Tuesday, August 02, 2011

2011 Giants: July PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of July 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, which I've provided a link to). Regular readers can skip to the next orange titled 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).

Click on title to get full post

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- (68% DOM, 18% DIS; 15:4/22): 0, 2, 3, 0, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 0, 5, 5, 4, 4, 5, 5, 0

Matt Cain- (77% DOM, 5% DIS; 17:1/22):  4, 4, 3, 0, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 5, 3, 3

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (77% DOM, 9% DIS; 17:2/22):  4, 5, 3, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 0, 4, 4, 4, 3, 0, 4, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 4, 4

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 - (71% DOM, 12% DIS; 12:2/17):  4, 0, 4, 4, 5, 4, 2, 5, 4, 5, 4, 1, 4, 3, 4, 2, 2

Barry Zito - (25% DOM, 25% DIS; 2:2/8): 5, 1, X, 3, 3, 5, 0, 3, 3

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

Giants season overall - 66% DOM, 13% DIS out of 107 games counted (71:14/107)
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)
Giants Month of July - 62% DOM, 8% DIS out of 26 games counted (16:2/26)

July was up there with May in terms of low disaster starts, so it was very good in that way, but bad in terms of dominant starts, basically as "poor" as April, if you can call a staff compiling a 62% DOM as poor.  It is all relative.

Still: amazing month.  A pitcher with 62% DOM/8% DIS would be among the best pitchers in the league.  They will kick butt.  But as can be seen in the math, there is a lot less DOM starts than the past two months, and thus a lowered chance of winning as many games.  But the offense, as I noted, perked up a lot in July (until after the Beltran trade), averaging roughly 3.9 runs scored per game, when they were more like 3.3-3.5 previously.  That is how they were able to end July with a 15-11 record, and without that sweep at the end of the month to the Reds, the month would have been very good instead of just good.

Bumgarner was the leader in July with 5 DOM starts, but he also ended on a bad note with a DIS start.  He and Zito were the only starters to have a DIS start in July.  Lincecum was second with 4 DOM starts, and both Cain and Vogelsong had 3 DOM starts, and none of them had a DIS start.  The starting rotation continues to be a great unit.

July 2011 Comments

Lincecum has corrected himself, after a brief wobble.  Hopefully Cain will do the same after his current wobble, which continued into August.  Perhaps the fatigue of the long season leading to the World Championship is finally taking its toll?  I think that Cain should be OK though, he had been absolutely dominating with 14 straight DOM starts, even the best will have a bad streak every once in a while, and he is a horse, a sturdy pitcher.  Still, have to wonder given last season.

Same with Bumgarner, though admittedly just one start, probably just a blip.  While not quite as dominating as Cain over the long stretch of this season, he was not that far behind.  He had streaks of 4, 5, and 6 straight DOM starts this season already.  He is also built like a horse, he is, as I like to say, "farm strong", so I am not that worried about him throwing more than he has before, because his work ethic for a long time was to throw, throw, and throw some more.  Still, have to wonder given last season, but I expect him to bounce back with his next start.

Amazingly, Vogelsong is still going strong.  His DOM% in July was still 60%, still good.  However, as I noted in a comment, he is reaching innings pitched levels that he has not regularly reached in prior seasons.  Despite reaching what seems to be a tipping point about 7 games ago, he has been able to keep the DOM starts going, though he has now had 3 non-DOM starts in 4 starts, so that, again, is something to watch for.

And this is the beauty of having a pitching rotation with so many good to very good pitchers in it: when one guy is scuffling, another 3-4 starters are going pretty good.  That keeps the stability of sustained excellence over the long run, with few periods of extended losing streaks, as the entire rotation is capable of stopping a losing skein.  Particularly with a stopper like Lincecum.

As we all know now, Zito has been DLed again and Jonathan Sanchez has been brought off the DL.  The prior swap (Sanchez to DL) appeared fishy but given that it was inconvenient for the rotation - it would have been ideal to pitch Sanchez one more start while including Zito in the doubleheader - one could say that the surprise injury to Sanchez was not faked.

Hard to say with this one.  Zito knew that the Giants were going to do something as it had already been announced that Sanchez was coming off the DL and pitching this coming Friday.  However, he made no mention of an injury, yet, lo and behold, the Giants DLed him and he had an injury.  Much like Sanchez, who made no mention of an injury earlier, but once the Giants put him on the DL, he copped publicly to lying about his injury and not revealing it.

So, to be fair to the Giants, many athletes lie or just don't realize how injured they are, until the team forces them to.  Foppert probably ruined his career because he injured himself but told nobody about it until he threw his arm out.  Zito probably should have been DLed at the start of this season - he just escaped death from that car accident and his body must have still be suffering after effects from the injuries sustained.  But there is a macho standard that athletes hold themselves to that pushes them to continue playing even though they are not 100% because, well, nobody is 100% so you just "man up" and suck it up, and play.

So perhaps Zito was doing that again.  He was very good for three starts, then was pretty bad, though the starts were not that bad when you look at the PQS, he really only had that one horrible start against San Diego.  Who is to say that he wasn't again having problems with his ankle but just trying to grind it out and work through it?  Still, the whole thing appears fishy, and it is likely the Giants were playing the game just so that they can hold onto Zito without losing anybody on the pitching staff right now.

Offense Rising, Led by a Slimmer Panda

Continuing the June trend, the Giants offense was improved in July vs. the rest of the season, averaging 3.65 runs per game vs. 3.57 in June and 3.46 previously.  Despite what most Giants fans have been saying about how bad it is, the offense actually was good for most of July, averaging 3.91 runs until that series in Cincinnati, where the heat appeared to wear down on the team, particularly after that extra inning game, and the team was adjusting to their new players (and vice-versa).

Leading the team again was Pablo Sandoval, who hit .320/.363/.563/.926 in July, 5 HR in 103 AB, 15 strikeouts, 8 walks..  As derided as Tejada was, he was a key hitter in July while he was in, hitting .333/.378/.524/.902 in 42 ABs, with only 5 strikeouts.  Brandon Belt also hit well, but in limited play and again with the strikeouts, 4 in 19 AB.  Nate Schierholtz was also key, hitting .297/.321/.455/.776, which is what you want to see lower in the lineup, more SLG than OBP.  He also hit 3 HR in 101 AB, with 17 strikeouts.  Aaron Rowand also helped, though it was complementary:  .260/.289/.452/.742 with 2 HR in 73 AB.

Holding back the offense were Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross, Mike Fontenot, Brandon Crawford.  That would explain why the Giants acquired Carlos Beltran, who takes over RF and a lot of the available AB, which will steal from Torres and Ross, Jeff Keppinger, who takes over 2B from Fontenot, and Orlando Cabrera, who takes over SS from Crawford.  They are all improvements on the offense, and this is just the beginning, they need time to get over the move and get started.

Orlando, obviously, only has 2 games with us so there is nothing to say about that yet.  The key upgrade is that his defense at SS, while not really good anymore, is not as bad as Tejada or Fontenot there, while providing a big upgrade over Crawford offensively.  He only hit .277/.319/.373/.692 in his prior three seasons and .244/.277/.321/.598 with Cleveland this season, but Crawford was only hitting .190/.275/.261/.536.  Also, a lot of that was due to playing in a pitchers park like Cleveland, where you need to learn how to hit there, where he hit only .206/.251/.300/.551 while he hit .275/.297/.335/.632 on the road, which is a whole lot better, and a huge upgrade over Crawford then.

When you have a strikeout staff like the Giants do, fielding, while necessary, is not as necessarily as for other teams that get a lot less strikeouts, and we need every boost of help we can get in the offense.  While clearly in his decline phase of his career, he is still a good hitter, his strikeout rate, while higher, is representative of a contact rate of 88%, which is excellent.  His walk rate, however, has taken a tumble in recent years.  Still, great contact rate is more important, and hitters like that tend to hit for a high batting average, which provides more stability in batting line, stabilizing batting average, OBP and SLG.

Keppinger has already gotten started, and has hits in 9 of the 10 games he has started for the Giants.  Counting from after the three games he struck out in - he hardly strikes out - he has hit .276/.323/.379/.702 in the past 7 starts.   Once his batting average edges close to the .300 level, which most hitters like Keppinger do, he'll be getting on base a lot and advancing the lead-off guy with his hits.  Career .283/.336/.393/.729 and it could even be better for us, he only hit .261/.316/.376/.691 at home and .304/.355/.410/.765 on the road, and career .330/.406/.432/.838 in SF, and in a lot of ABs, 88 AB/103 PA, 11 walks, only 7 strikeouts.  And we still control him in 2012, and perhaps sign him to a cheap contract for 2012 and 2013.

Beltran, after a slow start, is starting to show a little something, 3 for 7 in his past two games, though obviously ESS (extreme small samples).  His 5 strikeouts in 9 ABs in his first two games were clear signs of over swinging due to the pressure of being the offensive savior.  His BABIP with us so far is .267, which is far below his career .302 and the .310 he had with Mets this season, and .308 he had in the three prior seasons.  Even the announcers and other observers noticed that he swung at pitches he normally would not in the 8th when there were runners on base and he was in position to put the Giants back into the game with a key hit (he instead hit into a ground-out double-play swinging at a pitch he shouldn't have).

But he is a career .302/.360/.494/.855 hitter, so I'm not worried.  When he joined Houston in 2004, he was hot for a little bit, then it hit him and he hit only .140/.214/.380/.594 in 14 games.  He then continued to struggle a bit in his next 22 games, hitting .238/.350/.476/.826, making up for his poor hitting by getting a lot of walks and extra-base hits.  Then on August 13th, he turned it on, and in his final 48 games, he hit .280/.399/.594/.993 with 11 HR in 175 AB.  Not that he will necessarily do that with us, he was 27 then, 34 now, but he is a proven professional hitter with great credentials, so his bat will come around, if not already.

So the offense, which was buzzing along at a 3.91 pace, gets the addition of three professional and, more importantly, better hitters to the lineup, which suggests that the offense should be much improved once the new pieces start to gel and not get so bothered by being the new guys.  With an offense that is close to the league average of 4.12 runs scored, and perhaps beyond if the three hitters hit as they are capable of.  With an offense like that, the Giants should be able to win enough games to win the division, as precarious as that may feel right now with the D-backs breathing down our neck.

D-backs Should Falter

There are a good number of reasons why the D-backs should fall back to the rest of the NL West.

First of all, they are getting great pitching from Joe Saunders right now, but he is only doing that via a great unsustainable BABIP of .269.  Now, he has done that before in his career, in 2008, over a full season, but while that is possible, given his history, it is not probable, he should regress at some point.  He just does not strike out that many and walks too many.

The big difference for him this season is that he basically had a monster outlier July, 2.16 ERA, .217 BABIP, and somehow was not walking a lot of batters, much less than he usually does, while also striking out less.  At 30 YO, it is not probable that he learned something mid-season to enable this, so I would expect a regression of some sort, though it has been two months now of lowered walk rate.

They were 4-2 in his starts, enabling their 15-11 month.  Without that they were only 11-9, barely over .500, as losing one win would drop them to 10-10.  I think that is truer to their talent level, so July could be their last gasp at division hopes, even with the addition of Marquis, unless he suddenly have an outlier himself, though he should be an improvement over the guy he replaced, Zach Duke, who had a 5.28 ERA in 9 starts, 3 relief appearances.

They traded for Jason Marquis to replace Duke's poor performance.  However, while Marquis is having a good season for the Nats so far, with a 3.95 ERA, if one look at his prior 5 seasons, which were all roughly the same and all after he had established himself as a starter, then one would see that he has a 4.92 ERA over that time period, not much better than Duke's performance in 2011.

In addition, they bought a gyrating performer.  He has been up and down this season by month:  2.62 ERA, 5.60 ERA, 2.43 ERA, 5.48 ERA.  So they could have bought high on him because he should regress closer to his 4.92 ERA (particularly in a hitter's park like their ballpark) and that 5.48 ERA might be what they get for the next two months, particularly as he was very lucky to have a 2.43 ERA in June, his SO/BB ratio has been mostly bad by month:  4.80, 1.17, 1.62, 1.33.

However, he might help in a big way because he has pitched well in NL West parks previously.  He has done well in AT&T previously:  7 starts, 2.61 ERA, only two really bad start out of seven, though his last start here in 2009 was bad.  He has also been very good in 6 starts in Petco against San Diego (2.93 ERA) and 8 starts in LA (2.55 ERA), and actually has a very decent 4.21 ERA in Arizona in 8 starts.  Plus, from his time in Colorado, 3.62 ERA there (been meaning to note, but isn't it funny odd that Colorado lost their home field advantage the first season where the MLB is handling their humidor balls differently than before after the Giants complained about the balls last season?  Can it be a coincidence?).  He has actually pitched very well in NL West parks.

Still, they got games in Philly, Atlanta, and Washington D.C., and he has not pitched well against the Phillies nor Braves (particularly the Phillies) and not so well in D.C. either.  The rotation has been arranged so that, barring any changes, he will pitch in Atlanta and D.C., but will luckily avoid pitching against the Phillies.  It will be interesting whether he'll be the good pitcher he has been in NL West parks or the generally poor pitcher that he has been throughout most of his career.

In addition, one has to wonder about Josh Collmenter as well.  He has a 3.42 ERA in 14 starts, which is very good, yet he was not a very highly touted prospect in the pre-season.  Not only was he not on any top prospect lists, but he wasn't even on his own team's top prospect list.  However, that don't mean that he couldn't be this good, Brandon Webb was similarly a non-prospect and was great for the D-backs while the Baby Backs all fell to the wayside.

The good news is that Collmenter appears to be already regressing to his talent level.  He had 2 disaster starts in July, out of 5 starts, after only having one in his prior 9 starts.  However, he has been very good with 10 DOM starts out of 14 total, 3 DIS starts and one in-between.  Still, the BABIP gods are catching up with him, despite all the DOM starts, in his last 8 starts, he has a 5.13 ERA and had given up 4 runs or more in 4 of the 8 starts.  He should also be regressing in the next two months, along with Saunders.

Plus, they just lost a good defensive and offensive player in Stephen Drew, which should start hurting at some point.  Bloomquist is the new SS and he has amazingly been leading off for them in recent days (though I suppose we can't talk, we have had Rowand).  Bloomquist is a career .265/.317/.339/.657 hitter and at age 33, he should not be getting better, so his good season so far is flukey then at .280/.325/.365/.689.  He is lucking out with less strikeouts, but he don't walk much either, nor hit for much power.  His defense has actually been about average though, for his career and the season, at SS, so he has probably been an adequate replacement for the 2011 Drew but not the Drew that potentially could be playing and hitting.

They have also been boosted by the good hitting from Ryan Roberts and Gerardo Parra, who strikes out too much to be able to sustain that hitting, but he's actually been hitting better the past two months, with less strikeouts, so maybe he is figuring it out, he is young, just 24 YO, so that is very possible.  And his BABIP is not that far off from his career, this might be the new Parra.  Roberts, however, is an old vet,

Given all these potentially poor performances, and the other players performing to their prior performance level, unless someone or ones starts performing better, these various potentially poorer performances should push the D-backs back down the standings, much like it did over the last month until this weekend.

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