Monday, July 11, 2011

Giants Pure Quality Starts: June 2011

This post is courtesy of Obsessive Giants Compulsive who was kind enough to allow me to share this here.

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of June 2011, PQS as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book and they published the details here. 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 orange titled 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, 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 s 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 2011 Season

Madison Bumgarner- (63% DOM, 19% DIS; 10:3/16): 0, 2, 3, 0, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 0, 5

Matt Cain- (82% DOM, 6% DIS; 14:1/17):  4, 4, 3, 0, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (76% DOM, 12% DIS; 13:2/17):  4, 5, 3, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 0, 4, 4, 4, 3, 0, 4, 5, 5

Jonathan Sanchez - (53% DOM, 13% DIS; 8:2/15):  3, 4, 4, 3, 3, 4, 3, 5, 5, 5, 5, 2, 3, 4, 0, 0

Ryan Vogelsong - (75% DOM, 17% DIS; 9:2/12):  4, 0, 4, 4, 5, 4, 2, 5, 4, 5, 4, 1

Barry Zito - (33% DOM, 33% DIS; 1:1/3): 5, 1, X, 3

X = start Zito was injured in and had to leave the game. I don't include these in my analysis.

Giants season overall - 68% DOM, 15% DIS out of 81 games counted (55:12/81)
Giants Month of March/April - 56% DOM, 20% DIS out of 25 games counted (14:5/25)
Giants Month of May - 79% DOM, 7% DIS out of 28 games counted (22:2/28)
Giants Month of June - 68% DOM, 18% DIS out of 28 games counted (19:5/28)

June ended up averaging what the Giants did previously, essentially.  Again, a 68% DOM, 15% DIS pitcher is a one of the best pitchers in the league, and the Giants are doing that collectively as a rotation.  They did not do as great as they did in May, but luckily the offense reverted closer to their prior performance expectations, so they ended up with an even better month, 17-11, than May.

The staff was led by Cain in June, as he was perfect:  6 DOM starts out of 6.  Lincecum, Vogelsong, and Bumgarner each had 4 DOM starts.  Sanchez, showing that something was wrong with him, after 7 DOM starts and 0 DIS starts in 10 starts to start the season, he only had 1 DOM and 2 DIS starts in 5 starts in June, before he finally admitted something was wrong and was DLed.  Zito at that point came back off the DL and had a nice start, he was only an additional strikeout or one less walk away from a DOM start; personally, I would give him a DOM start for that one, as he is statistically proven to be a pitcher with the ability to keep his BABIP down below the mean of .300, so if shifting one of his walks over to hits still keeps his hits equal to or less than his IP, I think that would be fair, because such pitchers tend to walk more and strikeout less relatively.

Amazingly, Vogelsong has still not been a weak link so far in this super-rotation.  His 75% DOM/17% DIS would rank among the best in the majors, yet he is rightfully a back of rotation guy in the Giants rotation.  Of course, as I noted last month, it is doubtful that a journeyman pitcher like Vogelsong will continue to pitch like this for a whole season, but even if he were to fall back to mediocrity, where he is simply OK, this rotation would still be great.  If the pitching staff can continue this for the season, even if the offense don't get much better other than Pablo Sandoval returning to the lineup (which he did in June and has been hot for a couple of weeks now), I don't see any reason why the Giants cannot reach the 90+ wins necessary to get into the playoffs.

June 2011 Comments

To quote myself from last month:  "Wow, to think the Giants starting pitchers could improve on last year's performance. Amazing!"  That was with Dirty's very poor month and Zito's return, and Lincecum's mini-June-swoon.  Unfortunately, July could be the worse month of the season, for a number of reasons.

First, Lincecum's June swoon might be extending to July, though an unverified rumor by a commenter in Extra Baggs noted that might be because the Giants players were out late gambling in Detroit, including The Kid.  Honestly, wouldn't surprise me, although many other commenters think that person was a troll.  He has shown lack of judgement before.  In addition, he did not fly ahead as the first starter of the homestand normally does at the end of the trip, which would have given him extra time to adjust back to our time zone, as Detroit is three time zones away.

As before, we will have to wait and see, but frankly, that first July start appears to be more a case of the BABIP gods giving to the hitters, rather than taking away; for Timmy, he's not like Cain or Zito, his BABIP is around the mean.  Plus, he had 3 DOM starts at the end of June, so perhaps we should cut him a break, he's going to have non-DOM starts occasionally, and it wasn't like he had a disaster start.  Still, maybe it is the start of another bad skein, so you never know.  Appears that my thought that he might have a below 2 ERA is not going to happen.

Secondly, Zito has returned to the rotation, replacing Sanchez.  Dirty had been aces to start the season, not perfect, but 70% DOM/0% DIS in 10 starts is great.  Zito rarely puts up anything close to that nowadays, even with his reported reverting to his Cy Young repertoire with no slider, to give his curveball more UMMPH (relatively).  He has been good, but not great, which is actually great to have in the back of the rotation.  That will bring the rotation down overall as well.

Third, we can't expect Cain to have another perfect month in DOM, he was 6 of 6 in June.  Can we?

Lastly, the biggest issue is Vogelsong.  His career performance suggests strongly that this should not be happening.  Still, he had a DOM start to begin July, and has only had the rare hiccup so far in the 2011 season, he's been keeping up with Lincecum, amazingly.  So until he starts regressing, enjoy the ride.  And what a sweet ride it has been!

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