This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of September 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). Plus, I think it has a lot to offer for understanding our pitching and how that translate into competitive advantage for the Giants. 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).
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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- (70% DOM, 15% DIS; 23:5/33): 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, 5, 4, 4, 0, 5
Matt Cain- (76% DOM, 3% DIS; 25:1/33): 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, 3, 5, 5, 3, 5
Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (73% DOM, 6% DIS; 24:2/33): 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, 3, 5, 5, 3, 2
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 - (17% DOM, 67% DIS; 1:4/6): 4, 3, 1, 0, 0, 0
Ryan Vogelsong - (61% DOM, 7% DIS; 17:2/28): 4, 0, 4, 4, 5, 4, 2, 5, 4, 5, 4, 1, 4, 3, 4, 2, 2, 5, 3, 5, 3, 3, 2, 5, 4, 4, 3, 4, 5, 4, 4, 3, 4
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 - 62% DOM, 14% DIS out of 136 games counted (100:22/161)
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)
Giants Month of September - 52% DOM, 20% DIS out of 25 games counted (13:5/25)
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.
Sept 2011 Comments
September continued the downtrend since May. However, what September demonstrated was the frailty of a major league rotation when there are injuries. While there has been a downtrend, a 52%DOM/20%DIS for any particular pitcher would be considered pretty good, still.
It was a month of four haves and one have not. Vogelsong led the way with 4 DOM starts and 0 DIS. Bumgarner was up there with 4 DOM and 1 DIS. Both Cain and Lincecum disappointed, only by their already lofty standards, with 3 DOM and 0 DIS each, which would be good for almost any other pitcher in the MLB. However, the Giants 7th best starter, Surkamp, after a good first career start, just hit the skids after that, with 4 DIS starts and no DOM.
Without him, the Giants rotation had 14 DOM vs. 1 IDS in 20 starts, good for 70% DOM and 5% DIS. Meaning, together, as a group, the four pitchers were as good as any elite pitcher of recent years, but not just one pitcher, but four of them. Collectively for the season they had 90 DOM and 10 DIS out of 127 starts, good for 71% DOM and 8% DIS.
That is as good a reason to trade Jonathan Sanchez now, a rotation like that don't need a Dirty level starter as the 5th starter, better to trade to improve the offense, even if we might get less than if Dirty pitched well in spring, as waiting brings great risk if he has another slow start or if he is not 100% ready for the season. Also, by then, teams are set with who they want to go with, generally, so it would be hard to pry a Melky Cabrera type player away from someone, only prospects would be available.
This was basically a repeat of August, where had the Giants had a better 5th starter, they probably would have won 2-3 more games than they had. But that is life for any MLB tam down to their 7th starter. I wonder if the Giants would have been better off trading Wheeler for a better starter but at that time there was no need for a starter, as Sanchez was just starting his bad stretch and Zito was due to come off the DL, if I recall right.
As I covered in my Vogelsong post, I think that there are a lot of positive signs that Vogelsong, while not likely to be as great as he was in 2011, one, he should be good enough for the Giants pitching rotation to do well again, and his peripherals support that, as well as his late season run of DOM starts, and two, I wouldn't be surprised if he did even better (in terms of peripherals and PQS, not necessarily ERA, which benefited a lot early by a very low BABIP and low HR/9 rate). Then again, he threw nearly 100 more IP than he had averaged in recent seasons, so one can wonder if that will have any deleterious effect going forward. However, as noted, his excellent September would suggest that he is fine.
I'm going to dispense with my usual recap of the month for the team. We all saw what happened. Instead I'll share some thoughts on 2012.
Again, I think the Giants should be a contender for the NL West crown. They have the pitching. As maligned as Zito has been, he has been OK as a starter for us, only 2008 was truly horrible and 2011 was marred by injuries (including the pre-season car accident that I think might have caused him to adjust physically to pitch, but which then caused his mechanics to go out of whack and cause himself injury), so I give him a pass on that. His main problem is that people can't let go of the fact that he is being paid like an ace, not a good starter. Good starters get around $10M per season, not twice that.
The offense will be helped out by the return of hitters and improvement by young players. The Giants only need average hitters to be a big winner with their pitching staff, as I've shown with Pythagorean (in my business plan, link to right).
Pablo Sandoval and presumably Buster Posey (so far, so good) will be above average in the middle of the order. Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, and Freddy Sanchez should be at least average up top our lineup, though possibly better, particularly Melky, who was at the right age for a breakout season. Huff will hopefully get into shape - remember that he first got into shape prior to the 2010 season because he realized that he was too old not to, as related by a coach interviewed about Huff - and have at least his projected mid-700 OPS and hopefully closer to his career .808 OPS. But all we need is his projection to get our offense going again, as he projects to only be the 6th hitter, based on the expected starters we have now. And I would say that it is likely he will out hit his projection, providing some downside protection in case other hitters don't perform to projections.
I also think that Posey and the Brandons (Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford) will do better in their second season around the majors, Posey because he is just a good hitter who should be hitting his stride soon (scary good, right?) and the Brandons showed encouraging signs at season's end that they might have figured out some things about hitting in the majors.
Of course, Brandon Belt will be the wild card in 2012. I think things are set up nicely for him, despite the fears of the Naysayers. Sabean has been pretty good about giving his good hitting prospects (note the distinction there, good vs. best, because many Naysayers confuse the two meanings; for example, Fred Lewis and John Bowker may have been our best hitting prospects, once upon a time, but they were not good hitting prospects) an opportunity to win a position. Looks like he will be facing off with Nate Schierholtz this spring.
Right now, the lineup looks something like this: Pagan, Franchez, Melky, Posey, Sandoval, Huff, Scherholtz, Crawford. Belt or Schierholtz (that is, the loser of the battle for RF) will be the insurance should 1) Huff turn out to have hit the wall like Rowand, 2) Melky turns back into his 2010 pumpkin, 3) Pagan turn out to have hit the wall like Rowand, 3) the winner of the RF competition Bowkers out of it in April. That is a good situation to be in, Sabean has been trying in recent seasons to create this multi-positional flexibility (agile operations in business-speak) so that should one piece of the puzzle don't fit, he can bring in another piece and hopefully not miss a step. Most teams do not survive losing their four top hitters as the Giants did in 2011 - that is a testament to Bochy's managerial prowess - and still end up with a good winning record, no matter how much money they have.
I was originally going to write a lot about the rest of the NL, but I think I'll hold off until spring, to let the rosters shake out. Suffice it to say that I am not really afraid of the moves that most of the teams have made. To that, I say that they had to make big moves, they were still many, many games behind the Giants, let alone the D-backs, they have to swing for the fences just to get to .500, let alone to catch the top two.
The D-backs have made big moves, and I applaud them for that, but like the Giants, they had a lucky year with their 1-run win-loss record, but while Bochy has a long history and record of doing that basically every other season, Gibson did it in his first as a manager. Given that no manager other than Bochy over the past nearly 20 years that Bochy has been managing has been able to do that consistently, Gibson and the D-backs will presumably fall back to the mean in that regard, dropping them to roughly the same wins as the Giants had in 2011. They have to make big moves to move to a legit 90+ win potential. The Giants already have that with their lineup assuming that Posey can just match his projections, he is the key tipping point for the Giants offense in 2012 (and was for 2010 and 2011 as well).