Thursday, June 02, 2011

2011 Giants: May PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of May 2011, 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- (56% DOM, 18% DIS; 6:2/11): 0, 2, 3, 0, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5

Matt Cain- (78% DOM, 9% DIS; 8:1/11):  4, 4, 3, 0, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (89% DOM, 9% DIS; 9:1/11):  4, 5, 3, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 0, 4, 4

Jonathan Sanchez - (70% DOM, 0% DIS; 7:0/10):  3, 4, 4, 3, 3, 4, 3, 5, 5, 5, 5

Ryan Vogelsong - (71% DOM, 14% DIS; 5:1/7):  4, 0, 4, 4, 5, 4, 2

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 - 68% DOM, 13% DIS out of 53 games counted (36:7/53)
Giants Month of March/April - 56% DOM, 20% DIS out of 25 games counted (14:5/25)
Giants Month of May - 79% DOM, 7% DIS out of 28 games counted (22:2/28)

If you want to see why the Giants were 16-12 in May despite their anemic offense, which was bookended by losing Pablo Sandoval for 5-6 weeks at the start of the month and Buster Posey for the season at the end of the month, you can just look at that May stat:  79% DOM, 7% DIS.  As I try to make clear above, only the most elite pitchers in the majors do that.  We are talking Lincecum, Cliff Lee, and Roy Halladay elite.  Yet the Giants staff did that as a unit in May.

And there is not a lot of reason to believe that they can't continue something close to that for the rest of the season, barring any injury.  Lincecum, as I've been touting all off-season, has been using not only his new pitch, but his new physique and stamina, to return to Cy Young caliber pitching.  Cain, as I noted in the off-season as well, appeared ready to take another step upward and has so far, by dropping his DIS a lot and upping his DOM to elite levels.  Sanchez too.  Bumgarner, after his horrible start, has been pitching at elite levels, arguably the best of the starters in May, he had 4 5-PQS starts in May, tied with Sanchez;  Lincecum and Cain each had "only" two.

Even Vogelsong has not been a weak link so far in this super-rotation.  His 71% DOM/14% DIS (and 67% DOM/17% DIS in May) would rank among the best in the majors, yet he is rightfully the back of rotation guy in the Giants rotation.  Of course, it is doubtful that a journeyman pitcher like Vogelsong will continue to pitch like this for a whole season, but even if he were to fall back to mediocrity, where he is simply OK, this rotation would still be great, at roughly 70% DOM/15% DIS.  If the pitching staff can continue this for the season, even if the offense don't get much better other than Pablo Sandoval returning to the lineup, I don't see any reason why the Giants cannot reach the 90+ wins necessary to get into the playoffs.

May 2011 Comments

To quote myself from last month:  "Wow, to think the Giants starting pitchers could improve on last year's performance. Amazing!"  Make that last month's performance!  The Giants sure outdid themselves in May.  No wonder the Giants have already announced that Zito is not guaranteed a starting spot when he is ready to re-join the team, Vogelsong has been great so far, certainly better than Zito has been for the Giants in almost any 7 game stretch of starts, other than the beginning of last season.

And as good as they were in April, there were hiccups, but in May, there were only the rare hiccup, only mainly great performances which for the most part is the norm for our starters.  All that contributed to their 16-12 record.

Again, to quote myself from last month:  " 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."  I knew I was pushing it with that statement, but I still feel very good about it possibly happening, barring injury.  I think he is just that good.

Superlatives fail me, but this is the culmination of what I've been preaching ever since a reporter asked in a column what the Giants will be about after Bonds:  it's simple, pitching, pitching, and more pitching.

And either you get it or you don't, I'm learning.  Despite all the great pitching and winning the Giants have been doing, the Naysayers are all up in arms over the Giants and, basically, about how smart they are and Giants management isn't.  Again, to repeat myself from last month, we are missing Sandoval, a key component of our offense in April, and now are also missing Posey.  And Aubrey Huff, after a brief warm-up in the middle of May, has reverted to his prior struggles.  It seems like he's thinking too much instead of "see ball, hit ball" mind-set he needs to adopt.  That's our entire middle of lineup offense.

Given the offensive struggles, we will need our starters to continue their superlative pitching.  Pablo could be returning as soon as next week's homestand, so that will give the offense a boost, but he won't be able to do it alone.  Huff and some of the other vets will need to start hitting, plus not be so hot and cold, which Ross and Freddy Sanchez have been.  The young players have been giving the team a needed lift, so that has helped a lot.  Still, the pitching looks to be similarly great in June, so the offense won't have to do that much more for the Giants to stay at or near the top of the NL West.

And the surprising D-backs are currently the leader in the Wild Wild NL West.  I just don't see Juan Miranda and Ryan Roberts continuing to hit like that, nor Josh Collmenter or their bullpen to pitch so lights out as they have.  Once they start regressing to their mean, the team will start falling off the pace.  Plus, once the Giants catch up on their home games vs. road games, they should also start to pull away a bit, as well.

Trading Jonathan Sanchez

Again,  something I covered last month, but now perhaps a bit more urgent because of the loss of Buster Posey and the lackluster offense.   Instead of a package of prospects, perhaps it would be better to swap him for current offensive muscle.  Though ideally, I would still prefer to get a younger guy who we control for more years.

Not that it has to be done, as I do like Sanchez a lot.  But given that we will be losing him sooner or later - Boras is his agent - a trade will yield much more value - as well as sooner - than any draft pick compensation we might get for him.  It would be most prudent for the team to do it this year rather than next year as they will get a lot more this season.  And Vogelsong's emergence makes a trade  a much better alternative than it sounded when I first broached the topic last month, particularly with Barry Zito returning to the team sometime in June most probably:  trade Sanchez, get some good prospects, slot in Zito into the rotation.

Ultimately, it comes to whether you take a very short term view versus a long term view.  While the Giants clearly would be a much better team with Dirty than not, that is not a guarantee that once the Giants made the playoffs, that they will sweep through the other teams with him.  As great as our pitchers were, we were very close to losing the opening playoff series to Atlanta.  Had they had Chipper Jones, they might have.

That is why I prefer to take the long view.  Again, I am thinking of something along the lines of the  Dan Haran trade, though I don't think we can get the quantity, I am looking more for quality.  The A's trade for Matt Holliday would be another similar deal to mimic, getting a top prospect like CarGon but instead of MLB players like Huston Street or Greg Smith, give me more middling prospects, as Holliday was more established and proven than Dirty.

And I am looking to leverage a rare resource as a top of rotation starter that Sanchez is demonstrating that he could be for someone by trading him mid-season, around June or July, when teams are desperate for that one piece for their rotation, much like Texas' trade for Cliff Lee last season (another trade similar to what I'm talking about).  Or maybe an up and coming team looking to boost their chances in 2012 after building off a promising 2011.

And, again, I would not make the trade just to make the trade.  It has to be equal or better value in return for him, at least for this season.  But I think to get good value for him, relative to what we would receive in draft picks, we would need to trade him no later than this coming off-season.  And it never hurts to have your options open and know what the opportunity is.

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