Tuesday, May 05, 2015

2015 Giants: April PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of April 2015, 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 (wow, 10th year of this!) 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 2015 Season

Madison Bumgarner- (60% DOM, 20% DIS; 3:1/5):  4, 0, 3, 5, 5/

Matt Cain- (0% DOM, 0% DIS; 0:0/0):  DL/

Chris Heston - (75% DOM, 0% DIS; 3:0/4):  5, 5, 5, 3/

Tim Hudson - (0% DOM, 0% DIS; 0:0/4):  3, 3, 3, 2/

Tim Lincecum - (50% DOM, 0% DIS; 2:0/4):  4, 3, 4, 2/

Jake Peavy - (0% DOM, 100% DIS; 0:2/2):  0, 0/

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

Ryan Vogelsong - (33% DOM, 67% DIS; 1:2/3):  0, 4, 0/

Giants Season overall - 41% DOM, 23% DIS out of 22 games counted (9:5/22)
Giants Month of April - 41% DOM, 23% DIS out of 22 games counted (9:5/22)

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.   Unfortunately, as well, this is the second season in a row.  This is as bad as we had in April and September last season, as bad as July and August in 2013, as bad as August in 2012, and there was no month that bad in 2011.  Just like last season, there were a lot of surprises.

Heston was the leader in DOM starts with 3, tied with Bumgarner.  Lincecum had 2 DOM and Vogelsong had 1 DOM.  Hudson and Peavy were both at 0 DOM starts.

But that's where the simularities end, as Peavy led the staff with 2 DIS starts (out of 2, unfortunately), tied with Vogelsong (out of 3, unfortunately).  Hudson, as well as Heston and Lincecum, had 0 DIS starts.  Only Bumgarner had the other DIS start.

Again, with Bumgarner as ace, he got off to a slow start.  First three starts, no totally dominating start, basically one of each type, DOM, DIS, MID.  But unlike last season, he righted himself by mid-month and has a streak of 5 PQS starts.  Particularly, he beat the Dodgers twice, out-dueling Kershaw twice.

Being at .500, there were a lot of losses to spread around, as well as wins.  And that is reflected in the SP ERA of 4.50 overall.  Most of the pitchers were good, though.  Heston led the staff with 2.77 ERA.  Lincecum was second with 3.27, for all the complaints I read about him.  Bumgarner was actually third with 3.73 ERA.  Hudson fourth with 3.91 ERA.  Collectively, a 3.44 ERA, which is pretty good.

However, Peavy and Vogelsong have REALLY stunk so far.  9.39 ERA for Peavy, 9.88 ERA for Vogie.  Oddly enough, they led in K/9 with 8.2 and 7.9, respectively.  However their K/BB were both at or under
2.0, whereas Bumgarner had 5.20, Heston 3.33 were above.

Both Hudson and Lincecum were also under 2.0, but pitched their way out of trouble often.  It is almost like the Giants wanted Hudson so that he could pass on his secrets to Lincecum, as both are sub-6 footers who lost their early career velocity, and had to learn how to pitch to win.  And while Lincecum has struggled the past few seasons, Hudson rarely had any problems in his transition.

So as one can see, there has really only been one problem in the starting rotation, and that's the Peavy/Vogelsong slot.  The other four has been OK to great so far.  And thus a large part of the problem for the team has been the offense not really showing up for that 8 game losing streak.

April 2015 Comments

Not that things shouldn't be better for the staff.  A big worry for me is that Hudson don't have even one DOM start so far.  Even Zito threw a DOM start pretty regularly, above 40%, which is the minimum level I see for a good starting pitcher.  So is it the beginning of the end for him, or just a slow start due to his abbreviated spring training due to his need for ankle spur surgery just before spring training started.  Yet to be seen.  Still, shows the power of MID starts, the team was 2-2 in his April starts.

But while that is what I would expect in MID starts, the offense has been lackluster, as we all have seen.  The team was 3-6 in MID starts.  I have no baseline for them, but generally, I feel that .500 is fair to expect from MID starts, so perhaps BABIP gods were not smiling on these starts, or more likely, the offense wasn't doing that well.

And the offense wasn't, averaging only 3.0 RS per game in April.  This offense should have been closer to 4.0 than 3.0, based on projections.  A major culprit that everyone has keyed on is McGehee.  Comparing his batting line with this projections, we lost 0.25 RS production from him, roughly.  Another person people key on is Belt.  Doing the same comparison, we lost 0.2 RS because of his under performance.

I would note in defense of both though, that they were battling an injury during the month and while they are absolved of all blame, they did perform poorly, after all, I would expect both to be better once they fully recover.  I would say in Belt's case, after sitting for almost a week, he basically started spring training once he returned to the lineup.   After struggling for about a week after his return, he started hitting again.  Then lately, the extra-base hits started coming back too, though one at a time.  I think he should have a breakthrough game sometime soon, where he has multiple extra-base hits, including getting homers again.   And really, I don't really blame the 7th place hitter (where he would be if Pence was around, maybe even 8th, if Bochy finally moves Crawford up higher) for when the offense is not working.

No, the blame I would place would be on our clean-up hitter, Buster Posey.  He was also a culprit, costing us 0.2 RS because of his poor performance.  He only batted .263/.333/.388/.721 with 125 ISO in April.  That is not as bad as what Belt or McGehee hit, but when you are our 4th place hitter, the impact is much larger on our offense and thus the responsibility greater.  Those two at least had injuries they had to get over.  Posey had no excuse, he wasn't injured, he's gotten a lot of starts at 1B, it's spring, so he should still have a lot of stamina, and there was only 22 official games played, and yet he didn't do much so far.  And this is a pattern for him since 2012, his OPS has been going down each April.  So if you are going to complain about McGehee and Belt, and talk about replacing them, then you need to also throw Golden Boy on the fire as well, and poke him a few times as well.

And the funny thing, though sad for us, is that Aoki has been everything we would want from a leadoff hitter.  .392 OBP is great and should have led to him scoring more than 10 runs in the month.  He also had 6 SB to boot, and 75% SB%, which is OK, better considering how poorly people were hitting behind him.  He has a .303/.392/.371/.763 batting line, plus 12 BB vs. 11 K in 89 AB (88% contact rate), plus he has gotten good reviews on his defense so far in LF.

On top of that Pagan did not sulk having to hit 3rd, as some thought he might.  He has hit a robust .341/.372/.432/.804 in April, plus 2 SB (0 CS!).  He scored only 7 runs, not that great given the opportunities his high OBP should have provided.  This only underscores the difficulties the lineup suffered while the next three hitters - usually Posey, Belt, McGehee - severely under performed.

It didn't help either that Panik, for whatever reasons, was not ready with his first opening day in the majors.  He ended the month with an OK .280/.325/.373/.699 batting line, but in our first 10 games of the season (he started in 9), he only batted .176/.256/.235/.492.   He broke out in a big way with a 3-hit game, and has mostly been hitting since, with only short interludes of non-hitting.  That was roughly at the end of our bad losing streak, and thus his sharper hitting coincided with us starting to win again.

The other hitting stars for the month of April was Crawford, and to lesser degrees, Maxwell and Susac.  Brandon led all starters with a .235/.350/.471/.821 batting line, including 4 HR in 68 AB (17 AB/HR or about 25 HR seasonal pace; he led the team in HR).  He led the team with 11 RBI while batting out of the 8th position for the most part.  And by hitting LHP hard again.  He is striking out at a high rate still, but walking a lot while hitting the pitchers well when making contact.  And his BABIP was only .255, while his career BABIP is .290, and thus his BA should bounce higher eventually.  And he tied for team lead in extra-base hits with 7 (tied with Pagan, Panik and Maxwell third with 6, Aoki and Blanco fifth with 5, and Posey seventh with only 4 (and tied with McGehee).

Maxwell earned a regular spot by hitting .255/.333/.510/.843 with 3 HR in 51 AB (17 AB/HR), and the 6 XBH.  Also was third with 9 RBI despite playing part-time.  It is nice to see a childhood Giants fan do well for the Orange and Black.

Susac was a childhood Giants fan too, and he seems to want to stay up here permanently, the way he's hitting.  Now that Baggerly reported that Sanchez still has an option, I would be OK with keeping Susac up and Sanchez down, only because Sanchez needs time to figure out his bat (or maybe the concussions took their toll, we don't know).  Still, I rather Susac stay in the minors so that he can develop further as a starting catcher and be the transitional catcher while Posey decides how much he wants to catch (plus train his replacement).

The bullpen has actually done well too overall.  Everyone has an ERA below 3.00, and some way below, leading to an over bullpen ERA of under 3.00, except for Petit and Vogelsong.  Petit had a 5.25 ERA in 8 appearances, striking out only 7.5 K/9 plus only a 2.00 K/BB ratio, both not so bad, he's walking too many, giving up a few too many hits, and one too many homers, small samples will do all that against a reliever who don't see much action normally.  Vogelsong had a 7.94 ERA and it could have been worse, as he had given up 14 hits and 5 walks in only 5.2 IP, for a 3.35 WHIP, about 3 times what a good pitcher would have.  He was actually lucky.

So at this point, it seems pretty simple on how to improve the Giants substantially:  find someone better than Vogelsong to start and to relieve.  You take out his poor performances and our pitching staff has actually been pretty good.  The staff had a very ordinary 3.96 ERA in April.  Take out Vogelsong, and the rest of the staff, including Peavy's poor performance, was 3.39.

And even with Vogie, we have been much better lately.  In the past two weeks, covering 11 games, we were 8-3, averaging only 3.45 RS per game, but only ERA of 3.18.  So it seems like it would be fine to hobble along with Vogelsong until Peavy (seems like he's closest to coming back, already throwing off mound, Cain has only advanced to throwing 90 feet, he's still days away from trying it from the mound) returns.

But the way Baggarly is painting things, seems like Peavy will have to deal with this back discomfort all season, so perhaps that is why the Giants reportedly are talking with the Mets again (they were rumored to be in on Dillon Gee during the off-season).   I would rather let Petit pitch until either Peavy or Cain is ready, rather than trade for someone and lose some more prospects, unless the Giants don't expect either to be ready anytime this season.  Even then, I would rather let Correia take a shot for a few starts, and then Petit, then perhaps see who among Blach, Beede, and Crick might be ready to staunch the bleeding at that point.  Trades this early in the season tend to be overpays, and then you might not even need the guy if the injured guys return soon after.

And, as I noted in my prospect post, I expect Beede to show enough progress this season to warrant a call-up at some point.   Barr noted when he was drafted that the Giants expect him to move fast.  And while his numbers in his early starts were so-so, that appears to be related to him getting used to a different repertoire of pitches to use, and his more recent starts have been better.  And in any case, even while figuring things out, his game score was still good, he threw quality starts in spite of his adjustments and learning new pitches.  Maybe he's ready by mid-season.


  1. Check out the new DRA stat from BP.

    Deserved Run Average replaces DIP, FRA, FRAA,
    and seems to take EVERYTHING into account as the truest available measure of pitching performance.

    1. Cool, thanks, I'll be sure to check it out, I greatly appreciate your recommendation!

    2. For those interested, here are the BP article links (one general, one "gory math":


      Also, discussions in the ether:


      Well, there are a lot of "DRA and how that applies to my favorite team" :^) So one could search on that. Maybe I'll do one.

      Here is the sortable data for 2014: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/sortable/index.php?cid=1828206

      Unfortunately, a favorite Giant tops the list with highest DRA...

    3. As an immediate reaction, it just seems like the next iteration of the evolution of sabermetrics since DIPS hit the fan. I haven't read both articles yet, but read a blog's simplification of what it does: http://www.letsgotribe.com/2015/4/29/8515113/baseball-prospectus-new-deserved-run-average-stat-and-how-it-rates

      Oh, I used the link in there to access BP's data (usually subscriber only) and got today's data: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/sortable/index.php?cid=1825343

      Not surprising, but no Giants pitcher is on there, as some are doing well in spite of peripherals, like Lincecum, others doing well with average peripherals, like Heston, and some had a rough patch, like Bumgarner.

      Ooo, apparently, I can scroll down the list, I just can't resort it. George Kontos is first Giants name I see, at 113. Lincecum 128th, Bumgarner 134th, Romo 142nd, Hudson 171st, Machi 185th, Affeldt 234th, and those are the only guys among top 270. Would have thought Heston would have been among the top half, but I guess this advanced stat don't like what he's been doing.

      Most interesting things are that Kontos leads the club, which bodes well for him sticking around, which I've been hoping for, over Machi. And with the way the injuries have been working, that decision is not anytime soon to be made. Plus with Machi's too frequent blowups so far this season, Kontos seems a gimme for staying on the team. As Krukow noted in an interview, I think morning show, Kontos is no longer just the thrower he was in 2012, he's now a pitcher. Add to that, he's younger than Machi (

      Oh, and here's a podcast discussion: http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/podcast-boring-boxing-nba-round-2-why-the-world-needs-a-new-baseball-stat/

      And an interesting take by Rob Neyer: http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/just-a-bit-outside/baseball-joe/blog/jason-schmidt-s-favorite-new-statistic-042915

      If I get the chance, I'll run through the 2014 numbers and see what it says.

    4. OK, that's me, get me down another thread and I forget where I started from.

      As people here should know, I'm not the biggest fan of DIPS. Not that I don't believe in it, I do believe that it is true for the vast majority of baseball pitchers, but that the exceptions for that theory are the types of pitchers a team would want on their team, guys who are better than what DIPS says that they should be doing. Like Matt Cain, or even Barry Zito.

      And this is timely, as I was literally last night thinking of a title for a post I want to write about: what do you think of this title, "Don't be a DIPS stick, Focus on the Pitchers Quick" or something like that (sounded better last night while falling asleep... :^).

      Basically, I find fault with saber analysis of pitching. Pitching has been denigrated by sabermetrics, especially after DIPS made fielding a major factor in the pitcher's performance. Analysis focuses either on seasonal data or atomize it down to the pitch or PA. Even Bill James credits, via Win Share, half to hitters, half to defense, with pitching, if I remember right, 80% of that half (or was it 90%). Either way, pitching is viewed as not as important as hitting in baseball. And DIPS just made it that much worse (I realized just how badly now, my most immediate thought was the .300 BABIP implies 70% fielding, but really, I have no feel for the true ratio of walks vs. strikeouts vs. BIP outs).

    5. As regular readers know, I like the PQS methodology of categorizing the starts of pitchers. Any baseball fan can tell you that a pitcher's performance on any day is influenced by what he got that day, sometimes he has it, and sometimes he don't. And that changes from start to start, so pitch and PA analysis is fine for some analysis, but not for how he does on a bigger scale.

      On the other hand, we know how seasonal stats can be hugely influenced for pitchers on how poorly they do on the days that they don't have it, and by how his manager handles him that day. Perhaps one day, the manager take you out quickly, like Bochy did with Hudson in Game 7, and the hit to your ERA is minimal. Hudson's ERA went from 3.72 to 4.29. It would have been worse if he was left in like Heston was yesterday, to give up 5 runs in 5 innings (his ERA went from 2.51 to 3.38).

      PQS modulates the highs and lows, a complete game no-hitter is no different from a really nice 6 IP, 6 hits, 3 walks, 4 K's, one HR start, and a disaster start where you give up 10 runs through a lot of hits and walks and homers is no different from giving up 2 runs in 1.2 IP.

      As I've tried to show here, via my business plan and PQS analysis is that pitching is really like the QB or point guard of baseball. We saw the truth of that early in baseball, with Cy Young and particularly Christy Mathewson, almost single-handedly winning the 1905 World Series for us.

      I've also shown how, if DOM starts almost guarantees you wins in the playoffs (as close as you can get in baseball, at least), then a team should build a rotation of high DOM% starters to maximize their chances in the playoffs.

      And that aligns with the findings of two major saber sites, BP and FG, that to win in the playoffs, you need good pitching and fielding, and that offensive prowess, no matter how good, does not have a significant influence in which teams are successful in the playoffs.

      And I see it in the language of the news reporting. It is the hitters getting the hits, not the pitcher making a mistake (except when it is obvious). And a recent study found that hitters have greater influence in any particular PA. Quality starts are acknowledged, but never discussed as a skill.

      But as I've shown with my PQS studies, throwing DOM starts is not a random thing over a season. Very good pitchers have 50-70% DOM, elite 70%+, and they can repeat this most seasons. So most pitchers don't have a lot of control over a game, and thus hitters look good against them, but the best pitchers controls games, it is a skill they have, a very valuable talent.

      And I know this looks stupid "duh" type of statements to be made, but the issue as I see it is that people recognize the truth of these statements, but don't realize the power or implications for what it means in the playoffs.

      And really, if there has been any focus my blog has had over the years is how does one design a team to be successful in the playoffs. The answers are age-old but most research I see relates to new and arcane ways of determining who are the best players. And wins are denigrated, but ultimately, that is what we want, hence why we have WinShares and WAR. They imagine a standard perfect world and drop a pebble into it to see what should happen, but real life is messier than that and I don't think the majority of sabers understand that.

    6. Oh, Heston was 348th out of 476.

      And about Machi vs. Kontos, he is only 30 YO, while Machi is 33 and in the danger zone for players in their 30's, there is a massive drop off in players still playing well enough starting at age 33 (Baseball Forecaster's reliability analysis found that reliability peaks around age 30-32, and falls from there, for pitchers).

    7. I've started reading the DRA study, haven't finished yet, but this is part of the reason I don't really pay any attention to BP in recent years (besides the fact that they publicly asked that Sabean be fired in their 2010 Annual, right before the Giants won three of the next five championships and they have not had the balls yet - or humility - to publicly apologize for that), they create all these black box formulas and basically demands that all bow in fealty to their methodologies and tools.

      I used to buy all their books but never really understood what the metrics meant nor how to use them to view baseball in a more critical way to better understand what is happening. I credit my saber-training to Baseball Forecaster, which I still buy every year, even though it is devoted more to fantasy baseball and most of the content there is just repeated from prior editions, because of the research that they publish in there is usually interesting and it is still interesting to reach the player profiles and projections for the Giants players.

      Here's one big reason why DRA just falls flat for me. My stance is that you can win a lot of games by having a staff of good pitchers keeping the run environment low in your team's games so that you can win games with a poorer offense. The Giants from 2009 to 2013 were roughly in the Top 5 or so in the majors in RA during that period, fueling their success. In 2012, they were 8th in the majors in RA per game, and yet among their starting pitchers, here are their rankings per DRA: Cain 17th; Bumgarner 44th; Vogelsong 67th; Zito 87th; Lincecum 92nd out of 99 qualified MLB starting pitchers. Meaning, basically, that we had a slightly above average rotation, according to DRA, in 2012, with one ace (top 30), one #2 (top 31-60), two #3 (top 61-90), one #4 starter (top 91-120). We don't win in 2012 without our starting pitching, so I don't see how they can justify this ranking.



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