Thursday, May 01, 2014

2014 Giants April PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of April 2014 (I'm including the one game in March as part of April), 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 2014 Season

Madison Bumgarner- (33% DOM, 50% DIS; 2:3/6):  0, 4, 4, 0, 3, 1/

Matt Cain- (40% DOM, 20% DIS; 2:1/5):  1, 3, 5, 5, 2/

Tim Hudson - (67% DOM, 0% DIS; 4:0/6):  5, 4, 3, 3, 5, 4/

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (40% DOM, 40% DIS; 2:2/5):  3, 0, 4, 4, 0/

Yusmeiro Petit - (100% DOM, 0% DIS; 1:0/1):  5/

Ryan Vogelsong - (20% DOM, 40% DIS; 1:2/5):  0, 3, 3, 0, 5/

Giants Season overall - 43% DOM, 29% DIS out of 27 games counted (12:8/28)
Giants Month of April - 43% DOM, 29% DIS out of 27 games counted (12:8/28)

The month of April for PQS was a lot worse than we have been used to from our starting pitchers for a long time now.  This is as bad as we had in May and July last season, as bad as August in 2012, and there was no month that bad in 2011.  There were a lot of surprises.

Hudson was the leaders in DOM starts with 4, by a wide margin.  Tied with 2 DOM were Bumgarner, Cain, and Lincecum.  Vogelsong was last with 1 DOM out of the starting rotation.  Of course, Petit also has only 1 DOM, but he only had 1 start, so that's understandable.  He had a great last-minute start when Cain cut his index finger with a knife an hour before the start of the game, while making a sandwich.

This is what I wrote about Petit in my last PQS post:
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, unfortunately in this case, and especially unfortunately with Bumgarner leading the way with 3 of them.  Lincecum and Vogelsong each had two, and Cain had only the one.  Hudson was the only one to go without a disaster start, which is probably why the Giants were 5-1 in his starts, and thus why he is 4-1.

Hudson has been everything one could hope for and more.  2.17 ERA with a 15.50 K/BB, he actually started the season with 30+ innings without giving up a walk, an incredible streak.  He's been very gracious and self-effacing, yet every bit the bulldog that he has shown himself to be, noting that he wanted to prove to people that he wasn't washed up, as many assumed he was because of his injury and/or age.

As one could guess, the Giants ERA was horrible this month, because of how many disaster starts there were.  Hudson was the only one under 2.00 ERA, and while Bumgarner had an OK 3.74 ERA, that is not what one expects out of their ace #1 starter.  Given his career, a low 3 ERA is what we were expecting.  However, this is not the first time he came out cold, he did something similar in 2011, starting out the season with a number of bad starts.  The good news is that Bumgarner has a great K/9 and K/BB, with a 9.9 K/9 and 2.85 K/BB, he has just given up way too many hits and homers, and both look like they should regress to his mean and things will get better.

Meanwhile, Cain, Lincecum, and Vogelsong have had their struggles.  Cain has an OK 4.35 ERA and OK 2.50 K/BB.  He's been bit by the HR bug again, as well as giving up more hits than usual.   That should balance out and he'll be back to normal.  Lincecum had a 5.96 ERA but great 2.1 BB/9, 9.5. K/9 and thus even greater 4.50 K/BB.     As I speculated before, I think he's learning how to avoid walks, so that will cause him to have a number of walks.  Vogie, meanwhile, has been struggling to find himself, but all reports are that his velocity is back to normal and just a matter of him finding mechanics that he's comfortable with.  In a nice first step, he had a nice DOM start in his last start, and hopefully he can continue that in his next starts for a full season of great performances.

April 2014 Comments

The Giants started the season on a very good up note, going 17-11, their best start to the season since the 2003 season, when they led from the start and never gave it up.  That's the season I've been comparing this season too, because of the offense and the upsides there and potentially in the rotation.  This is a 98 win seasonal rate, a notch higher than the 93 win season rate they had last season when most of the team was healthy, in April/May/September.

Imagine how good of a month it would have been if either Bumgarner or Cain pitched liked they were capable of.  The team was 3-3 in Bum's starts, 1-4 in Cain, or 4-7.  Had the team been 7-4 instead, the Giants would be 20-8 right now, tied with the Brewers for best in the NL.

Meanwhile, despite Lincecum's and Vogelsong's uneven starts, the Giants are 4-1 in Tim's starts and 3-2 in Ryan's starts.  With Bochy's quick hook saving one game for a win, and the Giants big offense winning the day in another, the Giants did well in Timmy starts.  Similarly for Vogie, he probably should have lost 3 of the 5.  The wins add up, with the back three accounting for a 12-4 record together (plus Petit's 1-0 as a starter).

Overall, the starters had an OK 3.86 ERA and 8-9 record.  Bochy took pitchers out early a lot and the bullpen soaked up the innings and delivered a stupendous 2.05 ERA with a 3.14 K/BB.  That is why they ended up 9-2 overall, as they held their ground in most of these games and then the offense could crank enough runs to win the game.   Machi is 4-0 and Romo is 2-0.  And Romo hasn't blown a save yet.

The main question for the bullpen is mostly this:  what happens when Huff is ready to come off the DL?  All the relievers are doing great.  Huff probably would have made the roster even before Affeldt's injury, but that opened the door for Gutierrez and he has delivered 11 appearances for a 2.92 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 6.50 K/BB, to go with his 95 MPH heater that is a rare commodity on our staff (only Machi matches).  So he's going nowhere.  Most probably, Huff will have to go through waivers and we risk losing him, as it is doubtful that the Giants will carry 13 pitchers again as they did briefly, by optioning Perez to AAA again.

For the rotation, I think we are in good shape for the most part.  Personally, I think Bumgarner has been putting pressure on himself to be the ace - see how he did under the pressure of pitching the opener - and will eventually settle down, probably as soon as his next start.  Cain had already righted his ship for the most part, and with this extra rest, should be good to go going forward.  With three good starters capable of ace stuff, our rotation would be set, by the starting rotation model the Giants set up for success in 2009-2012.

That leaves our two biggest question marks.  Lincecum has been up and down, but as I noted in another post, he's learning how to pitch by throwing mostly strikes, that's why he has so few walks so far.  He has two DOM starts to go with his two DIS starts, so the quality has been there, though not the consistency, and given how well we've been doing, I'm OK with dealing with his growing pains.

Lastly, Vogelsong has been working himself into a good set of mechanics, and reached it with his last start.  Under the starting rotation model, the fifth starter does not sink our chances, but is a huge upside wild card if he does well.  We will see what happens, but either way, he is not key to winning the division if the other pitchers are delivering their normal regular goodness.  What he is key for is running away with the division.

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