Wednesday, September 05, 2012

2012 Giants: August PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of August 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, 7% DIS; 18:2/27):  0, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 4, 5, 3, 5, 4, 3, 5, 2, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 5, 3, 0

Matt Cain- (65% DOM, 0% DIS; 17:0/26):  4, 5, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 5, 5, 5, 2, 5, 3, 3, 5, 3, 3, 2, 3, 5, 5, 5, 3 (perfect game highlighted)

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

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (48% DOM, 26% DIS; 13:7/27):  2, 0, 4, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 0, 1, 4, 5, 2, 3, 5, 5, 0, 0, 5, 5, 0, 5, 3, 3, 0, 4, 4

Ryan Vogelsong - (68% DOM, 8% DIS; 17:2/25):  5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 3, 5, 2, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 5, 4, 5, 5, 4, 5, 3, 0, 0, 4, 4

Barry Zito - (35% DOM, 35% DIS; 9:9/26):  4, 4, 1, 5, 0, 2, 4, 4, 0, 4, 4, 1, 2, 0, 3, 3, 2, 4, 4, 3, 0, 2, 1, 0, 3, 0

Giants season overall - 56% DOM, 15% DIS out of 132 games counted (74:20/132)
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)
Giants Month of August - 41% DOM, 28% DIS out of 29 games counted (12:8/29) (add Cubs/B)

The Giants pitchers had their worse month of the season, by far, and the worse since August 2010, for an echo of the past (June 2010 was bad as well; thank goodness for Vogelsong, he made our rotation truly elite, even with Lincecum scuffling).  After a great month of July for Vogelsong and Zito, with 7 DOM between them, the two accounted for 6 of the 7 DIS starts in August.  And Lincecum, for all the progress he made after the All-Star break, had the 7th DIS start, though good month (for mortals) overall, just poor for him.  Lastly, Bumgarner ended a good month on a downnote, after 4 DOM starts this month, he had a DIS start to end August, but that's not bad, that's only his first since having a disaster start to start the season.  Just prior to that, he had 8 DOM starts out of 9.

Bumgarner led with 4 DOM starts, and both Cain and Vogelsong had 3 DOM starts.  Lincecum had 2 DOM starts, and more importantly, just one DIS start, and he was very close to a 3 PQS start there, with a few more outs.  Zito stunk up the rear with 4 DIS starts out of 6, and no DOM starts.

The starters had their worse collective effort of the season and worse since August 2010.  The 8 DIS starts in August almost matched the 9 DIS starts they had from April to June.  The collapse came without notice, as the starters actually had a good month in July.  And as I have noted many times, it is disaster starts that automatically kills ERA.  The team had a 4.31 ERA in August, and I guess some sign was there in July as the ERA was 3.99 that month, after 3.38 in April, 3.39 in May, 3.35 in June (some of that is the bullpen, but mostly the starters).

The important things in August was that both Cain and Lincecum broke out of their funks.  Cain had been scuffling, relatively, since his perfect game, but finally strung together 3 DOM starts and was close to a 4th in the game after that (though now he has two straight 3 PQS starts again, so that is something to watch in September).  Lincecum ended the month on a good note, slinging 2 DOM starts, and like for much of this season, we have to take it game by game for him and see how it goes.

Good thing they recovered some, as both Zito and Vogelsong both hit bad stretches of pitching.  And Vogelsong, after ending August on a good note with 2 DOM starts, had a DIS start to start off September, though with 7 K's in 3.1 IP and only 2 walks, he was BABIPed the hell out of him.  But also something to watch.

Even Bumgarner needs to be watched, as he had his first DIS start since his first start of the season in his last start of August.  Probably nothing, but still.

Overall, all the starters have question marks entering September and continue to have question marks with their starts in September, though at least Timmy had a DOM start.

August 2012 Comments

With offense humming and the pitching not so much, clearly, the month was all about the offense as the Giants went 18-11, it's best month of the season and best since September 2010.  And that is in spite of the poor PQS performance by the starting pitching.  The offense averaged 5.5 runs scored per game, while the defense gave up 4.3 runs allowed per game.  And that was mostly on the heads of the pitchers, as there was only 3 unearned runs in August.  At 17.4 Pythagorean wins, the team's actual record reflected accurately how well they played in August.  And they were 3-1 in one-run games in August.

The pitching was poor with a 4.31 ERA (vs. 4.34 runs allowed).  Vogelsong had 6.32 ERA, Zito 6.46.  Lincecum was OK but ordinary at 3.90, though that's still good.  Cain had a 2.90 ERA and Bumgarner 3.97.   Bullpen was just as skewed both ways.  Whereas Hensley, Penny, Loux, Hacker, Mota, and Mijares had ERA's at 5.00 and above (plenty above for the first four), Lopez, Casilla, and Romo were all under 1.00 ERA.  Affeldt was in the middle at 4.15 ERA, but he was saved by the bullpen because in 8.2 IP he gave up 11 hits AND 7 WALKS, with 7 K's.

And a little shoutout for Kontos, who had a 2.20 ERA in 15 games and 16.1 IP.  He only gave up 9 hits and 7 walks, along with 15 K's.  He also got his first major league win and was able to pitch in front of friends and family when the Giants made a road trip to Chicago to play the Cubs, his boyhood team.  Apparently his brother played for the youth team that Bartman (yes, that Bartman) coached, and he was considered a very nice guy but went into seclusion after he was blamed for the Cubs not making the World Series.

The offense had its best OPS month since April:  .723 in April, .686, .692, .693, .760 (and continue to with .788 in September).  Lots of heroes this month, even in the wake of Melky's stunning suspension, which would have rattled most teams to their core.  That was surely a kick to the groin for most teams, killing the team's momentum and thus their chances of winning the division.  But the Giants are 13-5 since he was suspended, mostly on the backs of the offense, which scored 4 or more runs in 13 of these 18 games.

Of course, it was fluky that the Giants were led by Arias' .417/.438/.717/1.154 batting line, as he stroked 3 homers (tied for second best on team in August with Pagan).  But Posey was still hot, with a .371/.482/.652/1.134 batting line.  And Pagan, once inserted back at leadoff (at his behest too), took off as well, hitting .342/.415/.588/1.003 and 18 extra-base hits, which led the team in August (Posey had 13 and Arias 10 in roughly half the PA of the starters).  And Melky also did well before he was suspended, with a .908 OPS.  Lastly, Belt finally seems to be figuring out how to avoid strikeouts in the majors, with only 11 k's in 86 AB (87% contact rate where 85% is good), which resulted in a .349/.411/.477/.887 batting line.

There were other contributors who provided a boost beyond stellar OPS.  One was Scutaro, who hit .314/.336/.415/.751, solidifying the 2-spot in the lineup after Theriot finally hit the wall (he had been doing well there previously with a mid-300 OBP).  To boot, he drove in 18 RBIs from there as well, good for third on the team.  Crawford hit nicely with a .281/.329/.359/.688 batting line and 81% contact rate, as both Brandons produced.  With his defense, if he could continue to hit this well, particularly in the 8th spot, he would be valuable both for his offense and defense.

Others did not hit that well but still contributed.  Pence did not hit as well as we would have hoped, only .230/.286/.354/.640, but as I researched and noted, he hit horribly with nobody or man on first, but in RISP situations, he was steller, resulting in his leading the team in RBI in August with 22 (Posey was second with 21).  Also, after really scuffling his first 10 games, in the 23 games since August 11th, he has hit .282/.364/.459/.822 with 18 RBIs.  Sandoval did not hit well at all, plus for no power, but was still able to drive in 13 runs, particularly with 5 sacrifice flies (else his batting line would have been even worse!).  His line drive that would have been a homer in most other parks yesterday is hopefully a sign that his struggles are close to being over.  Sanchez also did not hit well, but still drove in 5 runs and he has been quite the pinch-hitter as well.

Only Blanco and Theriot did not contribute much.  Still, The Riot scored 12 runs in limited play, 6th on the team in runs scored.  And Blanco played well initially in place of Melky, but not enough to forestall the insertion of Nady into the starting lineup, and Xavier's hitting in September pretty much guarantees that Blanco is probably on the bench for much of it again.

And the defense was stellar, as evidenced by the low ER amount, only 3 for the month of August.  Here are the number of unearned runs by month from April:  13 in April, 17 in May, 4 in June, 10 in July, and 3 in August.

NL West Division Title Race Thoughts

Well, I was mostly wrong about the 3 horse race, as Arizona has limped into September needing to sweep the Giants (or nearly so) for the month (9 games in total against each other) to have any realistic chance of winning the division title.  And the Giants burst of winning in the wake of the Melky suspension catapulted them from a tie situation with the D-gers at the time of the suspension to a very strong 4.5 game lead which the team has held for almost a week now, despite the D-gers blockbuster additions.  Plus put the D-backs 10.5 games behind, and 11 losses behind.

The D-gers are so concerned that they have juggled their rotation, skipping Blanton's start on Sunday so that Kershaw could start against the Giants.  We are scheduled to start Zito and the media noted that the Giants will not react in kind to move up Vogelsong.  Particularly since that could be construed an act of panic on our part (though no mention of this regarding the D-gers doing such a move, which would be the obvious thing to me).

Hard to say whether we will win the division title or not, though obviously we are in the catbird seat with a big lead and an easier schedule, relatively, to LA.  But we still play them 6 more times, particularly ending the season with 3 of them in LA, plus are facing the D-backs 9 times (1-1 so far), the Rox in Colorado for 3 (always tough games there), plus 6 against the 'Dres, who are 35-24 since their low point, and just recently had a 8 game win streak and 10 of 11 (but 5 straight losses before that and 6 of 7, and 3 straight losses after, with a win yesterday over LA, yay!).  So it will be a tough month of battling intra-division rivals, particularly 15 of  28 against LA and AZ in September now that the string of games with only NL West teams have started.

Obviously, the offense cannot be expected to continue to hit so well collectively, though it has thus far in September, so the starting pitching and the middle relievers will need to step things up in September.  Ideally, the starters would revert to prior season goodness in delivering DOM starts and the relievers hold the leads for the closers-by-committee, which has done pretty great so far in August and into September.

Players who need to step up include Lincecum, Cain, Vogelsong, Zito, and Sandoval.  Sandoval in particular among the hitters because Posey and Pence are locked in and if Pablo could start banging, that would be a deadly trio of middle lineup hitters bashing the balls around.  And if Belt could continue to hit (and he just hit a homer, finally, off a RHP yesterday, so that is a good sign, hopefully) that would be four dangerous hitters in a row for the Giants, keeping the offensive goodness going.  That puts less pressure on the top of the order and the bottom, and hopefully players loosen up to continue to hit well, as Pagan is showing signs of slowing down.

Still, we really need the starting pitchers to step up and get that bloated ERA down a lot.  While we probably don't need that to win the division title, still, we don't want to have the starting pitching limping into the playoffs, we need them to be slinging DOM starts once we get into the playoffs.  Because that is the way to go deep into the playoffs, and hopefully make the World Series again.

A's, Schmays:  Give The Giants the Money

I heard on KNBR someone speculating how interesting it would be if the Giants met the A's in the World Series again.  They have been amazing this season, much better than I thought and I was totally wrong about their season, Beane made a lot of good moves to get the team into playoff shape this season.  Totally wrong.

Beating them would exorcise another ghost from the past for Giants fans, that horrible 1989 Earthquake series, but I would also fear playing them, as teams ending the season with a big head of steam are those to be feared.  Since their low point on June 10th at 9 games below .500 at 26-35, they have been 50-24 since then.  That's a 109 win pace over a 162 game season.  Still, not that the Giants have been chopped liver, starting with the Perfect Game, when Cain exhorted his teammates to do well (they were 15-17 beforehand), they have been 62-42, .596 winning percentage, a 97 win pace over a 162 game season.  Not too shabby either.

In any case, I don't really care about the A's, they are like any other AL team to me, an after thought.  Though if they do come up short in any way, I'll be at least slightly happy.  That is because of all the A's fans who buy those obnoxious messages in Baseball-Reference.com berating Giants fans (like the one for Zito, and there were some other ones related to the Giants).  For those A's fans:  no, I would never trade places, the Giants are my team and if you understood team loyalty at any level, you would understand that, but thanks for trying to pour salt into our wounds from the past, luckily they healed over long ago, and I still think the Giants are headed to being the Team of the Decade for the 2010's.

I hope the Giants hold up the A's for a ransom to get the South Bay concession, as that would help us pay for all the players the Giants SHOULD be able to afford except that the money the Giants annually pay into the fund goes basically directly to the A's, dollar for dollar, and the new A's owners have pocketed over $20M per year since they took over, money that should have really been the Giants money.  Give us back our money and then you can move to the south bay, for all I care.  I just want money so that the Giants can sign all their top players to keep them at or near the top for the rest of this decade.

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