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.
Madison Bumgarner- (63% DOM, 19% DIS; 10:3/16): 0, 2, 3, 0, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 0, 5
Matt Cain- (82% DOM, 6% DIS; 14:1/17): 4, 4, 3, 0, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5
Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (76% DOM, 12% DIS; 13:2/17): 4, 5, 3, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 0, 4, 4, 4, 3, 0, 4, 5, 5
Jonathan Sanchez - (53% DOM, 13% DIS; 8:2/15): 3, 4, 4, 3, 3, 4, 3, 5, 5, 5, 5, 2, 3, 4, 0, 0
Ryan Vogelsong - (75% DOM, 17% DIS; 9:2/12): 4, 0, 4, 4, 5, 4, 2, 5, 4, 5, 4, 1
Barry Zito - (33% DOM, 33% DIS; 1:1/3): 5, 1, X, 3
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, 15% DIS out of 81 games counted (55:12/81)
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)
Giants Month of June - 68% DOM, 18% DIS out of 28 games counted (19:5/28)
June ended up averaging what the Giants did previously, essentially. Again, a 68% DOM, 15% DIS pitcher is a one of the best pitchers in the league, and the Giants are doing that collectively as a rotation. They did not do as great as they did in May, but luckily the offense reverted closer to their prior performance expectations, so they ended up with an even better month, 17-11, than May.
The staff was led by Cain in June, as he was perfect: 6 DOM starts out of 6. Lincecum, Vogelsong, and Bumgarner each had 4 DOM starts. Sanchez, showing that something was wrong with him, after 7 DOM starts and 0 DIS starts in 10 starts to start the season, he only had 1 DOM and 2 DIS starts in 5 starts in June, before he finally admitted something was wrong and was DLed. Zito at that point came back off the DL and had a nice start, he was only an additional strikeout or one less walk away from a DOM start; personally, I would give him a DOM start for that one, as he is statistically proven to be a pitcher with the ability to keep his BABIP down below the mean of .300, so if shifting one of his walks over to hits still keeps his hits equal to or less than his IP, I think that would be fair, because such pitchers tend to walk more and strikeout less relatively.
Amazingly, Vogelsong has still not been a weak link so far in this super-rotation. His 75% DOM/17% DIS would rank among the best in the majors, yet he is rightfully a back of rotation guy in the Giants rotation. Of course, as I noted last month, 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. 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 (which he did in June and has been hot for a couple of weeks now), I don't see any reason why the Giants cannot reach the 90+ wins necessary to get into the playoffs.
June 2011 Comments
To quote myself from last month: "Wow, to think the Giants starting pitchers could improve on last year's performance. Amazing!" That was with Dirty's very poor month and Zito's return, and Lincecum's mini-June-swoon. Unfortunately, July could be the worse month of the season, for a number of reasons.
First, Lincecum's June swoon might be extending to July, though an unverified rumor by a commenter in Extra Baggs noted that might be because the Giants players were out late gambling in Detroit, including The Kid. Honestly, wouldn't surprise me, although many other commenters think that person was a troll. He has shown lack of judgement before. In addition, he did not fly ahead as the first starter of the homestand normally does at the end of the trip, which would have given him extra time to adjust back to our time zone, as Detroit is three time zones away.
As before, we will have to wait and see, but frankly, that first July start appears to be more a case of the BABIP gods giving to the hitters, rather than taking away; for Timmy, he's not like Cain or Zito, his BABIP is around the mean. Plus, he had 3 DOM starts at the end of June, so perhaps we should cut him a break, he's going to have non-DOM starts occasionally, and it wasn't like he had a disaster start. Still, maybe it is the start of another bad skein, so you never know. Appears that my thought that he might have a below 2 ERA is not going to happen.
Secondly, Zito has returned to the rotation, replacing Sanchez. Dirty had been aces to start the season, not perfect, but 70% DOM/0% DIS in 10 starts is great. Zito rarely puts up anything close to that nowadays, even with his reported reverting to his Cy Young repertoire with no slider, to give his curveball more UMMPH (relatively). He has been good, but not great, which is actually great to have in the back of the rotation. That will bring the rotation down overall as well.
Third, we can't expect Cain to have another perfect month in DOM, he was 6 of 6 in June. Can we?
Lastly, the biggest issue is Vogelsong. His career performance suggests strongly that this should not be happening. Still, he had a DOM start to begin July, and has only had the rare hiccup so far in the 2011 season, he's been keeping up with Lincecum, amazingly. So until he starts regressing, enjoy the ride. And what a sweet ride it has been!
Offense Rising, Led by a Slimmer Panda
Meanwhile, while the pitching might regress, the hitting is perking up, led by Kung Fu Panda 2. After roughly two weeks (June 14-25) of finding his way, where he hit 10-45 in 11 games with no extra-base hits (.222/.239/.222/.461; although he did get a hit in 10 of 11 games and thus was one hit away from an 11 game hit streak), he had an extra-base hit and multi-hit game on June 26 and been leading the team offensively since then: .366/.395/.780/1.175 in 9 games, 8 doubles, 3 homers, 15 game hitting streak (and he has a hit in 19 of the 20 games he's been back), and, even more impressively, he has a 9 game extra-base hitting streak, with at least an extra-base hit in each game.
The Giants have averaged 5.6 runs scored since Panda started hitting the way he can. Over the season, the Giants team has averaged 3.98 runs scored in games where Sandoval played in, 3.86 runs scored in games where he started. As impressive as that sounds, especially compared to the Giants overall 3.63 runs scored overall, the Giants have only been 21-21 in games in which Pablo started, meaning that they have been 27-17 when he was either out on the DL or sitting on the bench to start the game. And they have only been 5-4 since he started hitting for extra-base hits.
Also, unfortunately, the other hitters have been on and off. Huff and Ross, while having a nice June overall, were up and down. And Ross might be down going forward, as he tweaked his hamstring again.
Luckily, Schierholtz and Crawford has been hitting well lately, and both Whiteside and Stewart had been hitting well in June. Tejada has had some good games as well, as well as power that has been returning, with two homers in the past week or so.
Chris Stewart in last 9 games has hit .261/.346/.391/.737, with 3 doubles, which is very nice when added to the his good defense. As I noted in comments in the blogosphere, I like Stewart's bat, he had kept his strikeout rate low in the minors, while walking a good bit, so suggests that he might eventually be an OK bat in the majors. Particularly in light of the fact that catchers' offense usually is the last to mature and develop, as they typically are focused on the defensive side of their performance mostly. At 29 YO, his bat should be perking up sometime soon, if not already.
In any case, if the Giants hope to run a better offense, they need to figure out their leadoff problem. Torres isn't doing it and Rowand has been, well, Rowand. If either can get hot like they've done before, that would cure a lot of ills that the offense has been having in terms of scoring regularly and well. Sandoval can stay hot for a while, but the others will have to start carrying their weight, particularly Aubrey Huff.
According to a post on Baseball Analytics, Huff's problem this season has been him swinging at low pitches in the zone, as he kills pitches high in the zone, like last season and 2008. His problem in 2009 and 2011 has been entirely due to his swinging at pitches low in the zone. Maybe if you can pass the word on to Huff, he might start looking like his 2010 self instead of his 2009 self.
Still, since May 27th's game, he has not been striking out crazy, like he was earlier in the season, so perhaps he has already figured that out and just been suffering from bad BABIP luck. And he has 5 walks in his last 8 games, vs. 3 strikeouts, suggesting poor BABIP luck as his culprit in recent games, as he was hitting well just before that for a couple of weeks. A hot Huff and Panda would cure a lot of offensive problems, as well.