Thursday, August 02, 2012

2012 Giants: July PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of July 2012, PQS as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book and they published the details here (unfortunately, they removed the article; this link gets you at least to the PQS definition, read down to middle for details; I recommend buying their older books via their website to read up on this methodology and concept). 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). Regular readers can skip to the next 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).

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 (unfortunately, they removed the article and thus the table is no longer available, sorry), 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 a 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 2012 Season

Madison Bumgarner- (67% DOM, 5% DIS; 14:1/21):  0, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 4, 5, 3, 5, 4, 3, 5, 2, 5, 4, 5, 5

Matt Cain- (70% DOM, 0% DIS; 14:0/20):  4, 5, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 5, 5, 5, 2, 5, 3, 3, 5, 3, 3 (perfect game highlighted)

Eric Hacker- (100% DOM, 0% DIS; 1:0/1): 4

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (50% DOM, 27% DIS; 11:6/22):  2, 0, 4, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 0, 1, 4, 5, 2, 3, 5, 5, 0, 0, 5, 5, 0, 5

Ryan Vogelsong - (64% DOM, 0% DIS; 9:0/14):  5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 3, 5, 2, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4

Barry Zito - (44% DOM, 31% DIS; 7:5/16):  4, 4, 1, 5, 0, 2, 4, 4, 0, 4, 4, 1, 2, 0, 3, 3

Giants season overall - 60% DOM, 12% DIS out of 103 games counted (62:12/103)
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)
Giants Month of June - 57% DOM, 7% DIS out of 28 games counted (16:2/28)
Giants Month of July - 63% DOM, 13% DIS out of 28 games counted (15:3/24)

The Giants pitchers continued to do well, and that was in spite of Lincecum, shockingly enough, who struggled during July initially, before righting himself after the All Star break, though not perfectly, as he did poor in his 3rd start, though he was only one out away from a 2 PQS start.  Lincecum, in fact, was responsible for all the DIS starts in July.

Still, their 63% DOM in July 2012 is very good and second best for the season, and better than their 56% for last season.   That 63% DOM overall as a group is an excellent number - remember, great pitchers have DOM of 50% or better and they are doing it as a group.  Their 13% DIS is good, as well as an improvement over last season's 20%, and similar to what they achieved in April and May.

The dominant pitchers were Vogelsong (5 DOM starts) again and Bumgarner (4 DOM) again, plus Lincecum had 3 as well.  And Zito brought up the rear again,  though 2 DOM in four starts is 50% DOM, which is good, especially with no DIS starts, so he had a good month.

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.  Everyone except for Lincecum had none, who had 3.  It looks like they, as a group, will be able to post a low DIS for the season, which is quite an accomplishment for a group of starters.

Despite all this, this month was the worse month for ERA for the Giants pitching staff, 3.99.  Though some of that was due to relievers, despite the good PQS performance, the starters were almost uniformly below average:  Lincecum had a 5.67 ERA, Zito had a 4.07 ERA, Bumgarner had a 3.94 ERA, and Matt Cain 3.86 ERA.  Only Vogelsong had a low ERA, at 2.18 ERA.  And this despite Bumgarner's 5.43 K/BB, Cain's 4.0 K/BB, Zito's 3.0 K/BB, Lincecum's 3.7 K/BB, and ironically, the one with the worse K/BB, "only" 2.8 K/BB (which is still pretty good, remember, good pitchers have 2.0 K/BB or better; best have 2.4 or more) had the best ERA.

The biggest worry I can point out right now is Matt Cain, surprisingly, not Lincecum (EDIT NOTE:  I wrote this before the Merc's Carl Steward wrote his column, did this section August 1st afternoon; it was the sea change in his PQS score that got my attention).  As I marked in the accounting above, since his perfecto, he has had 7 starts and only 2 DOM starts, with a 4.05 ERA.  Prior to the perfect game, he had 11 DOM starts out of 12 starts, with a 2.41 ERA.

In prior seasons, Cain has been steadily improving his DOM%, and had done so this season until the perfect game effort.  He must have really pushed his arm and body too much to finish the game (and which I support, since it is such a historic achievement), and his body has not caught up since then, apparently.  Though at 125 pitches, he did not throw that many pitches in quantity, but the pressure obviously ampped things up as well.

Ideally, they should give him some extra rest somehow, particularly with little rest coming in August.  Perhaps they can bring Hacker up to start a game (or perhaps even give Penny a start) to push Cain back a start.  However, the first date that works like that is the August 16th day off.  Hacker could start on August 15th (and give Bumgarner extra rest as well) or even on August 11th, which would give everyone an extra day of rest as well, while giving Cain two consecutive starts with extra rest.

His numbers have not been pretty.  His HR/9 was a ghastly 1.54 HR/9 since that perfect game, whereas before it was 0.73 HR/9, meaning the rate has more than doubled since then.  Also, 3 of 8 starts he gave up more hits than IP, whereas before, it was 2 of 12 starts, almost triple the rate.  And of course, again, the 2 DOM in 7 starts, only a 29% DOM (remember, 40% is good, 50% great, 70% elite, and Cain had been elite this season until that game).  Since the Perfect game, he has 0 starts of 7 with 8 or more strikeouts.  Before he had 5 starts out of 12 with 8 or more strikeouts (plus struck out 14 in the perfect game).  Also, 7 of 12 with 7+ strikeouts before, 2 of 7 with 7+ strikeouts before.    That worked out to 8.6 K/9 before (9.1 K/9 including the perfect game) and 6.6 K/9 after.

He started out the second half with a nice 5 DOM start, but had two more middling starts after that.  Hopefully he can right himself, but right now, I have to think that only rest can provide that help.  It didn't help that he pitched in the All-Star game either, rest then would have helped, and appeared to help some with his first start in the second half, but with two middling starts since, clearly not enough.  Still, he has not been far from achieving a DOM in his last two starts, so perhaps he's close to getting back to his former self (but just had another middling start, only 2 PQS in 5 IP against the Mets, on August 1st, and wasn't close to a DOM start, needing one more K and 3 more outs).

Vogelsong and Bumgarner has been supporting the staff the past two months, while Lincecum and Cain has been struggling.  Zito, of course, has been Zito-esque, up and down, good and bad, but still, overall, probably the best 5th starter in the majors.  Hopefully Lincecum and Cain can do well in August, though I would note that in the past, Lincecum had bad Augusts, like in 2010 and 2007, though good in the other three seasons.  Still, he has rarely had bad months, period, but prior to this season, probably those 2 were out of maybe 4 or 5 total.

July 2012 Comments

With all the starting pitching's bad ERA's going around, it is no surprise that the Giants were only 12-12 for the month.  Relievers also had a bad time as well, with Romo's 5.59 ERA, Penny's 6.00 ERA, and Casilla's 6.23 ERA.  Plus Lopez's 4.50 ERA.  Hensley, Kontos, and Affeldt were the ones who did well, all below 3 ERA.  Oddly enough, again, most had K/BB that were very good, none were under 2.0, Penny was the only one with that.

Still, implosions like Casilla and, more recently Romo, have hurt the Giants record greatly.  While they were 12-12, Casilla had a huge hand in that, with 5 blown saves in his last 10 save opportunities (though I recall that one ended up in a win for him).  Just converting just two of those blown saves would have made it a successful 14-10 month, along with a 3 game lead over LA, and 5.5 over AZ.

I had been worried about Romo's usage, while many Giants fans clamored for more usage, and his consecutive implosions, with much rest involved (3 days inbetween appearances), suggest that perhaps he's been pushing himself hard like Wilson, and leaving it all out on the field.  That's one loss and one blown save for him, two losses for the team, whereas before he was locked down, shut out against the opposition.  he had an 0.60 ERA before those two games, and now has a 2.30 ERA.

Unfortunately, if he's running out of gas now, we are in big trouble unless Sabean can pull off a waiver wire deal, as Hembree, the logical person to call up is out himself.  Otero, Petit and Runzler are possibly call-ups if DL time is needed for any reliever, to give them rest, but not ideal.

The offense, while not great, was good enough, usually for a very successful month, averaging 4.13 RS per game.  With the 3.57 RA that the team achieved last season, the Giants would have had a very successful month, 14-10 or 13-11 record.  Instead, they ended up where they started, 1.0 games ahead of the Dodgers and 3.5 games ahead of the D-backs (they gained a half game during the month).

There were actually a good number of hitters who hit well, but two missed stretches on the DL and another was just acquired, plus one played part-time.  Hector Sanchez (.921 OPS in 19 PA) and Pablo (.830 OPS in 73 PA) were the DLed players.  Scutaro has done great (1.115 OPS in 16 PA) as the acquired player.  Schierholtz was the part-timer and now traded, had .857 OPS, which helped his trade value (thanks again).  Posey (1.143 OPS) and Melky (.902 OPS) were the starters.

Theriot did nicely:  only .707 OPS, but more importantly .354 OBP, being the #2 hitter.   Crawford was OK for a #8 hitter, with a .660 OPS (his 118 ISO helped with that).  He was third in RBI in July.  But that was it, just the two.

There were many underperformers, despite the high runs scored average.  The leaders there were Blanco (.556 OPS in 71 PA), Pagan (.553 OPS in 86 PA), and Belt (.480 OPS in 79 PA).  El Tiburon has turned to a catfish, with a horrid .310 OBP leading off, most of it walks as his BA was .197.  Pagan cooled off, with no hits, no walks, no power, then hurting himself with his bat.  Belt Lovers (vs. Belt Supporters like me) are just blind to his Schierholtz-like tendency to be alternatively hot and cold.  A .186/.266/.214/.480 batting line is just inexcusible for a starting player over a whole month.

But there were others too.  Arias has not hit at all since his early spurt, hitting only .598 OPS in July.  Christian I was hopeful he would do something since he was so good in AAA, but he hit .161/.235/.194/.429 in 34 PA.  Burriss was his usual ineffectual non-powered self, hitting .235/.278/.235/.513 in 18 PA.  I understand it is hard to hit with few chances, but unfortunately, even when given more chances, Burriss is only hitting what he did when he had more chances, his overall numbers are very similar to last year.  He was recently DFAed and just passed through, so he is back in AAA for us.  He's so bad that even the Washington Nationals didn't want to grab him for the promotional value of the latest Washington D.C. native to play in the majors.

Playoff Race Thoughts

Looks like it will be a three team race that will continue to the end of the season.  Might be like 2010 where it is decided on the last series, last game.  This poor home stretch the Giants are going through this past week obviously hurt their chances greatly, particularly the sweep by the Dodgers, each game a two game swing in the standings.

The Dodgers sure added a lot.  LA has added Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Brandon League, and Randy Choate, while releasing Bobby Abreu and trading away Eovaldi.

Abreu was OK, particularly OBP, but Victorino could be a huge upgrade for them at leadoff if he can resume hitting like he had previously in his career (and given peripherals still in career range, that suggests that he could revert to career means the rest of the season).  Also, Gordon had been a huge hole at leadoff, so even if Victorino hit as poorly as he did for Phillies, he would still be an improvement, and if he reverts to career means, it would be a huge gain, though he at the moment is not that much of an upgrade over Abreu.

Hanley is a huge wild-card.  If he hits like he has in 2011-12 for the Marlins, that is a win for the Dodgers because Uribe has been just horrible for them at 3B.  If he reverts to prior greatness, it is a huge win.  Still, in my mind, if Hanley disappoints by staying at his current performance level, the honeymoon period will be over sooner than later, and I think he could be detrimental to the team in the long run, particularly batting 5th as he has been doing for them.

More importantly, to me, is that they didn't add any starting pitching, which I thought was an area of weakness for them, though Fife has been doing well in spite of his poor peripherals, which should catch up with him at some point.  Capuano (5.14 ERA in July) and Harang (4.02 ERA in July) reverted to their means  in the last month, and Eovaldi was one of their better starters that month (2.93 ERA).  Billingsley had a great month (2.84 ERA) but his numbers over the past three seasons are not that great, with a 3.94 ERA (and similar numbers overall in 2012), so he should be regressing as well.  That leaves Kershaw as their only reliably good starter.

I was very thankful the Dempster trade rumors were not realized, though that could be possible still in a waiver wire deal.  The ground work for such a trade probably is close, and maybe the Dodgers pull the trigger if they remain close in August.  So I still like the Giants chances of winning the division title, particularly after picking up Pence, but if the Dodgers do work out a deal for a good starting pitcher, it will be tough, given their offense.

The Dodgers get 6 more games in their homestand, then a 10-game road trip, facing Marlins, Pirates, Braves, so that will be a tough stretch, particularly 4 in Pittsburgh.  Then they end the month mostly at home, against the Giants and Marlins, then a tough road trip to Colorado for three before a tough 4-game home series against the D-backs.  They will need to make hay in the next week, as the rest of the month will be mostly tough series, except for Astros.

The D-backs did not add as much as their competitors, securing minor pickups in trades.  One rumor was that they tried to acquire a topline starter - Garza/Cubs - but the deal fell through, though it could revive during August.  I think that with Bauer as the piece most teams were asking for, they felt the limitations that the Giants had in recent years in terms of trade possibilities, because other teams would start with their top prospects who they want to keep.

Still, their actions, other than the rumored deal, does not appear to be that of a team trying to win the division.  Rumors have lingered for a long time that they were offering up Upton in trade.  They were also involved in trade talks (per Twittering) involving Stephen Drew.  Even the trade they made seemed odd, as they traded off a good reliever in Breslow in order to pick up Podsednik and an iffy reliever (and it has just been reported that Podsednik was released!).  I see Albers as iffy because his ERA is good this season but very poor in his career and he has a horrible K/BB ratio this season.

Those are not really actions of a team trying to win a division title, wanting to trade away two strong pieces of their team's future, though both have been scuffling, and offloading a good reliever to pick up a player whose best years are far past him (though he's been doing well this season) and now has just been released(!) and a reliever of questionable value.

As I noted to watch for pre-season, Gibson's good luck in 2011 in 1-run games (12 games over .500) has reverted to the mean this season (6 games under .500) and has space to fall further.  And their good pitching in July was driven by their relievers, whereas their starting pitchers were performing badly, Cahill 3.96 ERA, Saunders 4.15 ERA, Kennedy 4.19 ERA, Bauer 6.57 ERA.  And their one good starter, Collmenter 3.00 ERA, had previously this season lost his job as starter with very poor performances, so who is to say he will continue to do well.  They were also boosted by Kubel's 11 homerun month, which is extremely unlikely to repeat.

They also have 13 road games over the next 16 games, meaning that it would be hard for them to push higher during this period.  Plus they will face the hot Pirates for 4 games and Nats then Cards for 3 games as well, and they all play very well at home. Then they end the month with a lot of home games, 5 against the Marlins over 4 days, 3 games Padres, 3 games Reds (good on the road), then start series against LA to end the month.  They look like they will have a rough month, with all the road games to start, then even the homestand is tough because of the Marlins series plus the Reds.

The Giants have another tough August, with 29 games in 31 days.  And 17 of them on the road.   This poor homestand was not what the Doctor ordered.  Lots of tough series, with Rockies in Colorado, Cards, Nats, Dodgers, Braves, but they have more breathers than LA or AZ, with series against Rockies in AT&T, Padres at Petco, and Astros in Houston.  They also start a series in Chicago at the end of the month.  So while the Giants look to have a disadvantage because of all the road games, because they face more of the lower division teams than LA or AZ, they could gain in the standings, assuming the pitching rights themselves soon.

Ay, and that's the rub.  Our success or failure revolves around our wonderful pitching staff.  The bullpen is not in great shape, and our top two starters, Lincecum and Cain, has not been their wonderful, wonderful selves that we had grown to love and expect, in the past few months.   We probably also need Pence to revert to prior goodness, and, it is looking more and more, Sandoval to return healthy and hitting, with Blanco and Pagan seemingly very lost and nowhere to be found.  The good news is that Hector Sanchez has returned, he who while in part-time play each month and yet was among the leaders in RBI for a number of months as well, and hopefully he will return to that level of play in August.

Ideally, Pence can bring in a performance similar to his Phillies 2011 performance and makes things less in the air for us.  But I think once things settle down a bit and become regular, even if he is his 2012 self, our offense will start to look better, with Cabrera, Posey, Pence in the middle, and Theriot hitting well in the 2-slot.  Then we need someone among Blanco, Pagan, Belt to start hitting even OK, let alone good, and the offense will look much better.  It would also help if Crawford can revert back to his prior form in June-July, when he was hitting very well for around 6 weeks, until he blasted those two homers, and appears to have a bit of the homerun-itis since then, suddenly striking out a lot more than he was before, and not hitting well at all.

So there is a lot for the Giants to overcome in August before we can dream about taking a strangle-hold in the pennant title race when September springs forth.  But it does not look like the other teams will be running away with things either, so they should still be in the race when the last month beckons.  I think that right now  it looks like this will be a back and forth battle among these three teams for the division lead that will run to the end of the season.


  1. Wow, left out the biggest observation: this 3-7 homestand was a huge opportunity lost. Had they gone 7-3 instead, we would be 4.5 games ahead of the Dodgers, 5.5 if one of the wins came against LA, and the D-backs would be even further back.

    Now, as I noted above, looking at the coming month, we hopefully can tread water and stay afloat in the division pennant race, and near or with the lead.

  2. Speaking of the Dodgers pitching deficiency, they just traded for Joe Blanton, picking him up from the Phillies for the proverbial player to be named later or cash considerations ( Clearly a salary dump by the Phillies.

    Luckily, I don't think much of Blanton, so this move does not scare me much. Fife is probably the loser in this trade, but he pitched well for them while starting, but as I noted, most probably would get bashed on eventually, walking so many and not striking out so many. Blanton never struck me as a gamer starter, he's a pure innings eater and they have value too, but the Dodgers really needed someone like Dempster, a top of rotation starter, not a back of rotation innings eater like Blanton, though it can be said that they did at least improve the rotation, in replacing Fife (presumably) with Blanton. Hurray for small victories.

    Seems like a reaction to the Giants picking up Pence.

    1. Forgot that Texas ended up with Dempster before the deadline, so no worry that LA might pick him up.

    2. Marty Lurie noted that Blanton is a second half pitcher, and he apparently is... for about a month. He amazingly has had great Augusts almost every season of his career, ace-like for most of them (but one). Unfortunately for his teams, his September reverts back to his normal mundane numbers. Sounds great to me, they need someone steadily an ace for the rest of the season, not possibly for one month.

      Of course, they could ride his streak in August then go with someone else. But he has been good before in September, as recently as 2010, so who knows?

  3. Speaking of Pence, thought I would check on what he did for the Phillies when he was traded (not just overall, but initially). After initially not doing that much offensively for them at home, couple of games, they travel to Colorado, where he went 4 for 12, with 2 doubles and 2 RBI (and he had a poor first game there too).

    However, he next went to SF where he demolished our pitching for three games (7 for 13, 2 HR, 4 RBI) before oh-fer-ing the last game.

    So he took three games to get acclimated with the Phillies, then went on a total surge offensively. While hitting in their home boosted his OPS, he just went crazy on the road: 1.011 OPS, 10 HR in 128 AB. Hopefully he can duplicate that for us!!!

    1. Oh, if it is not clear, the Giants are visiting the Rockies for three games this weekend. Go Hunter!



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