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- (60% DOM, 10% DIS; 6:1/10): 0, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 4
Matt Cain- (100% DOM, 0% DIS; 9:0/10): 4, 5, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3
Eric Hacker- (100% DOM, 0% DIS; 1:0/1): 4
Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (36% DOM, 27% DIS; 4:3/11): 2, 0, 4, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 0, 1, 4
Ryan Vogelsong - (56% DOM, 0% DIS; 5:0/9): 5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 3, 5, 2, 5
Barry Zito - (60% DOM, 30% DIS; 6:3/10): 4, 4, 1, 5, 0, 2, 4, 4, 0, 4
Giants season overall - 61% DOM, 14% DIS out of 51 games counted (31:7/51)
Giants Month of April - 64% DOM, 14% DIS out of 22 games counted (14:3/22)
Giants Month of May - 59% DOM, 14% DIS out of 29 games counted (17:4/29)
The Giants pitchers continued to do well, and that was in spite of two starters who struggled during May. Lincecum we all know has been having problems, but Vogelsong also struggled with his initial starts in May, before righting himself with 2 DOM starts out of 3 to end the month.
Still, their 55% DOM in May 2012 is similar to last year's 56% DOM, even without Lincecum! That 55% DOM as a group is still an excellent number - remember, great pitchers have DOM of 50% or better and they are doing it as a group. Their 14% DIS is good, as well as an improvement over last season's 20%..
The dominant pitchers were Cain (5 DOM starts) again and Bumgarner (4 DOM, after only 2 last month). Zito and Lincecum both had 3 DOM. And Vogelsong brought up the rear, for once, with 2 DOM each.
Most importantly, the Giants starts did not have many DIS starts again. As I've noted before, DIS starts are the ones that really give a pitcher a bad ERA. Cain, Bumgarner, and Vogelsong had none, both Cain and Vogelsong again. Both Lincecum and Zito had 2 DIS starts in May, but Zito ended the month strongly with 3 DOM starts out of 4. Hopefully he can continue that into June.
Lincecum in seasons' past had 73% DOM/ 6% DIS in 2011, 61% DOM/ 18% DIS in 2010. He only has 36% DOM/ 27% DIS in this season. If he would have pitched like he did last season, instead of the team going 2-9 in his starts, the Giants probably would would have been more like 7-4. That alone would change our record to 32-19, only 0.5 games behind the Dodgers, instead being 27-24 and 5.5 games back.
It should be noted that Tim actually did better in May than April, as well as obviously worse. He had 3 DOM starts in May, out of 5 starts, while he only had 1 DOM start in April. That worked out to 60% DOM in May, which is basically where he normally is in most months. However, he had 2 DIS starts in May vs. only 1 DIS start in April. And DIS starts is a major contributor to very bad months for ERA. He also had some bad luck, as despite his 3 DOM starts, he had a 4.26 ERA in those starts when normally it should be half that. In other words, a lot more games like his 5/30 start, and less like his 5/9 and 5/15 starts.
It was also pretty clear by the pitching peripherals why each month was such for each pitcher. Both Cain and Bumgarner had impeccable command, with K/BB ratios of 5.0. The other pitchers did not. In Lincecum's case, he walked a lot more than usual, which hurt him a lot this month. In Vogelsong's case, he didn't strike out as many as he did in April. In Zito's case, while his strikeout rate rose from 4.7 to 5.8, his K/BB ratio fell from 2.33 to 1.0, as his walk rate basically tripled.
May 2012 Comments
The Giants were able to ride out the loss of not only Pablo Sandoval from the starting lineup, but also, effectively, Big Time Timmy Jim from our rotation. Still, we were only 15-14 in the month, despite the incredible hitting by the Dynamic Duo of Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan, and the great hitting of Gregor Blanco once he was installed as the starting RF.
Cabrera and Blanco were the biggest surprises of the month, followed closely by Santiago Casilla and Angel Pagan. Cabrera, everyone can read about in the media: his 51 hits, his multi-hit games, his cool demeanor, his happiness here , the Melk-men walking through AT&T. His .429/.457/.647/1.104 batting line in May is unsustainable, a .475 BABIP will go down. But he stepped up when we lost Panda for the month and helped to save the month, especially since Lincecum hit a big hiccup. He had no month like that for KC, closest was in July, when he hit .394/.412/.580/.992 with a .424 BABIP. He was otherwise 2009-Melky-like in the other months. Much like his April for us. Saved our bacon, else the Dodgers could have ran away with the division, instead of still being within striking distance.
El Tiburon Blanco - The White Shark - emerged in May, also helping solidify our leadoff position, where frankly Pagan was not ideally made for. And the move down the lineup helped ignite Pagan, so Gregor helped out in two ways. He hit .315/.427/.457/.884 with a great 142 ISO, but unsustainable .412 BABIP. His high strikeout rate means his contact rate is a low 75%, so his batting average will fall by a lot going forward, but if he can maintain that high walk rate, his OBP should still be good, in the mid-.300, which would be up top. He also had 5 steals.
But Pagan had him beat, stealing 8 in May. Angel also had a .884 OPS, hitting .375/.422/.462/.884 with a .419 BABIP, so he should be regressing in the future too. His strikeout rate is not that high, but there is no way he's going to sustain a .375 batting average. But he has had months like this regularly in the 900 OPS range, so it is not totally an aberration. It is just that he also had months where he wasn't so hot. So he has the potential to sustain, if not his BABIP, at least his good OPS. He just needs to be more consistent at doing that.
So Melky, Blanco, and Pagan stepped up in May when the team needed it, in the wake of the loss of Sandoval, and deserves our thanks.
I should also like to note that Buster Posey, despite only hitting .253/.311/.368/.680 in the month of May, cooling off significantly, led the Giants in RBI with 18, just edging out Cabrera's 17. It appears that he made almost every hit count, plus it helped that most of the time, either Blanco or Cabrera was on-base for him to drive in, and both also stole a good number of bases, 5 for Blanco, 4 for Cabrera, so they were in scoring position a lot too.
I think Casilla also deserved mention for the month. His first full month as clearly the closer for the team - previously, at best, he was interim - he had 10 saves in the month with a stellar 1.26 ERA. In a month where we bobbed around .500 much of the month, his great job as the closer also saved our bacon when the Dodgers threatened to run away with the division as we once did in 2003. A lot of people noted how there was less drama with Casilla closing, and he did that with a 12 K/3 BB or 4.0 K/BB ratio, which is great. He did blow one save and lost another game, so he wasn't perfect, but I shudder to think where we would be in the wake of Brian Wilson's injury, if not for him. I only worry about overuse, as he had arm problems last season.
Sandoval Return Imminent
The great news is that Sandoval is already hitting left-handed and hitting very well. Obviously, his surgery affects his right-handed hitting. The Giants are very encouraged and he should be headed to the minors for some games to rehab and get back into game shape. The target date appears to be within two weeks, and a Sabean interview suggests that is doable, as Pablo is ahead of schedule, reportedly (I say this only because 6 weeks is the normal amount of time for return to action and in two weeks it will be 6 weeks).
Obviously, once he returns, Joaquin Arias can no longer play 3B. He, by all reports, have been playing stellar defense there, on par with Pablo or perhaps better. The Sabean interview noted that Aria probably is moving to 2B when Pablo returns, but nobody is mentioning his hitting, which has been a putrid .229/.269/.302/.571 in May after a nice start in April hid that poor hitting until lately. That is partly bad luck with a .241 BABIP, but he has no proven level of BABIP yet, with a career .305 BABIP in spot place over a number of years, so for all we know that is not far from his level. The good thing is his contact rate is a nice 90% and a 0.5 BB/K ratio, which usually means the guy is a better hitter than that batting line. And if he does get it going, he would be a nice #8 hitter, with a good OBP and speed to steal to boot.
Meanwhile, the talk on Ryan Theriot has been very positive since he healed up his elbow - why they played him early season with it iffy like that, I don't know, they should have just bit the bullet instead - with the at-bats he has been taking since returning off the DL, and with his 2 knocks yesterday. I have to think that he and Arias will be in the mix for the starting 2B job and if Theriot continues to hit, that he will take the job, Arias defense or not, particularly if Arias continues to scuffle with his hitting.
Starting Pitching is Still our Stirrer
Of course, we still need our stellar starting pitching to come through for us, once again. They are the engine that runs our race car. As badly as Lincecum and even Vogelsong and Zito scuffled, overall the starting rotation was very good again, with a 59% DOM month in May, low compared to what they did before, but which is still very good, as noted above, anything over 50% DOM for an individual pitcher is considered very good, and the Giants rotation is doing collectively, which is obviously more awesome (sorry, been watching Chuck :^).
The good news is that both Vogelsong and Lincecum have performed better in recent outings, in terms of PQS, so they look to get better in June, and hopefully more like they were in 2011. Zito still has his hiccups, but he's also been good at delivering DOM starts since having his personal catcher, Hector Sanchez, installed. He has a 3.41 ERA with Hector this season, obviously one of his best stretches in his career with the Giants.
Hector Sanchez Doing Well
I had wondered if the Giants were moving Hector too fast, not that his bat didn't look ready - his .705 OPS is good and his batting line improved in May, from .278/.289/.361/.651 in April to .289/.282/.474/.756. He'll never take walks much, but his power went up a lot with 4 doubles in May vs. 0 in April in roughly equal ABs.
I think the more important stat is despite only starting in 8 games in April and in May (though additional games where he came in later), he had 7 RBI in April and 10 RBI in May. He has been a run driving in machine when he gets his chances. I probably should have added him as a nice surprise for May, looking back now, I see that he was 4th on the team with those 10 RBI, behind Posey (18), Cabrera (17) and Pagan (11) but yet he only had 38 AB whereas the rest were roughly around 100 AB or greater. He was also among the leaders in April as well.
One metric I've used since I was a teenager is RBI/AB. I know now that RBI's are not a great indicator of the value of a hitter, as it is very dependent on how the hitters ahead of you get on base, but as a general indicator of a good RBI guy, I still think it works. It is like with closers and what I was talking about regarding Lincecum recently, some people are thinkers who get in their own way when in pressure situations, while there are others who are cooler cucumbers and can perform normally.
What I've noticed is that the best RBI guys typically have an RBI/AB ratio of 15% or more, whereas the average ones are roughly around 10%, and the worse below. Both Posey and Sanchez at or above the 15% range, with only Sandoval in that range as well on the team. Cabrera, as nice as he has done for us, was not in the 15% range in April and the way he was hitting in May, there's no way he doesn't drive in a lot of runs anyway. Even with all those hits, his ratio was only 15% in May.
Of course, it didn't help in April that he had Pagan ahead of him, who has a .261 OBP as leadoff hitter for us, and then in May the rotating #2 hitter never got anything going, even Crawford, who did nice at first then fizzled (though he did a nice job driving in runs, 7 RBI in 47 AB, even though he was in the #2 spot).
Lineup When Pablo Returns
And that brings us to the lineup now. Do we put Cabrera back at #2 when Pablo returns? Or keep him #3 since he's been doing well there? I think I heard on Marty Lurie's show someone suggesting that Pagan gets moved up there, and that is probably the best lineup: Blanco, Pagan, Cabrera, Posey, Sandoval, then probably 2B (Arias/Theriot), 1B (Belt/Pill/Huff?), and Crawford 8th again.
None of the firstbasemen have distinguished themselves in May, all did pretty poorly, period, let alone for 1B, which is normally an offensive position. Ishikawa continues to hit better there for the Brewers than our motley crew has been (yet once again, another player pushes him out of the lineup; seems to be his fate to be always a team's second choice).
Belt Changes Back to the Future
Brandon Belt has finally listened to the Giants coaching staff and implemented the changes they have been very publicly recommending. Crouching less at the plate, opening up his stance is what has been said. What it took for him to change was him looking at tapes of his hitting in 2010 to get him to change.
What I want to know is why it took so long to get him to look at these tapes? Why didn't one of the coaches whip that out in spring training when he was fighting this initially. Why did it have to wait until mid-May? They have that video training system, why wasn't tapes sent to him to see this sooner?
Not that he's suddenly as hot as Melky - we can only wish! - but he's at least hitting better since May 27 and making louder contact with the ball. Only good things can come out of that. Still, still no homers for Belt and two months are gone. And even with better contact with his hitting, he's still striking out roughly a third of the time overall and had 2 K's in his last start yesterday.
I'm thinking more and more that I've been right in saying that he should have been in AAA to start the season. The argument has been made that the level of competition in AAA is not like it was in the old days, that he would not be challenged there.
That's the sad part to me, because while he can hit great against a lot of the pitchers in AAA, and thus have a nice batting line, they are still good enough to strike him out too much of the time (for a hitter that is), he is swinging and missing a significant amount of the time there, and until he solves that, he's going to be swinging and missing a significant amount of the time in the majors.
That is just simple logic, which I've found few understand, which frustrates me. MLB >>>AAA clearly. Belt struggles to avoid strikeouts in AAA, clearly. Therefore he should struggle even more in the majors to avoid strikeouts. And thus far, he has, and it does not appear that he has learned much, if anything, about avoiding the strikeouts while up in the majors.
Hopefully he is now on his way, because neither Pill nor Huff are doing much. Huff is mostly a walking machine right now, though he has not gotten a lot of chances since there are three starting OF's now in Cabrera, Pagan, Blanco. With Belt, we get a little more hits plus the walks and great defense to boot (though people forget that Huff was among the leaders in defensive runs saved for 1B previously for us, so he's a slouch on defense when playing there, he is good there too, probably his best defensive position).
People complain about his contract, but the Giants had no choice but to resign Aubrey Huff, the situation dictated it. Results do matter but I think process gets short shrift with the general public, regarding free agent contracts.
They had to sign him. He was a huge part of their offense in 2010. Even more importantly, our offense was not that great that you lose that production and not suffer. If not him, then they would have had to sign somebody else with similar expected production, so why not him, a known quantity? Plus, I don't recall there being good alternatives at the same price range on the free agent market, though I might be forgetting someone.
And his salary was not that outrageous. Even if he were at his career average, his salary was still a good deal for the Giants. It just appears that winning the World Series did something to his mind (and body) that has just spiraled downward until he hit bottom, going AWOL. And we don't know if there are more bottoms to hit, I've just been assuming he's day to day, until he's not. Luckily, this is the last year of his contract, with a $2M buyout if I recall right. Hopefully Belt will be ready by next season, if not sooner.
June June Hot Air Balloon?
Hoping for the opposite of old-time Giants fans fears of June Swoons, I see the month of June as the month the Giants need to make a move up big time and get close to LA in the standings. Out of 28 games in the month, they have 16 games at home and 12 on the road. That slight imbalance helps because the Giants play much better at home.
In addition, they are facing a number of second division teams as well as middling teams, such as the Cubs (6-17 on the road), Padres (12-16 at Giants home away from home, SD), Astros (6-18 on road), Mariners (9-13 at home), Angels (13-11 at home), A's (10-15 at home). They also play the Dodgers and Reds at home, and the Dodgers are 11-10 on the road, Reds 13-13. Their only really tough assignment is the Rangers at home, and Texas is a great 16-9 on the road so far this season. Hopefully we can help cool them off next weekend.
So overall, the Giants are set up really nicely to make a big push this month. First off, our hitters have been hot for a while. They will eventually cool off, but Posey and Belt had been cool for May, so any pickup on their part will counter the cooling of others. Secondly, our starting pitchers are all rounding into competitive shape, with Lincecum the last to join the group. If all five are firing on their cylinders, that would help us have a monster month. Third, Sandoval is returning around mid-month. That always helps. Last, but not least, the competition is a pretty easy, though they still need to execute and win the games.
Taking each team's losing percentage, this would work out to roughly 16 wins, or a 16-12 record for June. Or course, in real life, you either win or you don't. Running each series in that mode, I come up with 16-17 wins. A 17-11 record in June would go a long way towards catching up with the Dodgers.
The Dodgers, after their hot 9-1 start, has still been pretty good, going 23-17 since then. They did what the Giants need to do in June, take advantage of a long stretch of home games. In mid-May, they had a stretch of 11 home games in 13 games, going 10-3 in that stretch, then winning two more on the road in Arizona. They also took care of the Astros, 2-1 at home. But they slowed down the past week, going 2-5, after that long winning stretch, which allowed us to creep back to 5.5 back.
And they just had a mental setback yesterday when Matt Kemp, on only his second day back from the DL, reinjured his hamstring (we Giants fans are well familiar with the "Durham Dilemma"; hamstring injuries linger, long time) even worse than originally, according to some reports. They had actually played pretty well in his absence, but now face even more time without their best player, the latest report being at least 4 weeks, which makes June that much more desirable to catch up ground.
In addition, they are headed into a stretch of 19 road games out of 25, with only 2 days of rest, so it will be tough due to road conditions as well as lack of rest. Also they are facing some tough teams, though they luck out with Colorado possibly losing Tulowitski and the Phillies missing Halladay. They look likely to end the month around .500, or 14-14. If they do that, the Giants catch up 2-3 games (assuming they do as well as hoped), and get to 2.5-3.5 games behind, which would be great positioning heading into July.
So the month of June is a key point in the season for the Giants to make hay in the standings. Ideally, they can do like the Dodgers did earlier in the season and sweep at least one of the woebegone teams like the Cubs (3-7 in last 10 games), Padres (1-9), Astros, A's (2-8), Mariners, and pick up an extra win or two along the way. Meanwhile, keep it going against the better teams in the mix, though really, they face only one team in the month that currently has a relatively strong winning record where they are playing them (Angel's, 13-11 in Anaheim, though, they have been really good in May so hopefully they cool some by the time we see them).