This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of June 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 June 30th, 2008)
Matt Cain - (61% DOM, 11% DIS; 11:2/18): 3, 0, 4, 0, 5, 2, 4, 4, 4, 3, 4, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 3
Kevin Correia - (57% DOM, 29% DIS; 4:2/7): 4, 4, 4, 1, 3, 1, 4 (did not count start where injured)
Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (71% DOM, 0% DIS; 12:0/17): 4, 5, 4, 4, 3, 5, 4, 5, 4, 5, 3, 3, 5, 5, 2, 3, 5 (didn't count relief outing as start)
Pat Misch - (38% DOM, 38% DIS; 3:3/8): 4, 0, 4, 4, 2, 0, 2, 0 (counted relief after Zito since 6 IP)
Jonathan Sanchez - (53% DOM, 18% DIS; 9:3/17): 0, 5, 2, 3, 5, 3, 0, 0, 5, 3, 5, 5, 4, 2, 5, 5, 5
Barry Zito - ( 24% DOM, 47% DIS; 4:8/17): 1, 1, 3, 3, 0, 0 (Skip), 4, 3, 2, 4, 4, 0, 1, 1, 0, 4, 2
Giants season overall - 51% DOM, 22% DIS out of 85 games counted (43:19/85)
Giants Month of April - 43% DOM, 30% DIS out of 30 games counted (13:9/30)
Giants Month of May - 61% DOM, 14% DIS out of 28 games counted (17:4/28)
Giants Month of June - 48% DOM, 22% DIS out of 27 games counted (13:6/27)
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 a much better June than they did in May, if you ignore Zito. But, alas, you cannot. Still, only the best pitchers have a DOM over 50% and DIS under 20%, and we have a rotation that was near that despite Zito's horrible month of June (and Misch's one lousy start). And have three pitchers clearly among the best in the majors in DOM in Lincecum, Cain, and now Sanchez.
Surprisingly, Jonathan Sanchez led the way with five dominating starts in 6 starts in June. Both Cain and Lincecum have off months for them, but still each had three dominating starts, which is still very good. Correia has been shaky in his return, but I would attribute that to rustiness for now. He at least had a DOM start his last time out in June. Zito had one of the worse months around, the only good thing can be said is that he was much better in his last two starts of the month than he was earlier in the month, particularly in terms of striking out batters. Now he needs to get his walks and hits down, particularly his walks.
If Correia can return to his early season form (and late 2007 season form), then the rotation can really be cooking with four pitchers not prone to DIS but capable of throwing out a DOM easily. So the potential is now there for the four of them to start clicking together and the Giants would regularly put together streaks where they win 6-8 out of 10. And if Zito's late month improvement continues, obviously more.
The main problems in June are obviously Zito's poor performance - 60% DOM, 5% DIS rest of regular rotation - and the bullpen's shakiness. The bullpen has seen both Chulk and Sadler sent down, and Romo and now Osirus Matos up, who was just brought up the other day in July. Romo has been the revelation in June that Hinshaw was in May, though obviously small sampling thus far. Both both have been striking out a storm, which is still a very good accomplishment in the majors. They now just have to continue doing it.
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.
The Giants continue to do well on the road while suffering at home in June. If anything, they have gone to extremes, winning series regularly on the road while losing series left and right at home. Still, they were 13-13 on the last day of June when Zito blew the game and we ended up 13-14 for the month.
The starting pitching is starting to dominate up and down the rotation. All the starters have had a dominating start in their last two starts. All starters have been doing better later than earlier in the month. Lincecum finally had a dry (for him) period where he had 4 starts out of 6 be not dominating. This is similar to last season's dry spell, except last year he had a bunch of DIS starts, leading to whispers of skipping a start, and this year it was just a bunch of neutral starts. Meanwhile Cain and Sanchez have been racking up great starts consecutively.
Zito, I am again cautiously optimistic, but look what that got me after I said that last month. Obviously, with all his wide ups and downs, I can only hope for the best, but anticipate the worse. He is the tipping point for our rotation, and if he can get back to where he was when he was with the A's just before joining the Giants, we could have a great rotation capable of sweeping teams regularly, but if he continues his down periods, pitching him in the rotation will be like Russian Roulette with more than one chamber filled with a bullet.
The ray of sunshine in the Zito camp, however, is that his velocity has returned to pre-Giants speed, about 88 MPH. The key to Zito's effectiveness in the past has been the separation in speed between his fastball and his breaking pitches, particularly his great curveball. This has shown up in his last two starts, when he was able to get a lot of strikeouts with his new fastball.
However, his nemesis continues to be his lack of control, relatively, as he walked 5 in his last start, while striking out 6, in 5 IP. However, his last two starts show this pitching line: 11.2 IP, 10 hits, 5 BB, 10 K, 1 HR. That would have been a very nice line to show on average for a two game stretch, however, he pitched great one game, horrible the next. The key thing again, is his uptick in strikeouts. That shows that he has the stuff to get batters to swing and miss. Now he needs to get control over his pitches so that he don't walk so many.
Other things to smile about are Hinshaw and Romo. They have come up and delivered in the bullpen. Hopefully they can continue to do so, as well as the rest of the bullpen. Yabu and Walker has had their ups and downs. And Wilson has given fans some heart palpitations but, really, if you look at the numbers, any pitcher will have a WHIP over 1.0, meaning he's going to give up a baserunner almost every time he is out there on the mound. The key thing is that he has saved a large percentage of the save opportunities he has been given, and that is good.
Offensively, inevitably, Rowand and Molina cooled off, but the rest of the lineup picked up some of the slack and they were nearly .500 for the month at 13-14. Durham and Aurilia has been a big part of that, plus Lewis and Bowker have been good contributors as well. Castillo has been hot and cold but overall an adequate producer at 3B. A start at 2B suggests the Giants might allow him to compete for starting 2B job for 2009. Unfortunately, Vizquel has been horrible hitting at SS. Emmanuel Burriss has been good enough at SS for defense and OBP, but horrible for SLG. And his speed has not translated into many runs or SB yet.
I still think that we can still dream about .500 sometime this season - afterall, we are 37-42 without Roberts in the lineup, and we were 13-14 in June, so we are not far off and certainly not as far off as people were crying about during the off-season - but that is too distant a dream. Still, the promise is clearly there, particularly after Sanchez started dominating.
After all, we haven't really fielded our full team at any point this season, someone who has been a good contributor has been on the DL at most times (or been horrible, like Roberts, Bocock, Zito, and now Vizquel). Of course, this might continue for the rest of the season and we will stay mired below .500. There is no guarantee in baseball.
But with signs of dominating life from the rotation, I feel that a good run of starts will happen sooner or later, where the Giants can run off a nice win streak and attain .500 ex-Roberts. Given Cain's surges in August in the past, and Lincecum's surge last July - he already has 3 starts with 10+ strikeouts before July, only one start last season (though he didn't pitch in April) - plus Sanchez's apparent breakthrough this season, I think the Giants can get a good run going at some point and challenge for the title before fading off (though that's only because the NL West is so weak this season, if it was last season, they would have no chance at all).