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.
Madison Bumgarner- (64% DOM, 9% DIS; 7:1/11): 4, 0, 3, 5, 5/5, 4, 2, 4, 3, 5/
Matt Cain- (0% DOM, 0% DIS; 0:0/0): DL//
Chris Heston - (60% DOM, 20% DIS; 6:2/10): 5, 5, 5, 3/5, 2, 5, 0, 1, 5/
Tim Hudson - (10% DOM, 10% DIS; 1:1/10): 3, 3, 3, 2/2, 3, 2, 3, 0, 4/
Tim Lincecum - (50% DOM, 20% DIS; 5:2/10): 4, 3, 4, 2/4, 5, 0, 4, 2, 0/
Jake Peavy - (0% DOM, 100% DIS; 0:2/2): 0, 0//
Yusmeiro Petit - (0% DOM, 0% DIS; 0:0/1): /3/
Ryan Vogelsong - (63% DOM, 38% DIS; 5:3/8): 0, 4, 0/4, 5, 1, 4, 5/
Giants Season overall - 46% DOM, 21% DIS out of 52 games counted (24:11/52)
Giants Month of April - 41% DOM, 23% DIS out of 22 games counted (9:5/22)
Giants Month of May - 50% DOM, 20% DIS out of 30 games counted (15:6/30)
The month of May for PQS was still worse than we have been used to from our starting pitchers for a long time now. This continues a string of poor months since September last season. At least there was some improvement over April.
Quite a number of DOM starts, with Vogelsong surprising (had 2 DIS out of 3 starts in April) by tying Bumgarner for the lead with 4 DOM, then Lincecum and Heston had 3 each.
Hudson only had one, but an encouraging one, as he had gone 9 starts without a DOM start. However, it was not all bad, as he didn't have a DIS start until his 9th start. He ended up with one of each, could be BABIP luck balancing out. He's been near a DOM start in many starts already, just missing out by a hit or a clean inning, so maybe what the beat said about him going through spring training now might be true, or maybe it is his age catching up. But he's been dragging the rotation stats down by not getting many (just the one) DOM starts, as everyone else are in the 50's and 60's, which is the standards set since 2009.
With Cain and Peavy progressing (though Cain is in an forward mode now, while Peavy is in a holding pattern as his back flared up again; how did the Giants medical/training staff not know about this before signing him to two years?), a starter or two might need to be removed for them, and the candidates are Heston because he has an option still, Vogelsong because he was suppose to be a long reliever, and Hudson, because he hasn't been very dominating, though at least the team is 5-5 in his starts, same as Lincecum, who has pitched better so far, overall.
Though, it is possible they could go with a 6-man rotation for 2-4 weeks or even indefinitely, to give their arms more rest, since everyone appears to be pitching well for the most part (Giants set San Francisco record with 8 shutouts in May, only 3 other MLB teams have done this since two teams did it in 1969; last Giants team to do that was in 1916, and I think they had 9 shutouts, but they also had something like 31 home games too, to help). I have noted for a while the benefits to the team in doing that in August, when there is only two days of rest in the month (and they could skip the 6th starter's spot when there is an off day in that rotation cycle, to keep everyone on schedule). There is also the old saying in baseball that these things tend to resolve themselves, and they could do the 6-man until a pitcher needs to be removed for whatever reason.
Leaders in DIS starts were Heston (who didn't have any in April) and Lincecum (he didn't have any either in April) with 2 DIS starts. Hudson and Vogelsong had one each. Bumgarner did not have one in May.
After the poor start to the season, the Giants turned it on in late April and continued that into May. The Giants are 27-13 since the end of the 8-game losing streak, and 21-9 during the month of May. The starting pitching boosting DOM to 50% for the month helped greatly with that. The Giants have been 21-4 in DOM starts this season.
Last last season, after a slow start, Bumgarner turned things around (he had 4 DOM in 6 starts, 67% DOM), but it was Vogelsong matching him with 4 DOM (80% DOM) that helped greatly too, the Giants were 9-2 in their starts, 5-0 in Vogelstrong starts. But Madison helped greatly by beating Kershaw in every Bridegroom matchup he had, as well, as we were 4.5 games back to start the month, and ended the month only 0.5 games back, and briefly took first place before losing the last two games in the month.
Those losses prevented the Giants from having 22 wins in a month since the 1954 Giants went 24-4 in June. Still, 21 wins in a month tied a San Francisco franchise high for a month in wins. The last time the Giants won 21 games in a month was in August 1968.
Given that we won so many games, it is surprising that there were a number of poor performances in the month that held us back some. But there was a lot of good. Vogelsong led the way with 1.14 ERA, 6.0 K/9, and 2.33 K/BB. Bumgarner had 2.61 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 4.38 K/BB. Lincecum had another good month, 2.83 ERA, 7.5 K/9 (he got his up from the poor numbers he put up last month) and 1.81 K/BB (Giants were 4-2 in his starts, only losing in his DIS starts).
However, Heston and Hudson didn't do that well. Heston had regression, with a 4.58 ERA, 7.4 K/9 and 3.22 K/BB. Still, the Giants were 5-1 in his starts. It helped that the Giants won his two DIS starts, usually they are almost always automatic losses. And those DIS hurt his ERA, as one can see, his other stats were good, as he had three 5-PQS starts in the month, a good performance (50% DOM). Hudson had a 5.11 ERA, showing the signs of his inability to regularly have a DOM start (only one all season long) and the only reason his ERA wasn't worse was because he had a lot of, what I call, MID starts (only one DIS start all season long too). And with a 4.1 K/9, he's not going to have a lot of DOM starts, but he's still maintaining a 2.13 K/BB, which is marginally good. The Giants were only 3-3 in his starts.
May 2015 Comments
And that is a continuing big worry for me, that Hudson has not been dominating and thus only has 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. Still yet to be seen. Still, shows the power of MID starts, the team was 2-2 in his April starts, 3-3 in his May starts.
Peavy and Cain, Pray for No Pain
Peavy and Cain have still been progressing in their injury recovery. Peavy was ahead, but in his second rehab start, had issues with his back again. This harkens to the report that his recovery was not one of getting to 100% health but one of getting to being able to start a game every 5 games. Baggarly reported that he’s battling back from an inflamed SI joint and other structural issues that are causing discomfort in his back and hip. He can stay on his rehab assignment until June 20th, though if he is re-injured, they can reset the clock on that.
Krukow noted in his morning show that Peavy seems able to start healthy, throwing 1, 2, 3 innings, but then starts losing it physically. So if this does not change any time soon, it looks like he might be changing roles with Vogelsong, at least in this season, with him taking over the long reliever role that Vogelsong was going to have. But first, he needs to get healthy enough to get back on the roster, and this raises the question I've been bringing up in recent years about the training/medical staff, why they didn't see this physical issue with signed free agents like Peavy, and why did we re-signed these players.
Cain is now ahead, because he's going to get to pitch in a rehab game soon, whereas Peavy is now on indefinite hold while they wait for his back to settle down, the Giants don't have a need for him with Vogelsong doing so well, so he's getting a long, basically second spring training. Same with Cain, too, I believe, but he's at least still moving forward, as he has not had any physical setbacks. His next assignment would be to pitch three innings against minor leaguers in extended spring at the club’s complex in Arizona, if he recovered OK from his Saturday 30-pitch throwing session. From there, Cain could be cleared to start a minor league rehab assignment.
While Heston has done a great job in taking Cain's rotation spot, Cain is a leader on the team, and players and coaches were excited to see Cain take another step towards returning to the majors by throwing 30 pitches in a simulated game last Saturday. I think that if and when Cain returns, the Giants will either send down Heston to AAA or perhaps finally go with the 6-man rotation idea that I've been suggesting for a number of seasons now.
It has been acknowledged, basically every championship, that having a shortened off-season leaves everyone less physically prepared for the next season, making repeating hard. Yet, despite that knowledge, when the team heads into the dog days of August, where the schedule only has two days of rest for the month - every year - the Giants (and other teams) still don't at least consider a 6-man rotation, at minimum to insert two extra days of rest in there by starting the 6th man in there to enable the rest of the rotation to pitch every 6th day.
The timing will be pretty good. Cain at best might return just before the All-Star Break, but more likely it will happen after the break. There is 6 games then a break, they could start the 6-man then, then insert Heston into the first week of August and third, in order to keep the rotation on regular or longer rest.
Dead Man Walking, Update
In addition, if Heston is not going down when Cain returns, then someone else will have to. At that point, one of Machi and Kontos will have to be DFAed. The only reason both have been on the 25-man has been because of the injuries allowing the Giants first to carry 13 pitchers, then with two SP out, only carry 5 starters. So one of them has been among the walking dead since the season started. And right now Machi would be that guy, Kontos has done too well not to be kept.
Peavy or 6-man
However, the only catch is the 25-man roster. The Giants can fit a 6-man rotation but not if Peavy is on the roster as a long reliever, alongside Petit. A 6-man rotation means a 6-man bullpen, which means Casilla, Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Kontos, and Petit, at this moment.
If Peavy is healthy and needs to be added to the roster, Heston will probably have to go down. His poorer performance in May (4.58 ERA) helps to justify the move, but Chris has certainly done enough, though, to have a strong hold on the rotation spot that will open up in 2016 since Hudson has all but announced his retirement after this season. In this case, the Giants could go with Petit as the 6-man starter, since in this scenario, we would have Peavy around as the long reliever.
PQS 10 Start Rotation Turns
Last year, I started analyzing PQS by rotation turns, instead of just monthly, to get to finer and different details regarding how the SP were doing. Since the 10 starts almost coincided with the month of May, I'm combining them together.
After 10 rotation turns (11 for Bumgarner), the starting rotation has been pretty strong, with the one really weak link. Bumgarner leads with 64% DOM/9% DIS, followed by Vogie with 63% DOM/38% DIS. Heston has been holding his own with 60% DOM/20% DIS, and Lincecum as well with 50% DOM/20% DIS.
That has led to good records for a number of starters in terms of the Giants winning when they start. Heston has the lead with 7-3, with Bumgarner at 7-4 (if we had won against Atlanta yesterday, Bumgarner would have the lead). With Vogelsong on the mound, the Giants were 6-2. Unfortunately for Lincecum, while he's been doing better sabermetrically and ERA, the team has only been 5-5 in his starts. It didn't help that the Giants lost in one of his DOM starts, else he would be at 6-4, just one win behind Madison. But luckily for Hudson, while he has not dominated enough, he has been able to keep things steady enough for the team to be 5-5 in his starts too.
Demonstrating the power of DOM starts, the Giants were 20-3 in DOM starts and the pitchers had a 1.11 ERA in those starts. In MID starts, the team is only 7-10 (about where they were last season) with a 4.94 ERA. And in DIS starts, the team is 3-8 with a 10.96 ERA.
And that shows that the mix matters, if you throw a DOM but the other pitcher has a better DOM, that hurts your chances to win, while if both have DIS starts, then, well, somebody has to win. Where the Giants PQS is better than the opponents, the Giants were 17-5, 1.92 ERA, where tied, they were 6-4, 4.32 ERA, but where they lost, and there were 4 DOM starts in this data set, they were 7-12, 6.24 ERA.
With Hudson almost never having a DOM start, there were no rotation turns where they had 4 DOM starts. They attained 3 DOM starts in five rotation turns, 2 DOM starts in three rotation turns, and 1 DOM start in two rotation turns. Still, despite that, they are at 46% DOM as a staff, which is still good, just not great like we've been getting from and expecting, from 2009 to 2014.
Bullpen Impact Due to Less DOM Starts
That lack of quality in starts took a toll on the bullpen, along with 30 games in 31 days of May. No starting pitcher averaged over 6.5 IP per start. Bumgarner and Vogelsong were at 6.33 IP average, Hudson 6.17, Heston 5.89, and Lincecum, he's usually petered out fast due to his wildness and extra pitches, 5.83. In spite of all this, the Giants’ had a streak of 39 consecutive at home IP without allowing a run – matching the all-time franchise record set by the 1948 club.
The bullpen was bifurcated too, between really good and really bad. Strickland came up on emergency, due to an unscheduled double-header, which allowed the teams to carry a 26th man that day, but stayed because there was a patch of games in tough offensive parks (Colorado and Milwaukee) with no days off, which resulted in the surprising DFA of Casey McGehee the next day.
And he might stay longer. So far, he has pitched in 5 games, 7.1 IP with 9.8 K/9 and 8 K's vs. 0 BB, for a sterling 0.00 ERA. So when the time comes to add back on a position player (probably McGehee once he finds his bat), it might be Machi who goes first. Then when Cain or Peavy is ready to return, then Strickland will finally go down. The way he's pitching, he's got a bullpen spot next season, and with Affeldt and Casilla being free agents, Strickland might replace one of them.
The rest of the bullpen had a busy May. There were a number of great performances. Lopez had a 1.23 ERA in 12 appearances, 7.1 IP, 9.8 K/9 and 2.67 K/BB. Kontos had a 2.31 ERA in 14 appearances, 11.2 IP, 6.9 K/9, 4.50 K/BB. Petit had an overall 2.50 ERA, 6 relief appearances and 1 start, 12.2 IP, 4.5 K/9, 4.50 K/BB (as reliever, 0.50 ERA, 12 IP, 6.8 K/9, 8.00 K/BB), Casilla 2.84 ERA in 14 appearances, 12.2 IP, 9.9 K/9, 2.33 K/BB.
However, three reliever had bad ERAs, though one was just unlucky. Romo was that guy, 4.50 ERA in 15 appearances and 10 IP, but 12.6 K/9 and 7.00 K/BB, both excellent. Machi's hold on a roster spot sagged further with a 8.56 ERA in May, in 12 appearances, 13.2 IP, 7.2 K/9 and a horrid 1.38 K/BB. Surprisingly, Affeldt continued to struggle this month, compiling a 8.64 ERA in 14 appearances, 8.1 IP, horrid 3.2 K/9 and 0.60 K/BB. At 37 next season, Affeldt will need to turn things around, and quick, if he hopes to get a new and good contract this off-season. It's like he's not using his knee brace or something.
Offense Carried the Month
Despite ups and downs, the pitching did really well overall in May, posting a 3.52 ERA and 3.60 runs allowed per game, with a nice 2.65 K/BB ratio, which is really good, as it would allow a low scoring team to win 90 games. But when it is combined with a really kicking offense, a team has a great month, like the Giants did by going 21-9 in the month.
The Giants hit .291/.348/.439/.787 during the month of May, averaging 4.93 runs per game. Credit has been given to Pence but he has actually hit poorly since rejoining the team, with a batting line of .254/.299/.429/.727, 2 HR in 63 AB (32 AB/HR). That does not drive a 4.93 runs scored offense.
It has been Belt, Posey, and Crawford who have been leading the way offensively, with Pence's return, perhaps, putting it on turbo-charge (though it helped that he returned in the middle of a stretch in big hitters parks).
Belt has been one of the offensive leaders since the end of the 8-game losing streak and he continued to be one in May, hitting .339/.405/.671/1.075, with 7 HR in 109 AB (most in the second half of May, as he was homerless for a long while). A .417 BABIP strongly suggests regression at some point, but he has sustained a .351 BABIP over a full season before, and a .400 BABIP over two months at the end of 2013, so he might not regress by too much.
Crawford has also been an offensive leader along with Belt since the 8-game losing streak and he continued to be one in May, hitting .340/.386/.528/.914, with 3 HR in 106 AB. His sky high .402 BABIP suggests strong regression at some point, but he only had a .255 BABIP in April and still hit .235/.350/.471/.821, which would still be great to have from the SS position. And if you are wondering how I could say he's been a leader since April, in the games in April after the losing streak, Crawford hit .345/.472/.690/1.162 with .400 BABIP over 10 games, which means he has a sustained .400 BABIP over roughly the last 6 weeks. Nobody sustains .400 BABIP over a season, but that don't diminishes Brandon's contributions over that period, he has been a leader.
Posey actually out hit Crawford in May, though slightly, hitting .323/.398/.521/.919, with 5 HR in 96 AB, only .310 BABIP (.324 career BABIP, .333 over prior 3 seasons, so he could get better!) and great 12 walks to only 7 K's. But I wanted to give credit to Belt and Crawford for being hot since the winning began. But Posey wasn't too far behind, after a poor 6 game stretch, since April 25th, Posey has hit .330/.400/.536/.936 and .323 BABIP (i.e. sustainable BABIP). The three of them have really led the way.
And Panik was not that far off from the three. He was merely OK to finish up April, while the other guys were hot. But basically from the start of May, he has been consistently hot, with only 3 games with no hits, and only one game with no hits or walks. Joe hit .314/.405/.505/.910 in the month of May, with 4 homers to boot, good for third on the team, behind Belt's 7 and Posey's 5, in 105 AB. He also had 14 BB vs. only 15 K's for the month too. His .337 BABIP may or may not be sustainable. After his poor start last season, once he got hot, he got super hit, with a .384 BABIP over the last two months of 2014. He had a .427 BABIP in August and .344 BABIP in September, then a .318 BABIP in April, to go with the .337 BABIP in May, so he might not regress much.
We're Giants Together
So the team had four hitters white-smoking hot for 4-6 weeks, so no wonder the team has averaged 4.55 runs scored since the winning began. But there were a lot of other good performances as well. Blanco hit .333/.383/.519/.902 in significant playing time, 60 PA. Aoki continued to hit well, especially exploding in Milwaukee (love his Wisconsin cheese?), hitting .314/.374/.419/.793, with an incredible 9 walks vs. only 3 K's, plus 2 homers (he only had one all last season). Duffy took over 3B with steady good hitting, .313/.353/.425/.778, with 2 HR in 80 AB, but .383 BABIP and 18 K's vs. only 3 walks, so this is not sustainable unless he can start not striking out so much.
The others did not hit so well. Pence in his return, early goodness, but only .254/.299/.429/.727, with 2 HR in 63 AB, in May. Pagan cooled off a lot, hitting .275/292/.333/.626, and getting dropped to 7th in the lineup. Of course, we all know about McGehee, he only hit .235/.291/.294/.585, with 1 HR in 51 AB, .225 BABIP and 10 K's, both bad for him. Susac only hit .179/.324/.214/.538 with 10 K's in 28 AB. Maxwell cooled off a lot, .226/.269/.258/.527 with 17 K's in 62 AB, and no homers. And Arias was virtually useless, hitting .063/.063/.063/.125 in 16 AB. McGehee might return simply to replace Arias, this is his second straight season of uselessness, and McGehee has played 1B, 2B, as well as 3B, in his career.
Still, with a 4.93 RS during May, obviously, these other hitters' poor performances did not get in the way of the offense all that much. And with a 3.60 RA, they won a lot of games, going 21-9 (Pythag says 19 wins, but going 4-2 in one run games helped get us to 21 wins). Together, they were Giants in May, lead mostly by the offense, but the pitching contributed significantly as well, both starters and particularly the bullpen, eating up so many innings as they did, they really needed Strickland in there to suck up innings. Hopefully they can keep this up into June, but start the month off with halted momentum, losing two straight to the Braves to end the month, especially with the closer blowing a win far away, giving up 4 runs, and not in a pretty way.
Pitching, Pitching, Pitching
The lineup is looking pretty good, with five farm products starting in the infield, and Susac on the bench. Our pitching, however, is getting older and less productive, and need an injection of youth for the next generation. Heston and Strickland are the first to have landed, and look likely to stick at some point.
There appears to be a mass ready to come up and be the next generation bullpen. As noted, Strickland leads the pack, and he's on the older side, but only 26 YO this season. He has a 1.66 ERA and 10.4 K/9 and 8.33 K/BB. Other relievers doing well and looking good include RHP Broadway (AAA, 28 YO) with 1.16 ERA, 14.3 K/9 and 6.17 K/BB, LHP Osich (AA, 26 YO) with 1.64 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 3.17 K/BB, LHP Okert (AAA, 23 YO) with 3.57 ERA, 11.1 K/9 and 2.80 K/BB, Slania (A+, 23 YO) with 1.90 ERA, 12.5 K/9, and 5.50 K/BB, Hall (AAA, 27 YO) with 3.86 ERA, 7.0 K/9, 2.22 K/BB. In addition, Derek Law, who did so well in 2013 and looked prime to join the bullpen in 2014 spring training before he needed TJS, should be back soon from his rehab, and Ray Black, who did so well last season, but has been shut down most of this season for a strained lat muscle injury (once again), is still a possibility as well. In three appearances since returning a couple of weeks ago, he has pitched in 3 games, 3 IP, 1 hit and 5 strikeouts, and he's been hitting triple digits again on the radar guns.
Not as many interesting starters, nor as many who look ready to move up to the majors soonish, but there are a few. Beede (A+, 22 YO) leads the way, he has a 2.24 ERA, though only 6.1 K/9 but great 4.11 K/BB. Mela (A+, 21 YO) has 3.05 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and good 3.27 K/BB. Both look like they will eventually be major league starters. Coonrod (A, 22 YO) has a 3.24 ERA, 9.7 K/9 and great 4.09 ERA, but has a long way still to reach majors, this is a good start, but there is so much more obstacles to get over.
We are going to need 2-3 pitchers to do well and accompany Bumgarner into this next generation, and Heston looks like he can at least help with the transition if not be part of it. Tyler Beede looks like another. I've been hoping that Cain and/or Lincecum could be another. Then the team can supplement with a free agent or traded pitcher that they like, much like how they got Hudson, and Peavy.
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 in April. He stumbled some in his first three starts in May. But in his last two, he did well, particularly in his last start, which could be a breakthrough in learning (or just luck), we will have to wait and see.
In his last start, he went 7.0 IP, but still only 86 pitches, 72 game score, which is very good, giving up only 4 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 11. And according to Joe Rizzo, Beede did not change his repertoire much, which means that he has not been freed to use his full set of pitches yet, and so maybe he took a step up with his training in this start. This start reminded me of the dominance that Lincecum had in SJ in his brief stay in the minors. If Beede is still not using his full complement of pitches, this start speaks well of when the Giants take his training wheels off. I would say that he still appears to be on track for being able to make the majors at some point of this season. Even if they don't need him to start, they could use him in relief in September, or perhaps have him start one start to rest someone or some other strategic move.