is held out until he gets better and, haven't mentioned the stellar bullpen so far, which has helped the team greatly and look to continue to do well going forward.

I think sunnier days are ahead for the Giants from May on.


  1. >> I think sunnier days are ahead for the Giants from May on.

    I've got this sinking feeling that the Giants play in April is probably going to be their high point.

    A few sticking points why I think the Giants might regress some after this "hot start"

    1. Defense - This team is still awful defensively and one of the bottom three teams in the NL. The bad defense cost Lincecum in his last start at the Phillies. I think you're going to see a lot of our starters have higher than normal BABIP's, until the defense gets better, which seems unlikely to me.

    Omar could be worse than Bocock right now with the glove. Bocock is a top-3 NL SS by RZR and Omar might not have the same range when he comes back.

    The Giants should probably bench Durham, though Velez hasn't given them a resounding reason for why he should start everyday.

    The OF defense has been above average but the infield has been below.

    2. Offense - The Giants are actually +2 on their expected record. Not to say a team can't outperform their expected record but I'm not expecting the Giants to be one of them. Their bullpen while good, isn't elite, and the team is going to have trouble scoring runs and wining games.

    The Giants have the second biggest differential in the NL between runs scored and runs allowed. Only the Padres have a bigger differential.


    The pitching has been great (FIP of 3.77 to the NL average of 4.18) but I really worry about the defense and offense still. The defense in particular is concerning to me because it's got a real chance to start impacting the pitching in a negative way.

  2. Chris, you could be wring, you could be right. The hitting may have bee better than it really is or Durham/Aurilia/Winn could 'heat up' and hit, say, 270 the rest of the way - that would be a significant improvement.
    It is very hard to be patient with the defense, but I have been wondering if the 'speed of the game' which we hear so much about doesn't also apply to the D. They played unbelievably poorly in ST and the first week. Maybe all the coaching - situational hitting, working the count, base stealing/running, etc. - takes a while to settle in and become second nature. I have seen both Castillo and Burriss kind of hot dog it after making a catch, then pausing for a drink, sign an autograph or to look at the ball then have to hustle to just make the play or end up throwing it away. Hopefully, with Burriss. learning the league will minimize those. Castillo has to be severely talked to.
    To summarize, the next 6 weeks should give some improvement if they are a better defensive team than they have played in April, And if, in mid-June, they are still giving up 5 and 6 unearned runs in a game, damn, it could be a long Summer.

  3. I understand your viewpoints Chris, here are my counterpoints:

    1) Nothing particularly was much better than expected, except perhaps the bullpen and Fred Lewis. Most players who played in April either disappointed greatly or played about what we would expect, including Correia and Sanchez. And as noted, the defense is horrible.

    So, either the team gets better or they play about the same, for the most part, because the way I see it, most of the players can't play much worse than they did.

    So, to my thinking, there is nowhere to go but up, really.

    I think Vizquel will make up for any defensive shortcoming vis-a-vis Bocock by being that much a better hitter. .435 OPS is pretty sad, even Omar won't do that. Even last year, Omar hit .621 for the season, .579 in the first half and .672 in the second half, either would be huge improvements on offense, which should more than offset any defensive loss there.

    I think Velez could be the full-time starter at 2B right now if he could only hit in the high 600 OPS.

    2) Again, as I noted, there were unique circumstances that affected a number of the games in April: Roberts poor hitting, Rowand poor hitting while injured but playing, etc. Those conditions should not continue going forward or should not get much worse (like Bocock's offense, for example).

    And the differential is much like the D-backs last season: they either get blown out which adds greatly to the differential or they squeak by and win games. That explains the huge difference for the Giants. And how the Giants are doing it is much like the D-backs last year, they have been getting stellar bullpen work so that when the offense IS good enough, they can hold the lead.

    I think the poor defense has already impacted the pitchers already and thus the impact should not get any worse than it was in April. Same for the offense. Hence why I think the Giants can do better going forward and play close to .500 ball, as I had speculated pre-season. Certainly not the "worse in franchise history" historonics that naysayers were talking about in the off-season.

  4. >> I think Vizquel will make up for any defensive shortcoming vis-a-vis Bocock by being that much a better hitter. .435 OPS is pretty sad, even Omar won't do that. Even last year, Omar hit .621 for the season, .579 in the first half and .672 in the second half, either would be huge improvements on offense, which should more than offset any defensive loss there.

    I think I can mostly agree with this even if it's sad. But, there aren't any guarantees on how well Omar will play once he gets back. It's going to be a wait-and-see type of thing but I don't think it's outlandish to think that he might lose another step in the field and could struggle to hit the ball. At his age and coming off an injury, he's no safe bet.

    >> I think Velez could be the full-time starter at 2B right now if he could only hit in the high 600 OPS.

    I agree, too. Velez has been terrible but he's probably better overall than Durham right now. Durham is a slightly better hitter, as terrible as he is...Velez has been worse, but he's been a really, really, really bad defender.

    I really hope Velez can pick it up and do something. His minor league track record is weak and there's a good chance he might not improve much more.

    >> I think the poor defense has already impacted the pitchers already and thus the impact should not get any worse than it was in April.

    So you expect the defense to improve or at the bare minimum stay as bad as it currently is? Why, exactly? Castillo is playing as well as he ever has, that is to say pretty badly. Durham isn't ever going to be a better defender and Omar could be worse than Bocock when he comes back.

    The OF has been above average but the IF, especially 2B/3B, has been among the worst in the NL.

  5. Wow, Martin, even for your naturally optimistic outlook, I really do have to question your statement that the starting rotation looks to get better. We currently have 3 starting pitchers on this team -- THREE! Today's the last off day that they can count on to help that situation. For probably the next month they're going to rely on Pat Misch and ??? (Zito returns? Hennessy? Matt Palmer?) for their 4th and 5th guys. None of these people can be counted on to be average major league starting pitchers (and with our offense and defense, average is a bad benchmark to be starting with). If we use Lowry's oblique muscle strain as a guideline for what to expect with Correia, this could well be a problem that lingers for a while both in rehab (which is essentially just long rest) and when he does return (remember Lowry's poor performances when it seemed he was still suffering some from the strain upon return from the DL).

    How does 3 starting pitchers and a cast of ugly add up to things looking to get better, I have to ask?

  6. Good points Roger. Here's how I see it.

    What can I say, I really like Misch. I think he's an excellent back of the rotation starter and visioned him as the replacement for Lowry if we could have traded him. I think he could be even better than Lowry.

    As for the 5th starter, I expect Zito to get that spot soon, there's no way they are going to let that go like this for a long time, so perhaps after an emergency start or two for Nick Pereira, Zito would be eased back into the rotation.

    Pereira has been talked up by fantasy touts the past two off-seasons as likely to come up for the Giants. And I still like Eugene "Gino" Espineli as a dark horse candidate for the rotation as well, he was starting the past couple of years and doing very well in relief in Fresno this year.

    Very good point about Correia, I totally agree that this is unknown territory where the injury could linger, particularly in terms of season-long effects even after it has "healed".

    About looking forward, OK, my statement does look optimistic for the rest of May given the lack of a set #5 starter, but my viewpoint is still "going forward," meaning that for April, Zito was about as bad as can be, I think we can cobble together a #5 starter from Fresno who can do as bad as that, and while Correia has left big shoes for the next guy to fill, I think Misch can fill them.

    So May is probably more treading water, I can see your point on that.

    But I still really like Misch and think he can take a spot in the rotation and do well, Correia coming back well or not. And I expect Zito to do better for us at some point, unfortunately because "he can't do much worse".

    Overall, as I've noted in previous posts, you don't need an average major league starting pitcher in the #4 and #5 spots because almost no team has an average major league starting pitcher at the bottom of the rotation.

    Most #5 pitches no worse than what Zito has been doing, so the bar is very low at that position, and many #4 aren't much better. That's part of why I thought the Giants had a superior rotation with Correia and Sanchez at the back, they are capable of pitching at least as well as an average #4 starter (5-ish ERA), if not better.

    So even if the replacement pitchers are not that good, I expect Cain and Sanchez to pitch better going forward, which will counteract however bad the #4/#5 starters are (plus given how poorly Zito pitched), so that overall the pitching will be better. Cain and Sanchez improvement is part of what I was calculating as the rotation getting better going forward.

  7. A lot of people really seem to like Misch. I have to say, I saw him pitch quite a few times in his times at AA (and pitching well, I saw two shutouts from him '04) and I was never sanguine on his ability to be a major league player; and I flat out don't believe he can sustain a career as a major league starter.

    Now i know he's added a cutter since then that I think does give him a shot at being a major league reliever, but I still am a firm non-believer that he can translate his stuff and his command (which is fine but not overwhelming) into an ability to consistantly retire major league hitters. But even say I'm wrong and he can craft some kind of Reuter-esque career where he learns how to pitch his stuff up to major league level -- is it likely that he would be able to successfully do that in his rookie year bang out of the gates? I for one, don't think so.

    That said, I do think he's likely to be better than any of the other candidates. And again,that's the 4-spot. 5 is real woe. And while I do understand that 5 pitchers around the league tend to pretty bad, let's not underestimate the fact that you're looking at league-wide stats. I'm guessing #4 and #5 starters facing the Giants have numbers that look significantly different. Lastly, we've gotten to the part of the season where off-days have thrown off the rotation of #1s facing #1s etc., so we're likely to start getting our 4 and 5 guys up against other teams 1 and 2s (the phrase "lambs to the slaughter" comes to mind).

    And as a final point, there is of course a potential domino affect here, as well, because if we can't indeed find anyone to give us competent starts at the 4 or 5 position the bullpen is going to bear the brunt of it. Obviously in a long season they're going to wear down anyway and at some point they'll hit a rough patch (it's not too feasible that they'll continue their phenomenal success all year), but having two starters who can't get into games consistently will certainly speed that process up some.

  8. The 08 rotation is looking good, but what about 09, 10 and 11?

    That all depends on Madison an update on him here:

  9. Roger, fair enough, we will get a chance to see how he does in a few more starts before Lowry and/or Correia comes back (whoever returns first...).

    I don't even hope for Misch to have a Reuter-esque career (4.27 ERA, which is pretty good), I am just hoping for something under 5.00. If he turns out to be as good as Lowry, as I think is a possibility, that's a bonus. Under 5 ERA is typically great for a 5th starter, average for a #4 starer.

    While our #4 and #5 faces other 1 and 2's, our 1 and 2 face their 4 and 5's and their guys get slaughtered, it all evens out, except that I think that our starting 5 will generally be better than the starting 5 of the other teams, and over the span of a whole season, the Giants will be roughly close to .500, not the disaster most other fans think they will do.

    If it gets bad for the bulllpen, I have no doubt that the pitcher who is doing poorly will get left out hung to dry to eat up more innings. Batting practice time, because that is what will happen with young pitching staffs, some of them will get left out for slaughter.

    Again, while I'm optimistic person in general, I do my best to filter that out and objectively assess where the Giants are offensively and defensively (and that includes pitching). We have OK pitching now, but when Correia was healthy, I thought we had a pretty good starting 5.

    Now that Zito has one good start under his belt, hopefully he can parlay that into pitching like he did at the end of last season, like he did for the A's the previous couple of seasons (ERA+ of 113 and 116), that would be great to get from him.

    People expect too much from him because of his contract. We don't need him to be an ace, we already got two of those, we just need him to pitch like the above average pitcher he has been most of his career. Add two pitcher who can be adequate to good pitchers in Correia, Sanchez, and Misch, and we have a good to great rotation. That will win us a lot of games because our pitchers will keep us close.

  10. Jay, I think we have a good rotation for 09, 10, and 11 with the guys we have now. Bumgarner, Alderson, and Sosa should make it even better, because someone will get traded to bring us more offensive might and other will bolster our bullpen even better than it is now.

  11. Misch looked good last night, right? He was inline for the win until Walker shit the bed. I won't be able to watch Lincecum today, I'm disappointed.



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