Thursday, June 20, 2013

2013 Giants: May PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of May 2013, 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- (82% DOM, 9% DIS; 9:1/11):  5, 3, 5, 5, 5, 4; 4, 5, 0, 5, 4

Matt Cain- (45% DOM, 9% DIS; 5:1/11):  5, 0, 4, 3, 5, 3; 3, 5, 3, 5, 3

Mike Kickham - (0% DOM, 100% DIS; 0:1/1):  0

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (60% DOM, 0% DIS; 6:1/11):  3, 4, 2, 5, 5; 3, 4, 5, 3, 5, 0

Ryan Vogelsong - (22% DOM, 33% DIS; 2:3/9):  3, 4, 5, 3, 2; 0, 0, 0, 3

Barry Zito - (36% DOM, 36% DIS; 4:4/11):  3, 4, 0, 4, 0; 1, 4, 1, 3, 3, 4

Giants season overall - 48% DOM, 20% DIS out of 27 games counted (26:11/54)
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)

The Giants rotation had one of their worse months ever.  I would have to check, but this could be the worse since they started winning consistently in 2009, but my memory hasn't been the best since I took a header off my concrete driveway.  There are a number of worry areas that will need to improve on, going forward.

While 41% DOM is actually good for a pitcher, and thus means that the rotation as a whole pitched like a good pitcher, the Giants rotation has been a great starting unit for a long time now and thus May's results is disappointing and a sharp downturn in production.  On top of that, not only were there a lot less DOM starts, there were a lot more DIS starts as well.  It is not good when DIS is near DOM.   Basically all their DOM starts they normally have turned into DIS starts, which makes the sharp reversal all the worse for the rotation's results.
The dominant pitcher again was Bumgarner (4 DOM).  This time he is joined by Lincecum as the only starters with at least 3 DOM starts, which I know is surprising to most people because Lincecum's numbers is not good at all.  That's because he's still being plagued by bad pitches in key situations, something that affected him greatly the first half of 2012, though he's better this season.  Both Cain and Zito had 2 DOM.

Most disastrous, the Giants had a lot of disaster starts.  As I've noted before, DIS starts are the ones that really give a pitcher a bad ERA.  Vogelsong led the way with 3 DIS starts, Zito once more had 2 DIS, and Bumgarner, Lincecum, and Kickham in his first MLB start had 1 DIS.  They had a total of 8 disaster starts in the month, so it is amazing that the Giants still managed a 14-13 month in May (I'll discuss later, but they can thank their offense). 

It was a poor month as well by the pitching peripherals for most of the pitchers.  Bumgarner had 2.54 K/BB, but wasn't the leader as he was last month, as Lincecum squeaked by with a 2.57, Cain 2.14, Zito 1.20, Vogelsong 1.75 (2.2 is good; 2.4 is very good; want at least 2.0).

Despite his good peripherals again, Lincecum had a 6.37 ERA in May.  Madison's disaster start ruined his month's ERA; it was 5.17.  Vogelsong, needless to say because of all his disaster starts, had a 9.00 ERA.  Zito was OK with a 4.33 ERA, but was second best in the rotation because everyone else was floundering a bit.  Cain led the way with a 3.48 ERA, showing his gutiness in games, despite his poor K/BB and DOM month.

May 2013 Comments

Clearly, the starting pitching has to improve if they are to compete this season.  That said, it was just one month of really bad pitching and the Giants have had long bad stretches before with this group, they just need to get into a good streak of pitching.  Luckily, the offense has been performing great, averaging 4.74 runs per game.  In addition, Bochy has been doing his one-run magic, the Giants were 5-2 in one-run games in May, helping them to a 14-13 month in spite of the poor starting pitching.  Without that, they would be 11-16.

However, they will have to do it without one of the stalwarts of the past two seasons, Vogie, as his broke his hand swinging at a pitch mid-month, right in the middle of the start where he was figuring out all his previous issues.   He is expected to be out at least 6 weeks, and more probably 8 weeks, which would put him out to around the All-Star break.   Obviously he won't be up for contention for that this year, unfortunately, as he deserved it the past two seasons. 

So far, they had Kickham up to get his first MLB start out of the way, where he got lit eventually, but did really well his first two innings, striking out 3 of 6 batters, then Gaudin took a start in June.  The Giants seem unsure what their plans are for replacing all of Vogelsong's missed starts.  There is talk that they just might skip the 5th starter with so many off days this week.   I would think that Kickham will get at least another start but Gaudin did so well that they are probably thinking of the scenario of Gaudin starting and Kickham or Heston being the long reliever. 

Now, I had written a lot of stuff about the offense for here, but here we are near the end of the month and I've been too busy to write about it.  Basically, lots of guys have been hitting.  I will point out in particular, Brandon Belt who has been hitting well since mid-April, yes, up and down, but overall over .800 OPS, so please stop getting down on him, he's not the problem with the offense.

Imperfect Cain

I do want to get this out on Cain.  Cain has not been the same since his perfect game.  He had been very dominant for years, elite level, but last season after that game, he only had a 45% DOM and so far this season, 47% DOM.  He did have a 60% DOM during the playoffs in 5 starts, but still, not so good so far this season, pedestrian for him.

I don't know the answer for him.  I have suggested 6-man rotations before, and with a horrendous streak from last July into early September, where there is 46 games and only two days off, maybe the Giants might consider it then, or at least insert a starter from AAA at least a couple of times there to give more rest.

I think he is the key to the rotation going forward.  Zito has always been the enigma and now Lincecum has joined him.  Vogelsong should be OK once healthy, but he's not the leader.  Bumgarner will be the leader at some point, but right now, it is up to Cain to step it up and start pumping out the great 4-5 PQS starts regularly, like clockwork, like how he did it in 2012 before the perfect game, like he did it in seasons prior to that.

For now, the Giants just need to tread water in June, with all the road games, and they have been doing it so far, amazing considering that at times this month they were missing at least 3 of their top 4 hitters in the lineup.  Soon it will be July and Mr. Buster usually busts out his whupass bat and start killing teams.  I was a little leery of Bochy raising him to third in the lineup, but with the way he gets on base so much, that virtually guarantees that the 4th place hitter bats in the first inning with someone on base, and often the 5th place hitter.


  1. It seems to me, despite the Giants' winning the world series, that Cain and Bumgarner looked tired in the playoffs. So, a few things... I'm sure this is the hardest part for Sabean (does the team need a starter? two starters? none?), and this question ties into the 6-man rotation. And not unconnected, the bullpen needs Gaudin or someone like him. It's not pretty. The fan in me wants Kickham and Crick in the bigs, but I know what the team will get in 2013 is average from those guys, i.e., not better. The team really needs a couple arms - or do they need none? The problem (or answer) I see is that a trade for a big name is a waste of the farm system (and who do you replace), and the standard-issue grizzled replacement level vet starter, again, is no improvement.

    I think, and maybe alas, that they go with what they have. The division is pretty lousy, the D-backs just don't seem like a playoff team to me, and while the hated Dodgers may pull it together, it doesn't seem like it. It's kindof backdooring in, but I think it'll happen.

    1. Bumgarner definitely was tired. Hence why he did so poorly in one start, but when they gave him extra rest, he was superb.

      Cain probably was tired, but as I noted above, he hasn't been the same since the Perfect Game in terms of precision in the strike zone, and that would explain the sudden explosion (relatively) in homers for him this season. He might need a full off-season to fully recover, but with pitchers, once broken, sometimes there is no way to repair. He has basically been gutting it through games since then, in my view, based on his DOM% trends before and after.

      Let's see how he does after the ASB. He's probably going to be the first starter out of the blocks again on July 19th. Ugh, of all the luck, he pitches the last game in the first half, on the 14th, so he'll probably get his normal amount of rest. I was hoping he might get a day or two extra.

      Based on that, I am hoping that the Giants find a day somewhere between now and the ASG, where they can do the pull up the starter for today, drop him tomorrow routine that they are probably going to do Tuesday with Mike Kickham to take Chad Gaudin's rotation turn. Especially with 17 straight days of days starting June 28th, the team can use that extra day break. Maybe in a home game against the Mets, or a road game in SD, both just before the ASB.

    2. So it would be a 6 man rotation for one turn of the rotation. That would not only give the starters an extra day of rest - though only if done in the Mets series - but it would take away a start from Cain in the first half, plus give him a lot of extra rest to the July 19th start after the ASB. Win-win for the Giants.

      Crick is average in Advanced A-ball, there is no way he'll be average in the majors right now. Plus he's not on the 40 man right now, and adding someone would probably result in us losing an interesting prospect.

      Surkamp and Kickham could be average (ish). I would give a look to Heston too, he has not done that badly in AAA peripheral-wise, he's mainly getting killed by hits and some homers. But PCL is a hitter's league.

      Kickham is the expected starter tomorrow should Gaudin not go (and he didn't throw at all this weekend, not a good sign), so if he don't do so well, it could be Heston's turn next, though since that would be his first MLB start, and pitchers seem to get over-hyped by that, maybe Kickham would be better just due to that factor.

      Petit is also starting to throw but he's not on the 40-man anymore, else I would lean towards him. And I just realized that Surkamp is on the 60-Day DL, so bringing him up would cost us a spot and a prospect too. The names that look closest to chopping block would be Ehire Adrianza and Hunter Strikland.

      But Strickland has been great for us in San Jose. Ehire has not done much in AA, but he's still only 23 so a little young for AA, old for good prospect, but young for potential contributor, and he's reportedly MLB ready defensively. I'm also heartened by his high walk rate in AA, he was good at getting walks when competing against similar aged players, but in recent seasons, not so much facing older pitchers. I still have hope that he can contribute at the MLB level for us. So who goes?

      I was looking at the bullpen and was amazed that we have been holding steady pretty nicely with Mijares, Machi, Rosario, Dunning all contributing, players who was not even with the organization a year ago,and Dunning was only in AA and he didn't do all that well there, despite being in a pitchers league. Kontos has actually been good peripheral wise but just giving up too many hits and homers. That should balance out once he returns (though 3 day suspension looms, so he could be out until next season or until we are either in or out of the playoffs). I don't see any reliever I would get rid of.

      For all the talk about getting another starter, the unspoken germ of that thought is that once we get all the starters back, someone would need to moved to the bullpen, and most people are pointing their fingers at Lincecum.

      He has actually been good this season at DOM%, better than Cain, but as we know, he loses it when the key situations come up, seemingly.

      I would rather bet on Lincecum, he came through for us in the second half of 2012, his great starting propped up the rotation after Cain's reduced production after the Perfect Game, and Vogelsong's annual August meltdown (probably because he's not used to going so deep into the season, would be my guess). He, Bumgarner, and Zito kept the team in contention down the stretch until he finally tired out in his last couple of starts. See how well he did in the playoffs with enough rest. I'm waiting until end of July before looking to replace Lincecum in the rotation.

    3. I don't view it as backdooring it in when the other teams aren't up to snuff. All of the teams competing are suffering from major injuries to key players. And I don't think other teams would view it as backdooring it if the Giants fall short because they lost Vogelsong and Pagan for a large stretch of the season.

      The main point is to make it into the playoffs. Once in, the team with the better pitching rotations will tend to dominate and move on to the next round. It is not a sure thing, but if you have a great rotation with high DOM% (at least 50% but ideally 60%+), you can make things happen. Add in a manager who actually has a skill in winning close games, and magic can happen inside the ballpark, together. :^)

      Not too worried about the Dodgers. They always seem to be on the verge and then fall back. Any team getting lightening in the bottle like they did with Puig would have gotten themselves back into the race by now, yet they are still bringing up the rear 8.5 games back. What the Padres did is what I would think the Dodgers should have done with Puig igniting the spark. Both GM and manager should be gone soon after they officially is out of the pennant race, a symbolic firing to show the owners disdain.

      I'm afraid mostly about the D-backs. Gibson has them believing again, and he's looking more and more like the real thing as a manager, not a Billy Martin firebrand who gets the team going for a season or two before the message wears out. He has a very high wins over .500 in one-run games again, extra innings too, without those, his team would be with the rest of us, instead of 3 games up.

      The Rockies just seems to find a way to fritter away their competitiveness at some point during the season.

      The Padres are up with a number of young prospects delivering. I don't expect them to hold up all season, they were not rated to be that good a prospect by BA, so I would expect this to be the high point of their season as they drift back towards their talent mean.

      But you never know, they were able to keep it up all season in 2010, so who knows.

      For now, I'm just glad the Giants are in the mix. The D-backs have benefited from a lot of extra-inning wins and one-run wins, so any fall back to the mean in either case should drop them back to the pack. If we can get Sandoval hitting like he can in the lineup, I think that should lift us back up to the D-backs while they drift back to us. I can see us taking off late season in August like we did last season, once we get back Pagan and Vogelsong, and they start producing.

  2. If our pitching staff was pitching as it did in previous years, we would be at least 5 games in first, but it is not whether they are tired, or are just getting worse. I see run of the mill relievers come in for some teams and they seem to pitch better than Lincecum. And now Brandon Crawford turns a line fly which could have been a DP to a run scoring fielders choice. This team is snake bit. Sorry for the digression. Giants have been doing just enough to lose, and that is with Cain and Bumgarner on the mound etc. Two hits a double play a walk, an out. Next guy leads off with a double and does not score. Giants are finding ways to not score. The pitching has affected the hitting and now its working in reverse.

  3. Pitchers seem to make the too fat pitch just at the wrong time, and hitters seem to have a bad AB just at the wrong time.



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