Wednesday, May 04, 2011

2011 Giants: April PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of April 2011 (plus a game from March), 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).

What's Good and What's Not

From my observations, 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.

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). Read the link, as I noted, there's a nice chart there showing the combination of high DOM% and low DIS%, and there you can see particularly how s low DIS% is so important to a low ERA.

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).  But I think when the DOM% is high enough, you win more by choosing a high DOM% over a low DIS%, as there are more high quality games pitched overall.

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 2011 Season

Madison Bumgarner- (20% DOM, 40% DIS; 1:2/5): 0, 2, 3, 0, 5

Matt Cain- (60% DOM, 20% DIS; 3:1/5):  4, 4, 3, 0, 5

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (83% DOM, 0% DIS; 5:0/6):  4, 5, 3, 5, 4, 5

Jonathan Sanchez - (50% DOM, 0% DIS; 3:0/6):  3, 4, 4, 3, 3, 4

Ryan Vogelsong - (100% DOM, 0% DIS; 1:0/1):  4

Barry Zito - (50% DOM, 50% DIS; 1:1/2): 5, 1, X

X = start Zito was injured in and had to leave the game. I don't include these in my analysis.

Giants season overall - 56% DOM, 20% DIS out of 25 games counted (14:5/25)
Giants Month of March/April - 56% DOM, 20% DIS out of 25 games counted (14:5/25)

The Giants pitchers continued to do well, carrying over their collective goodness from last season.  Led by Tim Lincecum's 5 DOM starts, their 56% DOM as a group is excellent - remember, great pitchers have DOM of 50% or better and they are doing it as a group.  Their 20% is good as well.

And they may even get better.  Bumgarner was lost for much of April.  After 4 starts, he had 2 DIS starts and 0 DOM starts.  Now he has had two consecutive 5 PQS DOM starts.  After walking a lot of people and more importantly, not striking out that many either at the same time, he shut things down and in those two DOM starts he had 2 walks and 14 strikeouts.

Plus Vogelsong had a nice first start, though very poor second start now.  If he can keep up the good pitching he did in the minors, which he did in his first start, he should be able to at least duplicate what Zito delivered last season.  But he had a really bad second start, so it is not clear what we got with him yet, lightening in the bottle or the career MLB journeyman pitcher.

Those could push the staff up above 60% DOM and below 20% DIS.  Lincecum has returned to his Cy Young level of DOM and DIS:  above 80% DOM and below 10% DIS.  Cain has been his usual good self, with the occasional hiccup.  Given his playoff run, I can see Cain making another leap in DOM/DIS this season, perhaps join Lincecum in a Cy Young caliber season.

Also importantly, Sanchez despite not having great control plus battling a flu in a recent start or two, has ZERO disaster starts, plus 50% DOM.  He could be another key change in the rotation relative to last season, he still hasn't put together two great halves of a season, he has been great one half, and lost in the other half, for the past three seasons.  While his old wild self so far this season, he has been unlike his usual self by limiting the scoring that could happen, and shutting down the other team despite the walks.  Of course, part of that is his still high rate of strikeouts.

March/April 2011 Comments

Wow, to think the Giants starting pitchers could improve on last year's performance. Amazing!

Of course, there were hiccups.  Zito is on the DL for the first time in his career, and frankly, given how close it was to his massive car accident, where he literally was seconds away from dying in the crash, I have to think that there was underlying trama that didn't manifest itself until he started to punish his body in the inhuman way that pitchers do (very unnatural motion overall).  And Bumgarner was lost for his first four starts.  Plus Sanchez, as nicely as he has done, he's also clearly not at the top of his game, he's not going deep into games and walking a lot of batters as well.

Still, they are our jewels.  As I've been saying this season, I wouldn't be surprised if Lincecum eventually ends with an ERA under 2.00, and at worse he should have another Cy Young caliber season.  He has gotten off to a great start towards that.  Sanchez has been able to battle through problem areas that would have sunk him, the team, and his ERA previously.  If one were to look at just his numbers, you would miss the accomplishment he did when viewed by PQS stats.  Cain has been his usual steady self, and I'm hopeful that he might be able to take it up another step in 2011, after his stout performance in the playoffs after his hiccup against San Diego in his last 2010 regular season start. 

Zito, well, he'll never match his salary, but as a starter in the rotation, if he can recover from his injuries well enough (assuming the accident caused multiple problems) to return to his 2009-2010 form, I think he would be a fine part of our rotation.  And if you look, he gutted up and threw a 5 PQS DOM start in his first start of the season, right after the accident.  I'm hoping he'll be fine once he returns.  Vogelsong, meanwhile, I don't think either start is what we can expect, but something close to Zito I think is possible in the short run, before other teams catch up with him.  And Bumgarner is back with a vengence, and back so completely that he had two 5 PQS starts in a row after huge struggles just trying to throw a strike.

Trading Jonathan Sanchez

Part of the difficult tasks a GM has is managing the turnover of talent in the organization, particularly in respect to free agents.  As I've tried to make clear in my posts, my analysis of the draft convinces me that getting the signing team's first round draft pick plus supplemental draft is nowhere close to the value of a truly good player.  First off, the odds of those picks becoming a good player is roughly less than one of six chances.  That is, very lousy odds.  Second of all, these picks, even if they were to develop, normally it takes 3-5 years for the player to make the majors after being drafted.

I've mentioned the trading of Sanchez and was called out for it in the comments since I've been one of the main proponents among the Giants bloggers for keeping them together.   The difference now is the fact that he'll be going free agent soon, after the 2012 season and that you get more for a player when there is at least a year's worth of control over the player.  And as I led off with, you don't really want draft picks for a good player.

And as I've been saying for years now, Sanchez has the abilities to be a good, maybe great, pitcher.  That is why I was so adamant about not trading him, mainly because I did not expect the other team to pay value equal to as if they considered Sanchez to be a good, maybe great pitcher.  He finally put it together enough last season, and I'm hoping he continues this season - so far so good.

So now is the time to start kicking the tires to see what his value in the trade market now, with the idea of trading him away sometime in the second half of 2011.  I am thinking something along the lines of what the D-backs gave up to the A's for Dan Haren or what the A's gave up to the D-Rox for Matt Holliday.   Those trades yielded players who were able to contribute at the major league level within 1-3 years, in COL's case, immediately with Street. 

That is a much better yield in trade than getting draft picks, as it gives you prospects who are closer to the majors (or maybe in the majors already) and much more likely to be good in the majors than the picks you would get for him.  Of course, negotiating an extension is a possibility, but most clients of Scott Boras typically do not agree to an extension, they make it very clear that they are going on the free agent market ASAP.  That is why it is imperative to get the ball rolling by mid-season to see what value he has out there in the trade market.

Of course, battling for the title bears consideration.  Obviously being around the lead for NL West is part of the equation and if we should be leading mid-season, more consideration.  Also, how well Vogelsong does in place of Zito bears consideration as well.  I think we can take the trade off of losing Sanchez and replacing with Vogelsong if Ryan pitches more like his first start.  Furthermore, how well Eric Surkamp is doing in the minors is a strong factor as well, if he continues to dominate like this and advances to AAA by mid-season, he could be ready to move up by the end of the season, and thus Vogelsong would only need to be able to pitch well for July and August.  And, of course, if no other team values him enough to give a big package of prospects, then it would be better to keep him.

So there are a lot of factors I would consider before making a trade of Sanchez for prospects.  I would not make the move lightly.  In addition, we don't necessarily have to trade Sanchez during the season, he could be traded in the off-season, like Matt Holliday was, and that should also yield some good value in trade was well. 

What I want is Sabean to be kicking that idea around with other teams who might want a good pitcher like Sanchez either this season or in the off-season and set the grounds to make a trade quickly when the Giants are ready to pull the trigger.  And if things work out positively as the scenarios I laid out above, the sooner we should consider trading him, particularly if the package is equal to or better than the trades noted above. 

Sky is Falling (Again)

Giants fans all over are slobbering all over the Jose Reyes to Giants rumor, after a brief period of near zero offense.  Reminds me of the same old broken record from the past few years, of their desperate need to improve the offense at all costs (that is, trading a good pitcher would solve our problems).  The pitcher most are trying to ditch this time is Zack Wheeler, adding him to the long line of pitchers these Naysayers have wanted to trade in order to improve the offense:  Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez.  Heck, some are thinking that trading Sanchez would be worth it.

First off, it is like these people aren't aware of the current situation, that we are missing our lead-off guy who sparked many rallies last season, Andres Torres, that we are missing our re-newed Pablo Sandoval, who was knocking the pants off the ball again this season, after clearing his mind of his personal problems, and his belly of 30-40 pounds, and that the heart of our lineup, both Huff and Posey, have not been hitting up to expectations.  Torres should be back by the end of the week, putting pressure on the bases up top, getting Huff and Posey better pitches, undoubtedly.

Second, these people don't realize that our payroll will get top heavy fast just with the players we have now, Lincecum and Cain will be getting huge raises, that is, if you want to keep them, but if we add Reyes and sign him to a monster contract now (and there is no reason not to once you give up Wheeler and/or Dirty), you just hurt the Giants ability to retain one of the two, most probably Lincecum.  So people aren't realizing that this would mean that we are essentially trading a future Lincecum in order to get Reyes.

Third, Jose Reyes has not even been the Jose Reyes these people think of the past two seasons.  He has been on the DL extensively the past two seasons, at ages 26 (basically missing most of 2009) and 27, so I have to question whether he won't be getting injured regularly once we sign him to a huge 5-6-7 year contract at $100M+.  I think Hyperthyroidism is a serious internal problem, to me, a life-long issue that needs to be managed.

People also need to remember that we are near the end of a long 10 game road trip and the end of 16 road games out of 19.  The Giants are 9-6 in this stretch on the road and has already assured a winning record with their win today.  And they ensured at least a .500 record for the 10 games by winning today, and could end up with a winning record by sweeping the Mets. 

Of course, getting swept by Atlanta at home didn't help matters, but the main things to remember is that the Giants are actually doing OK on the road in this stretch, despite the offensive hiccups, as most teams aim to be .500 on the road and win roughly 2 of 3 at home, to get into the playoffs.  In 2010, only these teams ended up at or above .500 in NL: Phillies, Giants, Reds, 'Dres, though I would throw in Cubs at 40-41 in there too.  The Giants were 43-38 on the road in 2010.

And as noted above, we have been missing Torres and then Sandoval out of the lineup.  And whenever the Giants lose an important cog out of the lineup, it is like a gut punch, and the offense suffers, only scored 4 runs in three games after he was placed on DL.  When Torres went out, only scored 1 run in each of next two games, before returning to normal.   Still, after the Pittsburgh series, the offense had scored 4 or more runs in 13 out of 24 games (13-11). 

In addition, it's only just a few days out of April.  Waaay too soon to panic, particularly if we are around .500 after spending so many days on the road so far this season.  That weighs heavily on our overall record and is why we are around .500, so we are actually in pretty good shape.  What we can't do is start losing series at home against teams we should be beating. 

But it is too soon to panic and we should see what the offense can do when we have Torres back in the lineup, as Pablo won't be back for another 4-6 weeks (maybe 7, as Sandoval has been tweeting 7 weeks for his return) and Mark DeRosa could take his place in a week or two.  Torres is suppose to be back by the time they return home, but right now there is some worry that he might not be ready by then.  But as long as we are holding our own on the road now, and winning when we get home, we will be fine.

Lincecum Franchise Leader in Double Digit Strikeout Games

Not in April but with his 12 strikeouts today against the Mets, he now has the most double digit strikeout games in the entire history of the Giants franchise.  That included the former leader, Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, former #2, Jason Schmidt, another Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell who was famous for striking out the top 3 AL hitters in an All-Star game.  THE MOST.  And he's hasn't even finished four full seasons with us yet.

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