Wednesday, August 05, 2009

2009 Giants: July PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of July 2009, 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). Regular readers can skip to the next section.

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.

I wholeheartedly recommend buying Baseball Forecaster and learning more about their methods of analyzing baseball. It has been greatly illuminating for me, and if you want to get a taste for it without paying full price, they used to sell their old editions of their annuals on their website for half price or less (plus shipping); but that was before he sold the company off, and I haven't checked recently.

Giants Starters' PQS for 2009 Season

Matt Cain - (70% DOM, 5% DIS; 14:1/20): 5, 2, 4, 4, 1, 4, 3, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 5, 5, 5, 3, 5, INJ, 5, 4, 4

Randy "The Big Unit" Johnson- (31% DOM, 31% DIS; 5:5/16): 3, 0, 5, 0, 5, 0, 2, 0, 3, 5, 3, 2, 4, 3, 5, 1, INJ

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (81% DOM, 6% DIS; 18:1/22): 0, 2, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 5, 5, 4, 3, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 5, 5

Ryan Sadowski - (17% DOM, 50% DIS; 1:3/6): 3, 4, 3, 0, 0, 0

Jonathan Sanchez - (29% DOM, 29% DIS; 5:5/17): 0, 3, 3, 0, 2, 2, 4, 4, 0, 0, 3, 0, 2, 5, 4, 3, 4

Barry Zito - (38% DOM, 19% DIS; 8:4/21): 0, 3, 5, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 0, 5, 2, 0, 4, 0, 4, 4, 3

Giants season overall - 50% DOM, 19% DIS out of 102 games counted (51:19/102)

Giants Month of April - 40% DOM, 25% DIS out of 20 games counted (8:5/20)

Giants Month of May - 52% DOM, 17% DIS out of 29 games counted (15:5/29)

Giants Month of June - 44% DOM, 15% DIS out of 27 games counted (12:4/27)

Giants Month of July - 62% DOM, 19% DIS out of 26 games counted (16:5/26)

Lincecum kept rolling into July and had another 5 DOM starts. Cain added 4 DOM himself. Both again, as they did that in June as well. This month, however, we had other pitchers chipping in good months of DOM starts. Both Zito and Sanchez contributed 3 each, and Sadowski 1 before he crashed and burned, unfortunately; his carriage turned into a pumpkin.

The staff altogether had a 50% DOM: remember, only the best pitchers can achieve a 50% DOM in a season, but our staff is so good that as a group it has 50%. And if Sanchez hadn't decided to take on some of Johan Santana's mechanics, who knows how good he could have been this season: it turns out he picked this up during the WBC and stubbornly kept doing it until he was put in the bullpen. Still, tough a road as it was, it led to his magical near-perfect no-hitter (only an error between him and immortality) where his father watched him pitch live for the first time, so I am sure he would not change a thing. Since he has returned to the rotation, he has a 75% DOM, no disaster starts, in 4 starts.

Zito has been on and off during July but has started to turn it on after the break, with 2 DOM starts out of 3 and no DIS. I am a bit disappointed with how this season has evolved for him because his velocity has been up and he has been striking out more batters than he has since he first joined the majors. Still, his ERA is only 4.47, which is great for any staff's #4 starter, which he was in the first half, and he's getting close to the low 4's one would expect out of the team's #2 starter, which is where he is right now, though, really, it should be Cain if he were not that Bochy wanted to both have righties around the lefty, plus somebody who succeeds off off-speed pitches sandwiched by the two power pitchers, Lincecum and Cain.

Johnson, unfortunately, looks to be out for the 6-8 weeks and probably won't return to the rotation this season, though he might return for September and contribute as a reliever. He has been worth the $8M we paid him, both for what he did for us on the mound and what he did for us in the clubhouse. I would be torn about whether to bring him back for 2010 or not, but if he's willing to take a contract that vests by appearances, I think I would be OK with that. But if Joe Martinez, who will become our #5 starter tomorrow, does well, I don't expect Johnson to come back to our team. Hopefully he'd be willing to retire as a Giant and accept a job with us, though I wouldn't expect that.

Overall, the rotation performed pretty much like it did in May, though it would have been a little worse if I had included the two starts marred by the pitcher being taken out due to injury. I probably should include Johnson's start in there, but I think it's cleaner to just remove any start where the starter is injured. As I noted, with a 50% DOM overall, the staff has been great, and should only get better as long as Lincecum and Cain keeps churning them out and Sanchez and Zito continue their recent good streak. And thus far in August, 3 DOM starts out of 4, and Cain was just one strikeout away from a 4th DOM start (or one less HR).

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.

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).

July 2009 Comments

With the two trades to get Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez, the Giants have upgraded the offense at 1B and 2B. Thus far, Garko has gotten most of the starts at 1B, but hopefully Bochy won't just let Ishikawa rot on the bench and allow him starts against RHP by playing Garko in LF occassionally. With Velez's hot hitting thus far, it is hard to sit him down to play Garko in LF and Ishikawa at 1B, so I'll just be happy with Velez doing so well.

As noted, the pitching overall was great in July, but the offense started to sag, as players who were hot before - Sandoval, Rowand, and Schierholtz in particular - started slowing down and vets who have been up and down - Molina and Winn in particular - went down again. The Giants had another OK month in the win/loss column, going 14-13 and averaging only 3.6 runs scored per game. They have been at or over .500 in every month so far, much over in June, and on a good start for a good month in August.

Still, the team is now half a game away from the Wild Card slot after ending last month leading: Colorado went on a rampage after Jim Tracy was named manager and zoomed to the top of the Wild Card standings before finally falling back to Earth, allowing us to stay close. We are one game ahead of the Cardinals and 3.5 games ahead of the Marlins, as most of the other teams have started to falter: Brewers and Braves are both 6 games back, Astros now 6.5, and Mets are 9 games back.

And we are "only" 7 games back of the D-gers for the NL West. Winning the division title looks more and more like a pipe dream right now. However, that is at least in their hands as they play LA another 9 games the rest of the season. If they can win, say, 7 of the 9, that would get them within 2 games of the Bums.

That is not too out of the question as their rotation is a little creaky. They are relying on Jason Schmidt as a starter because they had no one else better. He hasn't pitched regularly in years now. Both Kershaw and Billingsley had bumps in the road recently, Kershaw walking 6 in 4 IP and 71 in 124.1 IP for the season, and Billingsley, after a 6 walk start (5.2 IP) left his next game early because of a hamstring cramp. They have Kuroda, who is being figured out this season, plus missed a number of starts due to injury, and Wolf, who is having his best season since 2002 and amazingly has been health this season, after missing significant parts of the seasons from 2004 to 2007, before pitching a full season in 2008. Still, the amazing part is that he has pitched much better on the road than at home, which is pretty flukey, as most pitchers pitch better at home for the D-gers; he could have been even better.

I think it would be great to make the playoffs, because then Lincecum and Cain can get that off their To-Do list of first experiences, and hopefully not be so amped up the next time we make the playoffs, hopefully next season. I don't think that we will deep into the playoffs with our offense as it is, but I think we will be competitive and won't be shown up either.

Winning the first round is a strong possibility, as the Wild Card team would probably face the Phillies, and we just beat them 3 out of 4 at home. We would throw Lincecum and Cain at them in Philly, which should even things up for us, then we would have Zito and Sanchez at home, where they have pitched well, then Lincecum in Philly as necessary. I like those odds, should it come to pass.

It looks like the Giants are looking to the future with their trades, as they say that both players are in their plans for 2010, which makes sense. Sanchez is a good enough 2B, better than our alternatives of Burriss and Frandsen (though whether he is $6-8M better than Frandsen, I am not sure; I still don't like the cost, both monetarily and prospect in Alderson) and with Burriss' season-ending injury, he cost himself precious development and thus we needed a 2B for 2010, since Frandsen apparently has been labeled a utility guy (or been pushed there because of his big mouth). Sanchez is experienced batting in the #2 spot and can support the leadoff hitter in such a capacity. If he can hit .750-.800 OPS, then we got a good player manning that spot now; if he hits in the low 700 OPS or worse, we just paid dearly for a big albatross, and he will replace Armando Benitez in many people's hearts.

Garko, as a hitter, would be one of our most consistent hitters, LHP or RHP, and best power hitter period, in our lineup. Unfortunately, he is going to take away starts from either LF or 1B, and Ishikawa looks to be the equivalent of Garko at 1B in terms of offense if he can continue to hit like he has since May 10th, and 2010 looked to become a battle between Lewis and Bowker for LF, with Rowand in CF and Schierholtz in RF, but now with Garko in the mix, it could be Bowker pushing Schierholtz in RF and Garko in LF, with Lewis as the 4th OF (or traded).

For now, it has cost Ishikawa, as Velez has been too hot to play Garko in LF and Ishikawa at 1B. Giants management says that Ishikawa is still in their plans, so I'll take their word for it. He has hit .306/.358/.475/.833 with 7 HR in 160 AB since May 10th, and .333/.455/.333/.788 in limited play since July 27th, though he has been a defensive replacement in almost every game.

The Giants will have a tough road ahead towards winning the wild card because they have not played well on the road. Hopefully the additions will put them over the top offensively and get them winning there as well as at home, where they have been masterful. With the starting rotation looking to roll, we should be in good shape for a great August and we are off to a good start.

And August can be good. There are 11 more road games and 11 more home games. At home, the Giants have ruled, plus they get 6 games against the Reds and D'Backs, two bad teams. They will also get 6 games against the D'gers and D-Rox. The good news is that we should be catching the D'gers while they are cold and struggling: they are 4-6 in their last 10 games, 5-7 in their last 12, losing the series against Florida and St. Louis, before winning against the Braves and splitting so far with the Brewers. Against the D-Rox, they have been good on the road, just like the D'gers, so it'll be a battle in both series.

On the road, they play 11 straight games against the Mets, Reds, and D-Rox. The Mets and Reds have been struggling, plus haven't been that good at home. The Reds in particular, 1-9 in their last 10 games; why did they trade away young players for Scott Rolen? (According to reports, he requested this trade for personal reasons, so I assume he's going to sign a nice deal with the Reds long-term) Colorado, however, is always a tough team for the Giants to play on the road, and with 4 games, it could be a bloodbath there for us. Hopefully the Giants can win most of the games against the Mets and Reds, as that would make up for any shortcomings in Colorado. And the Giants will need to take care of business when they play Colorado 3 games at home at the end of the month.


  1. Someone besides Renteria needs to be playing SS. He is an E6 waiting to happen. I also have a feeling he leads the team in GIDP w/ RISP. Seems to be common with him. Any sites you follow that would track that?

  2. Great post - I'm a big fan of Ron Shandler, even if really getting into it makes my head spin.

    This gives me more faith about the rest of the rotation after Timmy and Cain - having Zito be league average has a bigger impact than people realize.

    I think the race to watch is the Cubs/Cardinals - whoever doesn't finish first is the likely wildcard, IMHO. Not sure that the Giants can keep pace, but I sure want them to. Well put about the "playoff experience" factor - more than just the pitching staff could use it. Sanchez as the potential big #3 especially - if he can learn to keep his cool, the rotation is lethal.

    This season is a good ride - I think on that basis, it's been a big success. Woohoo!

  3. Go to this link:

    Scroll down to Bases Occupied. Renteria has 6 GDP in 91 AB in RISP situations, hitting .308/.380/.385/.764. In men on 1B situations he is hitting .368/.400/.491/.891 with 7 GDP in 57 AB. I think that's a fine trade off there. But he only has hit .231/.259/.346/.605 with 5 GDP in 26 AB when there are men on 1B and 2B.

    He does seem to GB into DP more often than other hitters:

    In RISP, he DP in 6.6%; NL 3.5%
    In 1B only, DP in 12.3%; NL 7.7%

    He is hitting into DP at about double the NL rate, so it is not just your imagination.

    His main problem overall, though, has been hitting with no men on base: .194/.251/.235/.486, wow, that's bad. That's probably why he has hit better lower in the order, ensuring that there are more opportunities where there are runners on base, unlike when he is batting 2nd in the lineup.

    But then he doubles into more DP than usual.

    However, I must add that he often has Molina on base ahead of him, so it would be interesting to see how many doubleplays Molina has been involved in when he is on base.

    Not sure where we can get a stat like that. Even Bill James, who in his handbook covers base running, does not cover how often a player is involved in a DP as a runner, even though he covers many other nuances of baserunning then discusses net gains on the bases.

    Suffice to say that Molina at -20 BR Gain in 2008, was among the worse in the majors, 10th worse in the majors was -21, with many tied there. Basically he was one away from being 10th; had he not been a catcher, needing rest, he most probably would have made the Top 10 worse in the majors; Dioner Navarro earned the title with -39, Magglio Ordonez 2nd with -35, Edgar Gonzalex 3rd with -27, Yorvit Torrealba 4th with -26, and, surprisingly, Yunel Escobar 5th with -25.

    Still, Renteria is not absolved either. With 19 DP in 2008, he was among the highest in the majors. In terms of percentage relative to DP opportunities, he was probably in the Top 20 in the majors for the top offenders. And that was with Detroit. Though I must note that Miguel Cabrera was a major statue on the base paths too with Detroit last year, worse than Molina.

  4. I love Ron Shandler too. It was with his book that I finally understood all the basic advances in sabermetrics that Baseball Prospectus has been throwing at us for years, so while I don't necessarily need his book anymore, I buy it out of thanks for what he has brought me. Plus to see the latest his group has to present.

    If Zito can continue to have a great second half, he can be more than league average, he can be top of rotation worthy. Particularly if he can run off DOM starts without the DIS starts, which he has not been able to do yet, but is improving.

    I agree about the rotation lethalness. If Sanchez can return to his 2008 H1 goodness, that would give us 3 starters capable of being the ace of a rotation, plus Zito pitching like a number 2. In a short series starting with Lincecum and Cain, we should be able to win that series more often that not, as those two battle to 1-1 against the opponent, then Zito/Sanchez should handle the lesser pitchers on the other team's rotation, then we have Lincecum pitching the 5th game.

    The thing is that the Giants have kept pace thus far, in fact accelerated in June and July and now August. They now have a 3.5 game lead over the Cubs/Cards, who are currently tied in the NL Central. And that's after St. Louis added Holliday and DeRosa to their team.

    Looking at some detailed stats, the Giants are actually one of the best teams against opponents who are over .500, which is very impressive, as I've seen some commentators worry about the Giants against the better teams. At 31-28, they are only second to LA in that category: Philly is 27-27, St. Lou is 25-26, Cubbies are a putrid 24-31. The D-gers are 37-29. The average in the NL is 26-33.

    As much as the worry about having too many left-handed bats, the Giants have actually been better against LHP than RHP: 17-12 vs. 43-36. The Phillies are susceptable to RHP, the Cubs to LHP. And, of course, most teams are susceptable to Tim Lincecum. :^)

    Where the Giants have not played up was against the lousy teams. While they are a great 29-20 against them, the division leaders are great against them, LA 29-13, PHIL 33-18, Cubs 33-18. Only Cards are similar, 34-25. Still, only 5 teams are more games over .500 in the NL.

    They have also done poorly against the NL West while beating up all the other divisions. That's a huge difference between the D-gers and Giants, they are 30-12, we are 19-19. But most NL teams are there or worse, so it is relatively good. Only 3 teams have a record over .500 against the NL West, putting the Giants 4th.

    Speaking of which, the Giants face:

    D'gers: 9 games
    D-Rox: 10 games
    D'backs: 9 games
    'Dres: 3 games

    That's the division and wild card battle right there. Only 6 games back now, if they can go 6-3 against the D'gers, they are only 3 games back. If they can go 7-3 against D-Rox, that would put them 4.5 games ahead of them. It will be a battle, but the Giants have the 3rd best record in the NL, 2nd best against teams over .500, so they appear to be up for the battle.

  5. Ooops, read off the wrong column, the Cards and Cubs are only 2.0 game behind the Giants, not 3.5 games as I thought (that was the GBsum column).

    Still, the Giants have been very competitive the past two months, when the team had settle down to their core players and pitchers.

    In fact, if you strike their early flutters when Lincecum was clearly still recovering from his poor health in spring, since going 2-7, the Giants have gone 58-41 since then, a .586 winning rate. That would result in a 32-22 W/L the rest of the season, resulting in a final record of 92-60.

    Normally, 92 wins should win you a division, but the D'gers only have to go 26-32 to reach 92 wins. The Cards would have to go 33-19, the Cubs 35-21.

    I would think D-Rox are the ones to watch in the Wild Card race. They were on fire after Tracy took over, though they have cooled off and the two teams have matching records of 18-12 in their last 30 games (which is a very good .600 winning percentage).

    Still, the Cubs were 19-11 and the Cards 17-13 in their last 30, so they are close enough that should the Giants falter, they could grab the wild card too.

    And Florida and Atlanta were both 17-13 in their last 30 and within 5 games. They will either need to get really hot plus the 3 teams ahead of them really cold, to win the wild card. I don't think either is likely but you never knew, Colorado suddenly got really hot so maybe one of these teams could do that too.

  6. yes... well, I haven't looked in a few days, but there were something like 6 teams within 5 games of the wild card? that's nothing new, I suppose - but, you make a good point in implying that the Giants are arguably a better team now than they were season-to-date. That's a good omen. And I may be wrong, but it seems that Bochy has used the bullpen liberally, so they probably will be strong down the stretch.

    Interesting about the over .500 opponents - someone (Hardball Times?) suggested that last year's team was actually worse than their record because of beating up on the likes of the Padres. I have my doubts about the validity of regression to the mean, but just like Matt Cain, I'll take it.

    -20 BR for Bengie is shocking. Wow. It's no surprise that he's no sprinter, but geez. I assume that includes the mental side, meaning, he's not only slow, but bad? That's pretty rough.



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