Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Giants: April PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of April 2017, 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, 12th 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 2017 Season

Ty Blach - (0% DOM, 0% DIS; 0:0/2):  3,3/

Madison Bumgarner- (100% DOM, 0% DIS; 4:0/4):  5, 4, 5, 4/

Matt Cain- (40% DOM, 20% DIS; 2:1/5):  0, 4, 3, 4, 3/

Johnny Cueto - (60% DOM, 20% DIS; 3:1/5):  2, 5, 5, 0, 4/

Matt Moore - (40% DOM, 40% DIS; 2:2/5):  1, 4, 2, 0, 5/

Jeff Samardzija - (60% DOM, 0% DIS; 3:0/5):  2, 4, 4, 3, 5/

Giants Season overall - 54% DOM, 15% DIS out of 26 games counted (14:4/26)
Giants Month of April - 54% DOM, 15% DIS out of 26 games counted (14;4/26)

The month of April for PQS was actually OK, much unlike the results for the month.  9-17 is not what you should expect when you have such a DOM/DIS combination.   It's not great, but it is good.  And, unlike the past few seasons, Bumgarner actually had a great start to the season, he did not struggle in any way, piling up four DOM starts, averaging 4.5 PQS, which is great, until he flipped his bike and his season in a tumble.  Blach is no Bumgarner, but at least he hasn't been a bad starter, at least in April.

The surprising thing is that Cueto and Samardzija both had 3 DOM starts out of 5, and yet both had horrendous ERA's, 5.10 and 6.32 respectively.  And Moore and Cain both had 2 DOM starts, which is good, not great, but OK to have in the #3 and #5 starting spots.  It should have been a good month.

Even in terms of DIS, things were good.  Moore had 2, and Cain and Cueto each had 1.  Bumgarner and Samardzija both had none.  Neither did Blach.

Yet there it is, a horrible month, ending with a 9-17 record overall.  If you look at the key metrics, things look mostly good too.  Bumgarner had a 9.3 K/9 and 7.00 K/W, both excellent.  Samardzija was great too, 10.1 K/9 and 3.50 K/W.  Moore was next with 7.5 K/9 and 2.78 K/W, which are good.  Cueto and Cain were both about the same, both with 7.2 K/9 and Cain with the slightly better 2.44 K/W vs. Cueto's 2.40 K/W, both good.  Cueto was uncharacteristically wild, at least for him.

April 2017 Comments

Nothing much to say, really, about April, it's already mid-May, so I'll talk mostly about things as it is now.  It was a crappy April, one of the worse in decades.  However, the starting pitching, in terms of PQS, while not stellar, wasn't crappy either, certainly not as crappy as the results were.   And the results were mediocre then got worse, the starter's ERA in April was 4.17 and is now currently 4.70, after the Great American blowouts in May.

The silver lining is that while the results were bad, the metrics weren't bad.  Their PQS in April were good, though we will be without Bumgarner buoying the stats, potentially until August according to latest reports, and we have no idea how good Blach will be, other than that he won't be anywhere as good as Bumgarner.

One good sign is that, without Bumgarner in April, the Giants had 10:4/22 or 48% DOM and 18% DIS, which is still good, just not up to the Giants standards of recent years.  And so far in May, 62% DOM/23% DIS, which is good, period.  Altogether, that's 51% DOM/20% DIS, not the best we have been at but not that shabby either, as a team, a starting rotation.  The team should be able to win with that type of pitching going forward, assuming it can continue pitching that well.  The question is whether they can win enough to get back into any playoff race.

Another silver lining is that wild ups and downs have been common in the NL Est for a number of years now.  Teams pull far ahead of other teams in the division, then sometime in May/June, the worm turns and the leader falls back to the pack, while the bottom dwellers rise.   And with the new Wild Card system in place, the Giants at the moment are only 6.5 games behind the Brewers, who would hold the second WC spot if the season ended right now.  With over 4 months and over 120 games to play, anything can really happen  there still.

How Bleak and Far Away the Playoffs Are:  The Object Is Not That Close

3 game win streak or not, at 15-24 right now, that's a big hill to climb just to reach .500.  I think the goal should just be to reach .500 by the All-Star Game break, which is roughly 8 weeks from now.   Like Dusty Baker's rule about trying to gain a game in the standings every week, instead switch it around to roughly gaining a game on .500 every week, and get to .500 at the ASG.  At that point, 90 games would have been played, which would mean that they need to go 30-21, which is a .588 pace, which is very high (95 win pace), but potentially doable if the pitching starts to come through, both starting and relief, and the hitting returns to career standards.

And at some point, that has to happen, anyway, if they hope to make the playoffs.  Historically, teams needed to win roughly 88-90 games to make the Wild Card, so lets say 89 wins.  If they can reach .500 by ASG, then in the 72 games after that, they need to go 44-28, a .611 pace, which is roughly a 99 win season.   Oy, not that easy, it just gets near impossible when you need to get to 100 wins.

So that shows how well the team has to play the rest of the season in order just to make the wild card.   That will be very hard, needing to win .602 of the games remaining, which is a 97 game pace overall.  Basically we need both Moore and Samardzija to pitch near to what their best seasons were in their career, while Cueto continues to dominate, and Bumgarner to not only return sometime before the trade deadline, but to be Bumgarner-esque from the get-go, not a sure proposition, given how he had slow starts in prior recent seasons out of spring training.

Meanwhile, we need Cain and Blach to pitch well enough not to need to be replaced, at minimum, few disaster starts.  To now, Cain at 29%DOM/29%DIS, Blach 25%/25%; both need to have less DIS starts, but not a lot less, get it under 20%, and ideally, dominant starts that gets them into the 40%+ range.   It is still early right now, so, for example, a DOM start in their next start would actually put them roughly right in range, and then they need to maintain that.  For both, it is a big question, Cain because he had a good winter and spring, with no physical setbacks, unlike other seasons, and still struggling to pitch well consistently, and Blach, of course, is just a rookie, and at that, one who does not profile as a strong strikeout candidate, which is what you kind of need to be in order to generate 4 and 5 PQS starts consistently.  .

The Old Song:  Put One Foot in Front of the Other

None of this is out of the question, based on past performances, but it does ask them all to perform at their best in 2017, which is not as likely when you need that from most of the people in the rotation.   So things are bleak in that sense, and you can see it in the comments of Giants fans.

But the Giants have been in bad shape before, early on, even during the Sabean era, and still were able to battle back and get into contention.   As noted, some NL West teams will stop performing beyond expectations and fall back to Earth.

I'm thinking Colorado here specifically; amazingly, Rockies with Senzatella starting are 7-1 with his 5.3 K/9 and 2.07 K/W, which attests to the fact that PQS has him at 75% DOM/13% DIS, so that would be a good reason why, but few pitchers can maintain a 5.3 K/9 and 2.07 K/W with a 75% DOM over a full season.  If he were at .500 instead, they would be 21-18, now 1.5 games behind LA, and tied with the D-backs for a wild card position.  Still 6.0 games ahead of the Giants for that wild card spot, though, showing the mountain of a valley that the Giants need to climb out of.

And I find it hard to believe that the D-backs lineup can maintain an .800 OPS (basically) for the rest of the season, they have good players, but good on a teamwide basis across all the players?  I think that they are overperforming as well, and due for some backslide in the standings, back to us.  Still, hard to get into the playoffs with so many teams ahead of you, the focus has to be on passing the team ahead of us, until you do and then focus on the next team ahead of you.

Offense Needs to Pick It Up Big Time

And the main problem, taking a skim across the stats, clearly is the offense.  The team is getting underperformance from almost the entire lineup, except for Posey and Span, and Span was pretty bad before his DL stint, and even with a good stat line, his main function is getting on base, and he's been pretty terrible there.  And I would lay a lot of the blame on the guys who have been leading off, which collectively have a .263 OBP there, when we need at least .330 OBP.  On top of that, the 5th hitter hasn't been doing anything either, .262 OBP, but just as importantly, only .395 SLG, one would hope for more SLG there than that.

Of course, the poor hitting in 6, 7, 8 don't help either, but they aren't the guys expected to support the offense.  I would say that the poor performance up top has hurt the offense more than the underperformance at the bottom of the lineup.  Leadoff and 5th are probably two of the top four spots in terms of importance, with 2nd and Cleanup being the other two, with the former key for runs scoring, the the latter key for driving in runs.  With neither doing well, that hurts the offense.

And, of course, we could use a Gregor Blanco type right now, but so far nobody is standing up for it.  With Pence going on the DL, perhaps someone in the minors can give the offense a boost.  Williamson and Slater are doing OK, but neither are making the decision hard on the Giants.  Williamson ended up getting the call, which was the easy call, as he's already on the 40-man roster, and we lost Blackburn already because we are at the max with no easy cuts or send downs.

However, Chris Shaw, on the other hand, is pushing the envelope, and he could be the guy who gets the call soon to come up and see if he can hold onto the starting LF position, as he has been starting there in the past week of starts, and was a starting RF in college.  Nobody has held the LF starting position yet, so we'll see if Williamson can be the one, but if not, Shaw will probably get a chance in early June.  The Giants sometimes do that with some hitters, playing them at 1B so that they can focus on their hitting and not worry as much about their defense.

Still, overall, it's Panik, Crawford, Pence who have really hurt the offense, and I would throw Arroyo in there also, only because Bochy has batted him in key hitting spots so far, not in the bottom of the lineup where he probably belonged.  Though I would note that he mostly has been hitting well enough, if you excuse the early games due to jitters or whatever, and only recently hit a bit of a slump in the past 3 games, so it could just be a speed bump, and not a serious problem, we'll have to see how he handles things going forward.

And perhaps Bochy will keep Panik in the #2 spot, where he is used to hitting in previous seasons, but this season, Belt has seen most of his time there instead.   Personally, I would hit Belt 5th since he is at least hitting, and Crawford 3rd, since he's still trying to find his batting stroke, as that would maximize the run production based on current performance.   And if he really likes Arroyo that much, bat him third, where the ups and downs of a rookie hitter won't affect the offense as much, and bat Belt and Crawford, 5th and 6th.

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