Wednesday, May 01, 2013

2013 Giants: April PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of April 2013, 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 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 2013 Season

Madison Bumgarner- (83% DOM, 0% DIS; 5:0/6):  5, 3, 5, 5, 5, 4

Matt Cain- (50% DOM, 17% DIS; 3:1/6):  5, 0, 4, 3, 5, 3

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (60% DOM, 0% DIS; 3:0/5):  3, 4, 2, 5, 5

Ryan Vogelsong - (40% DOM, 0% DIS; 2:0/5):  3, 4, 5, 3, 2

Barry Zito - (40% DOM, 40% DIS; 2:2/5):  3, 4, 0, 4, 0

Giants season overall - 56% DOM, 11% DIS out of 27 games counted (15:3/27)
Giants Month of April - 56% DOM, 11% DIS out of 27 games counted (15:3/27)

The Giants pitchers continued to do well, and that was in spite of Zito, who was alternatively the best starter and then the worse starter, twice.  The starters actually did well sabermetrically in April, but a lot of bad luck kicked their ERA up sky high.   Plus, Cain and Vogelsong didn't do as well as they did before, which led to a downtick in their overall performance as a rotation.

Still, their 56% DOM in April 2013 is similar to 2011's 56% DOM.   That 56% 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 11% DIS is good, as well.

The dominant pitcher was Bumgarner (3 DOM) while everyone else had 2 DOM starts.  That resulted in everyone being at 40% DOM or higher (where good pitchers are 40%+), so the rotation did well in April, they just didn't have the numbers because of some bad luck, particularly with the longball.

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 Zito had none or one, as he had 2 DIS starts. 
It was also a pretty good month by the pitching peripherals for each pitcher.  Bumgarner had 4.0 K/BB, Cain 3.2, Zito 2.63, Vogelsong 2.6, Lincecum 1.88 (2.2 is good; 2.4 is very good).  Only Lincecum was below the threshold for good.  Also, the starters have good K/9:  Lincecum 9.7, Cain 8.3, Bumgarner 8.0, Vogelsong 7.7, and even Zito had 6.9.

April 2013 Comments

The Giants were pretty lucky in April, both good and bad.  As noted above, bad luck resulted in the starter's good starts looking pretty bad in ERA.  Yet the team's offense was functioning well enough, most of the time, to help the team win the most games in April since the early 2000's.  However, among the hitters, only Crawford is hitting significantly higher than he had before, and Belt, Pagan, Pence, and Scutaro are doing much worse than career/expected, and Torres, Arias, and Sanchez too, off the bench.  Clearly, they have been hitting much better with RISP and they were:  .276/.354/.421/.775 RISP, .256/.305/.352/.657 with the bases empty, .257/.307/.383/.690 with man on first.

And they ended up 1 game behind the surprising Rockies team, at the end of April, leading the NL West with a 16-11 record, while the Giants are tied with the D-backs for second at 15-12.  The very expensive Dodgers team is 13-13, not living up to their payroll or hype, and the Padres are unsurprisingly bringing up the rear at 10-16. 

The Rockies are scoring a heads and shoulders above 5.22 runs per game, the nearest are Mets with 4.76 and Brewers with 4.72.  Meanwhile, offense is down in the league at 4.09 runs per game average, which was what the downtrodden Giants offense was averaging not that many years ago.  

The biggest surprise for the Rockies is Dexter Fowler's .305/.411/.621/1.032 OPS; he's a career .803 OPS hitter and had his best season in 2012 with a .863 OPS.  He had all of 13 HR in 2012 and was in the 4-6 homer range the three mostly full seasons before:  he already has 8 HR in 2013 in only 26 games, one sixth of the season, roughly, a roughly 50 HR seasonal pace.  I think we can all agree that he's not going to keep this up all season.  Meanwhile, their starters have not been doing all that well, except for Chacin. 

Meanwhile, the D-backs pitching is doing it for them, and so far, up is down and down is up.  Kennedy has been their second worse starter with 4.78 ERA while Corbin, Miley, and Cahill have been aces with ERAs of 1.91, 2.37, and 2.61 respectively.  Career ERA respectively before:  4.54, 3.53, and 3.87.  Corbin looks capable of continuing this with a 3.57 K/BB, but Miley at 1.86 and Cahill at 2.46 don't.  But to their favor, doubtful that Kennedy and McCarthy will bring up the rear as they have, so there is balance there.  However, I think the odds are that the three will fall further than the other two improve, collectively, so there should be some regression there, at some point in the season.  However, as the 2010 Padres showed, it took them almost the whole season before regression bit them in the rear.  Meanwhile, their offense looks like it has some room for improvement, so they could be our toughest competitor all season long. 

And as close as the Dodgers are right now, their pythagorean says that they should be 11-15 right now, not 13-13, so they have been very lucky so far.  Their offense has been horrible, notably Cruz at 3B and Sellers at SS, but still Crawford is finally hitting what his salary says he should be doing and A-Gon and Ellis have been good too, so it is not like they don't have some hitters.  Still, a team averaging 3.3 runs per game is not going to win a lot of games usually.  And with an average pitching/fielding, 4.15 vs. 4.09 NL average runs given up, that should have resulted in a lot more losses under .500 for LAD, they have been very lucky in April.  And with their starting pitching lining up to the doctor's office like they are in a conga line, I don't see how they don't start playing to their pythagorean and compete with the Padres for last place in the NL West. 

Overall, the Giants are in good position win/loss despite not really playing that well offensively or defensively.  If they don't improve either, we can't expect that to continue, but since they are underperforming their expected performance level, it is reasonable at this point to think that both will rise to their talent level and start winning because they are playing well, not in spite of playing poorly.  Thus, they should continue to be near the division lead for the short and intermediate future, as nobody is running away with the division, it will probably play out like it has in season's past, where one team leads, then falls back as another team surges, which then falls back, as a third team surges up and takes the lead.   Right now, I'm betting the Giants still take pole position once the season ends.

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