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).
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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- (68% DOM, 14% DIS; 19:4/28): 0, 2, 3, 0, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 0, 5, 5, 4, 4, 5, 5, 0, 4, 5, 4, 3, 3, 5
Matt Cain- (79% DOM, 4% DIS; 22:1/28): 4, 4, 3, 0, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 5, 3, 3, 2, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5
Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (79% DOM, 7% DIS; 22:2/28): 4, 5, 3, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 0, 4, 4, 4, 3, 0, 4, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 4, 4, 5, 4, 5, 5, 4, 3
Dan Runzler - (0% DOM, 100% DIS; 0:1/1): 0
Jonathan Sanchez - (44% DOM, 28% DIS; 8:5/18): 3, 4, 4, 3, 3, 4, 3, 5, 5, 5, 5, 2, 3, 4, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0
Eric Surkamp - (100% DOM, 0% DIS; 1:0/1): 4
Ryan Vogelsong - (64% DOM, 9% DIS; 14:2/22): 4, 0, 4, 4, 5, 4, 2, 5, 4, 5, 4, 1, 4, 3, 4, 2, 2, 5, 3, 5, 3, 3, 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 - 64% DOM, 13% DIS out of 136 games counted (87:18/136)
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)
Giants Month of August - 55% DOM, 14% DIS out of 29 games counted (16:4/29)
August was up there with April in terms of dominant starts, so it was very good in that way, and better in terms of disaster starts. The overall record for the month fell, though, from 13-12 in April to 11-18 in August, as the offense just could not get over all the injuries hitting it, starting with losing Carlos Beltran right when he started hitting for the Giants.
Still: amazing month. A pitcher with 55% DOM/14% DIS would be among the best pitchers in the league. They will kick butt. But as can be seen in the math, there are less DOM starts than the past two months, and thus a lowered chance of winning as many games. But not enough to account for so many losses, though, that's on the offense, which only averaged 2.69 runs scored, a truly horrible display of offense ever.
Lincecum and Cain were the leaders in August with 5 DOM starts each, and Bumgarner, after leading last month, still had 4 DOM starts, with a two start hiccup there later in the month, but at least they were not disaster starts. The starting rotation continues to be a great unit.
However, the other starters were even worse than struggling. Starting first with Vogelsong, he only had 2 DOM starts out of 6 starts, but at least he did not have a disaster start. Both Runzler and Sanchez were responsible for the relatively poor results in disaster starts, with 1 and 3 disaster starts, respectively (out of 1 and 3 starts, respectively). Only Eric Surkamp was able to get a DOM start out of the other starters. He is now their fifth starter, with both Sanchez and Zito on the DL, but they are skipping his start tomorrow so that they can start Cain, Lincecum, and Vogelsong against them this weekend.
Had there only been one disaster start and two dominant starts out of those four starts, that could have changed our record in the month from 11-18 to 13-16 or even 14-15. So while the offense was putrid, had the Giants a good #5 starter, as they had had all season long, they would currently only be 3-4 games out instead of 6 games out, a recurrent theme, in a month that went as bad as the 2010 end of season went well.
August 2011 Comments
I hate being right but still wrong. As I noted last month, Arizona did falter during August, but then straighten themselves out, and in a great magnificent way. Caps doffed to them, they showed that they have the moxie to win it all. Plus, they played above their heads, winning more than their Pythagorean says they should. The Giants should be still around 3 games back. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.
The Giants helped themselves to such a position by losing 4 of 6 to the Astros and Cubs during this homestand, something a contender should not do. Had they won 4 of 6 instead, they would be only 4 games back. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.
But no, they went 11-18 during the month, and really, the bad streak started on July 28th, where they got swept by the Reds. That makes their bad streak 11-21. And they had just took 2 of 3 on the road in Philly too, just before that. Somehow the addition of Carlos Beltran did not set well with the ballclub.
Maybe it was because management said that they were not capable by acquiring Beltran, and it burst their confidence balloon that they had blown up so well over May, June, July. Maybe they just didn't realize that they were that bad, but after the big trade, they put more pressure on themselves making things worse. Maybe it was just fate. Maybe it was just luck. Maybe maybe maybe.
As we saw above, August wasn't bad because of one single thing. There were a multitude of things that just went bad for the Giants, whether it be our offense, our fifth starter, the D-backs, the worthless roll-over-and-die NL West opponents the D-backs played. Take any one of them away and the Giants are close enough to tie for first by sweeping this weekend. As DrB has been saying, sometimes it is just that team's year, and this year it could be the D-backs.
I don't see it that way. Not that I see it as the Giants year, that illusion was crushed like Posey's ankle in May. But seeing a year as that of any particular team is really more a hind-sight view. Certainly nobody, not even me, was seeing 2010 as the Giants year just one year ago. I was biting my nails like everyone else, this is a lot of games to make up.
But I've read and observed too much baseball history where a team that looked destined to make hay, whether it be the 2003 Giants that lead start to finish or the 2001 Mariners team that won 116 games. Sure, some teams look like it, like the 2003 Marlins, but it is hard to say that in the middle of things.
Still, the Marlins are a good example of my problem with a lot of the analysis I see on the web today, particularly among Giants fans, where it seems like most of them do this when I try to discuss the situation with them. I see so many people talk about what a team has done during the year (and I know I do it too, but am cognizant of the problems and try to account for that data problem, which others do not) without accounting for the fact that things at the beginning of the season or even one month ago, could be vastly different from where the team is today, or when it enters the playoffs.
The Marlins that year sucked early on. They eventually fell to a 19-29 record before righting themselves. The turnaround, to me, happened when they added Dontrelle Willis to the rotation. Though they did not change immediately - after winning his first start, they lost the next six games - they went 72-42 (102 win season) the rest of the way, ending with a winning flourish of 21-8. As much as I thought the playoff format hurt the Giants chances, I was afraid of their team. At 91-71, they don't appear to be that scary a team, but they were a changed team after Willis joined the team, plus that was around when McKeon took over for Torborg as manager as well, they were more like a 100 win team.
And people say that I'm just manipulating the data, but the fact is that players do have funks where they don't know what they are doing, then right themselves. We all talk about that all the time and acknowledge that.
And these people seem to misunderstand me, and I admit I'm not the clearest all the time either, but I'm not saying that the player will continue to hit better or worse or whatever, but if you are going to complain about a player, it seems pretty stupid to me to be complaining about them when they are in the middle of a pretty good hitting streak. To expect a player to hit well all the time is folly, but that is exactly when the complainers seem to come out of the woodwork to nail one player or another.
Looking solely at a player's overall batting line at any time of the season can be misleading as well. I had noticed this myself before, but Ron Shandler's book, Baseball Forecaster, explains it well in their toolkit section:
Batting Average Perception
Early season batting average strugglers [but to me covers all percentages] who surge later in the year get no respect because they have to live with the weight of their early numbers all season long. Conversely, quick starters who fade late get far more accolades than they deserve.
For instance, take Julio Borbon's 2010 month-by-month batting averages. Perception, which is typically based solely on a player's cumulative season stat line, was that he struggled with his batting average pretty much all season. Reality is different. He had only one truly horrible month, and it happened to occur in April. How many people knew he batted .292 from May 1 on?Month - BA - Cum BA
Apr - .191 - .191
May - .278 - .236
Jun - .356 - .282
Jul - .222 - .269
Aug - .255 - .267
Sep - .309 - .276
The one month ended up being overweighted in the minds of people. I feasted on people who missed stuff like this in my fantasy leagues that I played in previous seasons (passed this season, just too much work...).
A good example of this was Freddie Lewis. He had his first good season the year before, so the fans just thought he would just continue that, but he basically had a streak like the above, only reverse, he was white-hot for 2 weeks, then was cold for two months but his OBP still looked pretty good overall, even though he had not done much over two months (he was really hot). They cried some more when the Giants dumped him. His batting line since then: .252/.328/.385/.713, and I'm sure he's still playing what he calls defense in the OF. And he has played in hitters parks, Toronto (better for lefties vs. AT&T at least) and Cincinnati too. He is currently hitting .230/.321/.317/.638 for the Reds right now, still striking out a lot more than he needs to if he wants a regular starting job.
Anyway, while the D-backs look pretty good right now, there are a number of things that are going right for them. They are 5 games above their Pythagorean and could regress. They are also 23-14 in one-run games and could regress. They won a lot more games in August than their Pythagorean said they would, and had a nice long losing streak in the middle there, so it is not like they are invulnerable. And they are only 4-8 against us, though a lot of that was before, earlier in the season, when they were not so good, so there is that as well.
Among their hitters, the only real possible outlier who might regress is Paul Goldschmidt, who is hitting .256/.315/.488/.802 with a BABIP of .333 and a K% of 32.6% but BB% of only 7.9%. That is not a profile that screams that he will continue to hit that well, particularly the BABIP. In fact, his LD% is an ordinary 18.9% and he hits more ground balls than flyballs, 43.4% vs. 37.7%, but he is just a masher, 25.0% HR/FB. His talent in the minors inform the rest of season projections that Fangraphs has posted, and he is only projected to hit .242/.306/.439/.745 for the rest of the season, a good-sized drop but not a tremendous drop.
Only Clear Area for D-back Regression: Starting Pitching
I still think any hope of catching up rests in their pitching. I can see Kennedy continue to do well, but 2.31 ERA he had in August will be tough to duplicate, though he has the talent to do it. So some hope of a regression but would not be surprised if he continued to do well. Still, his rest-of-season projection is for a 3.96 ERA vs. his 3.03 ERA so far, and his FIP is 3.54 and xFIP 3.60, suggesting that he should regress some.
Hudson, as well, while good, is not the 2.88 ERA good that he had in August, he could/should suffer a regression this month. He has an overall 3.61 ERA and his rest-of-season projection calls for a 3.60 ERA, plus he has reached his top IP in any season up to now, he could be tiring out if he's not prepared for the extra work load. Heck, he had a huge jump already from 69.2 IP in 2008 to 164.0 IP in 2009 to 188.2 IP in 2010 to 187.0 IP so far in 2011. He is slated for 33.1 IP on average for the rest of the season.
The other starters should regress or continue to be bad. Collmenter has been up and down, but ended with a good 3.41 ERA in August and 3.18 ERA overall. However, his FIP is 3.50, xFIP 4.03, and his rest-of-season projection calls for a 4.50 ERA. That's probably because his BABIP is at an unsustainable .255, unless he is one of the rare pitchers who can control that. However, while he did have a BABIP below .300, he was always close to .300,
Wade Miley, another and the latest in a long line of starters that they have installed this season is doing well so far in 3 starts, 3.94 ERA, but his rest-of-season projection is for a 5.79 ERA, though only 4.51 FIP. In addition, he has had trouble with walks in the minors and I just don't see him fixing that problem in the majors, which he hasn't so far. Don't know how he is doing it, BABIP of .364, K/9 of only 6.75 but BB/9 of 3.94, ah, there it is, HR/9 of only 0.56. His HR/FB is only 6.3%, so he's probably due for a massive correction at some point in September.
Then there is Joe Saunders. He is not as bad as his 5.04 ERA that he had in August. But he's not far, he has a rest-of-season projection of 4.50 ERA, which is in line with what he has done in his career from 2007 to 2010, except for his outlier season in 2008.
So, by my count, that's all five starters who are possible to some degree to regress in some way, some form in September. Not all of them will, that is just how it works, but that's pretty overwhelming, to me. Still, they could have some hitter or pitcher pick things up for the ones who do regress. Or perhaps they have reached a new plateau and continue to do well in spite of the projections. And regression is over time, they could just continue to do well in September before regressing in the playoffs or next season.
Giants Chances Do Not Look Good But They Are Not Gone Yet
All in all, the Giants look screwed right now, it would be very hard to overcome a 6 game lead with only 25 games left. Despite that, if the D-back's starting pitchers all regressed to their projections, the D-backs, assuming similar offense to August, would go 11-14. That would mean that the Giants would need to go 17-8 to tie them and the Giants currently own the tiebreaker, leading the series 8-4 so far and needing only 2 wins to win the season's series, though obviously they really need to win most of the games, at least 4 if not 5 of the remaining 6 between the two teams.
Realistically, they need to sweep this weekend to have any sort of logical hope and momentum, as winning only 2 of 3 would still leave them 5 games behind with only 22 games left to play. With Cain and Lincecum going, we at least have a good chance of winning two games, but unfortunately, as I noted above, Vogelsong appears to be petering out. He's probably gone beyond his stamina and is pitching on fumes right now, using his now honed pitching skills to keep him and the team in the game, but no longer able to dominate the start as he did earlier in the season when he was fresher. A sweep rarely looks likely, but it looks particularly hard since Vogelsong has been struggling lately with striking out batters.
Cain should beat Saunders, but Lincecum vs. Kennedy is a coin toss. Hudson vs. Vogelsong doesn't look good for us, the ideal matchup would have been Hudson first and then Saunders against Vogelsong.
So I'll repeat my refrain of the past week: we need a hero!