Saturday, October 12, 2013

2013 Giants: September PQS and Final Stats

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of September 2013 and final stats, 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- (81% DOM, 6% DIS; 25:2/31):  5, 3, 5, 5, 5, 4/ 4, 5, 0, 5, 4/ 5, 4, 5, 4, 5, 4/  5, 5, 5, 5/ 5, 3, 0, 3, 3, 4/ 5, 5 , 5, 5

Matt Cain- (55% DOM, 10% DIS; 16:3/29):  5, 0, 4, 3, 5, 3/ 3, 5, 3, 5, 3/ 4, 3, 3, 4, 5, 4/ 0, 0, 3, 5/5, 5, 5, 5, inj (0 but headed for 2, he was steady after runs)/ 2, 5, 5, 2

Chad Gaudin - (58% DOM, 33% DIS; 7:4/12):  // 5, 5, 0, 0/ 5, 3, 5, 0, 5/5, 4, 0 (inj but really bad start)/

Mike Kickham - (0% DOM, 67% DIS; 0:2/3):  /0/ 2/ 0//

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (56% DOM, 13% DIS; 18:4/32):  3, 4, 2, 5, 5/ 3, 4, 5, 3, 5, 0/ 5, 0, 3, 5, 3/ 3, 5, 5, 0, 4/ 5, 5, 2, 2, 4, 3/ 1, 4, 5, 5, 4

Guillermo Moscoso - (0% DOM, 100% DIS; 0:2/2):  ////0/0

Yusmeiro Petit - (57% DOM, 14% DIS; 4:1/7):  ////5/4, 5, 3, 2, 5, 0

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

Ryan Vogelsong - (26% DOM, 32% DIS; 5:6/19):  3, 4, 5, 3, 2/ 0, 0, 0, 3///4, 0, 5, 4, 2/0, 1, 3, 2, 3

Barry Zito - (20% DOM, 52% DIS; 5:13/25):  3, 4, 0, 4, 0/ 1, 4, 1, 3, 3, 4/ 3, 0, 3, 5, 0/ 0, 3, 0, 0, 0/0, 0/ 0, 3

Giants Season overall - 50% DOM, 24% DIS out of 161 games counted (80:39/161)
Giants Month of April - 56% DOM, 11% DIS out of 27 games counted (15:3/27)
Giants Month of May - 41% DOM, 30% DIS out of 27 games counted (11:8/27)
Giants Month of June - 56% DOM, 19% DIS out of 27 games counted (15:5/27)
Giants Month of July - 44% DOM, 40% DIS out of 25 games counted (11:10/25)
Giants Month of August - 52% DOM, 21% DIS out of 28 games counted (15:6/28)
Giants Month of September - 48% DOM, 22% DIS out of 27 games counted (13:6/27)

The month of September for PQS was better than the worse months and just short of last month, which was good, for the season.  Still, despite middling PQS results, it was the best month in terms of RA at 3.56 RA/game.  All the other months were above 4, with lows of 4.11 in April and 4.04 in June and highs of 4.96 in May and 4.65 in July (August was 4.31).  Just shows that PQS does not always translate to great RA or ERA, but it does help.  In particular, I would say that this reflects that good, bad and ugly of Lincecum's season, as he has actually shown a lot of pitching talent based on PQS and saber metrics, but that did not translate into good ERA for him, basically because he would give up the inopportune hit that makes the different between getting out of a mess with no damage and giving up 1-2-3 runs.

In fact, Lincecum was one of the leaders in DOM starts with 4, tied with Bumgarner (he also had a DIS start too).  In a major breakout, Petit was second with 3 DOM starts and then Cain had 2 DOM starts.

Petit had a breakout, finally bringing what he's been showing in AAA to the majors in a big way.  His last stretch of regular starts, in 2009, had him with only 5 DOM and 8 (!) DIS in 17 starts.  He had 4 DOM in 7 starts for us this season.  His major difference between 2009 and 2013 is in his ability to prevent hits, he was able to strike out batters a lot in 2009, but because he gave up so many hits (and homers) that he would be taken out before reaching 5 or 6 innings, which you need to do regularly to 1) avoid DIS starts (auto DIS if under 5 IP) and 2) achieve DOM starts (you get 1 PQS for reaching 6 IP; if you only have 5 IP, then you have to have 5 or less hits, at least 3 K's, K/BB > 2, and 1 or less homers to get a DOM, and if you achieve all this, though, there is no reason usually to take you out...)

The DIS starts were spread across the staff, with Vogelsong the only one with 2.  Lincecum, Petit, Moscoso, and Zito all had one.  Of course, Moscoso only had one start, Zito two.

Zito got to have one final start where he did OK (3 PQS) and he was only three outs away from a DOM start, but Bochy took him out, probably because he had not pitched regularly as a starter for a while.  He got to get a final cheer from the home crowd, which probably seemed as improbable as the Giants winning two world championships, six years ago, after his first season in the Giants uni, and particularly five years ago, when he had an even worse second season.

But since then, while he was not worth what was paid him, he at least worked hard, was professional, was uncontroversial, and more importantly, performed like an average pitcher, which was deadly good for us because he pitched mostly as our 4th or 5th starter in those five seasons.  Even his one and only injury was good, because it opened up a spot for Vogelsong to shine for us in 2011, and this year it opened up a spot for Petit to shine.

I know, not of his doing, but that's life sometimes, the butterfly causes a tornado somewhere, but here in the Land of Giants, his unintended consequences led to good things:  his poor early pitching led us to get good draft picks and select Buster Posey, among others, and there was Vogelsong and Petit.  And he was OK there for his middle years, excluding his injury year, the team was 55-44 in the three productively average-ish seasons he had in 2009, 10, 12, though it should be noted that most of that came in 2012 when the team was 21-11 in his starts.

And mostly, the one wish any Giants fan had when Zito was signed, was that he would lead us to a World Championship (wish, not hope, because Giants fans were sharp enough to know that Zito was not good enough to make that happen), and he delivered last season, saving our season when it was on the brink, a number of times (starting with that great first start of the season, when we were 0-3, with Zito starting in Colorado and he delivered his first and only Giants shutout), and then came through for us when facing the deadly Verlander in Game 1 of the World Series, pitching like the ace he was being paid like.

This season has not been that good, he had DIS starts in 52% of his starts!  And he actually started out the season well.  Maybe his father's death shook him up more than he had let on in interviews, and that would be understandable.  Or maybe some other personal travail will come out eventually.  Whatever the reason, this is truly the worse season of his Giants career by far and thus he won't get his wish of retiring in a Giants uni, he still wants to pitch next year, even as a LOOGY.

The Giants ERA was great this month, because of Cain and Bumgarner, 1.61 and 1.80 ERA respectively.  They were the two starters the Giants rested in September, shutting them down in their last starts.  That's how Zito got to get his last nice start and to get cheered off the field.  Most of the starters had K/BB that were OK or better.  Petit had his DOM starts but his DIS start helped to keep his ERA humble at 3.68, despite a stellar 4.2 K/BB ratio.  Only Bumgarner had it higher, at 4.43.  Lincecum was at 2.36 and Cain at 2.25.  Cain did not do great coming back from his first DL, getting injured by a batted ball, but good enough to feel like he'll be alright next season, and still, he did great when he needed to, keeping his ERA low.


The Giants ended the season on a very good up note, going 16-11, their best month of the season.  Their best two months were the ones where they had their lineup basically in and healthy, April and September, 31-23 overall, which works out to a 93 win season.  That would have won us the NL West Division title by one game over LA.

I've seen it mentioned that part of the good performance by the Giants were because it was done in junk time, but a number of teams were still looking to gain a playoff spot, or better, celebrate a division title in front of the home crowd (take that LA!).  Plus, if our pitchers were throwing up lollipop pitches, the other team would have hit them hard and for hits, they are Pavlovian like that, they would not have let down in garbage time if the pitchers were bad.  I even saw one mention of how one player got healthy hitting off no-name pitchers.

But that's how baseball works.  There's a reason you don't pad your stats against the likes of Verlander (unless you are Panda :^) and Kershaw:  they are great pitchers.  That is why many of Bonds' historic milestones were against no-name pitchers, those are the ones who make the mistakes, generally.  The great ones don't give up a lot of big hits, that's why they are great.

That's why the playoffs are so affected by pitching, most teams take out their 5th and sometimes 4th starter, bringing the overall talent at starting pitching up a lot.  That's why BP's study found that having at least 3 good starters is a good indicator of playoff success.  That's why last season, even though the Giants pitching staff, per my Performance stat (keeping the other team at 3 runs or less), was not that good, only 83-79 for the season - they won by their offense last season, which was 95-67 (scoring at least 4 runs) - they were 11-5 in the playoffs, as Lincecum was taken out of the rotation, and we had Zito pitching at his best for us in his career.

The Giants with that late surge ended up tied with the 12th worse record.  Because Toronto failed to sign a player in this year's draft and the Giants had a better record in 2012 than the team they tied, SD, they ended up with the 14th draft pick overall for the 2014 draft.  It is unprotected and therefore, the Giants would lose that pick should they sign a free agent who got a QO.  I think it is doubtful the Giants will sign anyone like that, they haven't lost a first round draft pick since the Magowan years and I think ownership and management today understands that teams need to have that ticket in the lottery, even if the odds are horribly against you.

I understand the psychic value of ending the season on a good note with most of the expected 2014 team healthy and productive (particularly Pence).  Plus, it gave upper management a view into how the team might perform in 2014 should they be mostly healthy (especially since there won't be a short off-season due to playoffs, nor a WBC to seemingly screw up our players' health).  In addition, even a 14-13 record would still leave us with the 14th pick, so why not end the season well?

Still, going 13-14 would have nailed us the 8th pick, 12-15 the 7th pick.  One could argue that Pence's huge September cost us the 8th pick overall, he was a monster during that month.  I wonder how much his WAR went up, probably not the 3 wins that cost us the pick, but I would think at least 2 WAR.  He was responsible for 44 runs in actual production (not saber hypothetical WAR), which is a little over 4 wins, but the average RF probably would have been responsible for 20 runs, so that works out to about 2 WAR in actual production.  He led the team with 11 homers, 1.060 OPS, driving in 32 runs.

The offense averaged 4.48 RS/game, which would be very good over a full season, good for second in the NL, where the average was 4.0;  only the Cards at 4.8 was above 4.5 RS.  As noted, led by Pence, but Sandoval hit .322/.410/.540/.950, was second in homers with 4 and tied for second in RBI with 15.  He was tied with Belt, who was no slouch himself, his second month with his new grip, and he hit .341/.394/.516/.910, with 2 homers and 10 doubles, far and away the leader, with Sandoval second with 5 doubles for the month.   Two other great batting lines were Blanco and Pagan, with .373/.479/.458/.937 and .326/.370/.500/.870.  Also contributing were Abreu (.770 OPS, mostly SLG), Perez (.746 OPS; he's going to get a good look for RH OF bench spot in 2014), and Scutaro (.714 OPS, mostly BA/OBP; he had 4 walks and only ONE strikeout in 40 AB).

Some key players hitting poorly were Posey (.671 OPS), Hanchez (.606 OPS), and Crawford (.448 OPS), which was disconcerting, given that one can't expect the above to all hit for high OPS every month.

Posey was surprisingly bad in the last three months of the season, which is when he turned it on in 2010 and 2012.  As I researched, he started a significant amount of games at catcher this season versus last season, so that could be part of the reason, though one would think that he was building up his stamina to enable more starts in 2013.  The knock on him when drafted was that his body would not hold up over a full season, and that was part of the reason why the Giants didn't bring him up immediately as C in 2010, instead starting him at 1B, because the thought that season was that he had maybe 100 starts in him (and that was basically right, his batting line declined right around the time he reached 100 starts between the minors and majors).

Hanchez is suppose to be back in 2014 and take on more of the catching so that Posey can get more rests from catching.  He ended poorly but did hit better prior to that to give encouragement to the idea that he can do in 2014 what he did in 2012.  The Giants put it on his shoulders in the season ending presser to be ready to do that again (hinting obliquely to the rumors that he came into spring training out of shape, plus it turned out that he hurt his shoulder playing in winter league last off-season).

I would note, however, his knack for driving in runs was still there in September, despite his bad batting line, as he had 8 RBI, good for 4th on the team, despite only starting in 13 games (out of 27) and having the 9th most PA.  This is something that was happening last season too, he would often be among the leaders in RBI despite not playing full-time.  Of course, part of that is because Bochy uses him as a pinch-hitter with runners on base, but obviously, you still need to deliver the goods when given the opportunity, and Hanchez has, so far, in his short MLB career.

Crawford was very disappointing, doing poorly enough that Bochy was platooning him at SS during the month, and thus only getting 18 starts in the month.  He was hitting very well for us until he hurt his two fingers sliding into second base, and though he did hit a little better when his hand improved, in July, he went downhill from there, crashing in September.  I consider that a regression but given how well he hit in spots in 2012 and early 2013, I'm still hopeful about 2014.

So while there was a lot of good stuff happening in September, there were some bad stuff too.  Still, looking good for 2014, I think, if the Giants can pull off their goals for the off-season, which sounds like re-signing Lincecum and Lopez, as well as picking up a #3 (or better) starter somewhere.


  1. I think we need someone like Choo, who has a 400 plus ops. Even if we lose a draft pick.

  2. These are such a great resource OGC, thanks as always. Pretty easy to look at the overall picture and say - if we want to get back to playoff baseball the pitching has to lead, and that's what went wrong with the defend the crown year. Big time challenge. Should be a very exciting offseason... or not! I can totally see Sabean sitting on his hands. But there might be some under cover moves coming. How they shape the staff will tell us a lot about how close they view the Augusta/SJ guys from contributing.



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