Sunday, June 04, 2017

2017 Giants: May PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of May 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 - (29% DOM, 14% DIS; 2:1/7):  3,3/0, 4, 4, 3, 3/

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

Matt Cain- (36% DOM, 27% DIS; 4:3/11):  0, 4, 3, 4, 3/0, 3, 4, 1, 4, 3/

Johnny Cueto - (81% DOM, 9% DIS; 9:1/11):  2, 5, 5, 0, 4/5, 4, 5, 4, 4, 5/

Matt Moore - (45% DOM, 27% DIS; 5:3/11):  1, 4, 2, 0, 5/0, 3, 4, 4, 2, 5/

Jeff Samardzija - (73% DOM, 9% DIS; 8:1/11):  2, 4, 4, 3, 5/5, 4, 4, 5, 4, 0/

Giants Season overall - 58% DOM, 16% DIS out of 55 games counted (32:9/55)
Giants Month of April - 54% DOM, 15% DIS out of 26 games counted (14:4/26)
Giants Month of May - 62% DOM, 17% DIS out of 29 games counted (18:5/29)

The month of May for PQS was actually good, much unlike the results for the month.  13-16 is not what you should expect when you have such a DOM/DIS combination, much like the problem in April.   And unlike last month, this is pretty good, though the DIS starts could be less.  And, we didn't have Bumgarner in May, but while Blach is no Bumgarner, he at least has been a good starter in May.

Leading the DOM was Cueto with 6 DOM starts in 6 starts.  Unfortunately, that only translated into a 3.83 ERA month, as he had two bad luck starts, one where the hits added up to a lot of runs, the other where he gave up a lot of HR.  Next was Samardzija with 5 DOM starts out of 6.  Moore had 3 DOM, and Cain and Blach each had 2 DOM.  Great month overall for the staff, 62% is great for any one pitcher to have, even greater when your staff does it.

Even in terms of DIS, things were good but not great, like last month.  Cain had 2, and Blach, Moore, and Samardzija each had 1.

Yet there it is, another horrible month, ending with a 13-16 record overall, slightly better than April, but that shouldn't be happening with this type of starting pitching.  If you look at the key metrics, things were either great or marginal.  The great were the Shark and Cueto.  Samardzija led by a lot, with a 10.8 K/9 and 49.00 K/W (49 strikeouts, only 1 walk, in the month of May!), both excellent.  He led the staff with a good 3.32 ERA.  Cueto was back to his stingy self, giving up much fewer walks, leading to a 5.50 K/W ratio, along with a great 9.9 K/9.  However, the bad luck in a couple of DOM starts led to a nice but not great 3.83 ERA.  Of course, that bad luck was probably due to the blisters on his fingers that he has been dealing with, and affecting his control enough that he was giving up more hits and homers than usual, most probably.

After that, the pitchers were very marginal or worse.  The marginal were Blach and Moore.  Blach had the better K/W at 2.00, which is OK, but a 4.0 K/9 is not a rate that leads to long-term success in the majors.  His 4.55 ERA reflects this performance, though, if one excuses his bad start in Cincinnati, he had a 2.51 ERA in his other four starts.  Moore was just behind, at 1.93 K/W, but he had a better 7.5 K/9, which is a good K-rate, but a walk rate that needs to be improved some.  But that was weighed down by his very poor start against the Dodgers, who seem to have his number, even though he's a left-hander and they struggle against LHP:  in the rest of the month, he had a 3.13 ERA and 2.6 K/W ratio.  He also had some bad luck with homers.

Cain was the worse, by far.  He is not showing any of the performance ability he showed last season before his hamstring gave out, which is why I was hopeful that he could deliver this season.  I've been horribly wrong so far.  He was horrible all around, with a 6.40 ERA, 4.7 K/9, 1.06 K/W, all unsustainably bad enough that when Bumgarner comes back, it will be Cain moving into the bullpen (or DFAed), not Blach.  He will need to be a lot more consistent with his DOM starts in order to stay a starter.

Heck, he will need to strike out more batters if he hopes to stay on the team after Bumgarner returns, and if he continues to pitch this poorly, particularly with the low strikeout rate, it would not be surprising to me to see him DFAed in order to allow Beede to get his feet wet as a MLB starter.  I would guess sometime around the All-Star break for when this might happen.

The good news is that his May was marred by a bad Cincinnati start.  Without that start, he had a decent 4.34 ERA in the other 5 starts, which is OK if he can continue that.  He might not get the axe if he can continue that, though I suspect that by the time Bumgarner returns, if the team is still struggling to win, the youth movement would be on full steam, and Cain would have be vintage Cain to make the cut.

Overall in May, the Giants starters pitched well from a DIPS perspective, with a nice 62% DOM and OK 16% DIS, but suffered bad luck enough for a 5.12 ERA for the month of May.   Obviously, this needs to get better.

May 2017 Comments

Nothing much to say, other than the offense was not the only problem in May.  While the starting pitching suffered from some bad BABIP luck, as DIPS followers now acknowledge, not all pitchers have no control over the batted ball, there are those who can.   So based on PQS, things should get better if the starting pitching can continue to pitch well (and Cueto's blister don't bother him as much).

Of course, averaging 3.31 runs scored per game didn't help either, so the offense wasn't really operating really well either.  Between the bad starting pitching and the bad hitting, it's a surprise, if anything, that the month wasn't worse.  Best hitters were Posey, Hundley, Belt (he's not going to get traded, as speculated by a member of the press), Nunez, Span.  But really, only the catchers hit well, given expectations for each hitter.

The rest did not do well in May.  Crawford has not been able to get going, and neither has Panik, Gorkys (might be losing job to Slater if he don't start hitting), Arroyo (after nice start, has been figured out and needs to adjust; I think he'll be back sooner than later, after figuring out some stuff in the minors, assuming he gets sent down at some point soon), as well as the rest of the hitters, Pence, Morse, Ruggiano (who just got DFAed recently), Williamson, Tomlinson.

With suckitude comes promotions.  Slater and Calixte already got promotions, though it sounds like Arroyo, who, after a good start, has been in a very cold streak lately, and will probably get sent down when Pence gets off the DL.  Hwang will probably get a call-up too, he's got a player's option to leave the team if he's up to the majors, and they, from beat reporters intimations, appear to want to bring him up to see what he's got before they let him go.  With the hitters hitting so poorly, the Giants don't really lose much with these promotions, while getting the chance to check them out.

Being back by double digits in games is not ever a good place to be, but I haven't given up on the season yet.  First, if the pitching continues to dominate with DOM starts, that should help us stop falling further back.  Then it is up to the hitters.  There, the key ones who need to step up are Crawford, Panik, and Pence, basically in that order.

Crawford, most of all, because he's hitting in key batting positions, 5th most of the time.  His hitting is back down to where he was earlier in the career, and is down significantly from the past two seasons.  Panik also bats in key positions sometimes, plus, with his good contact ability, we need a steady hitter like that anchoring the lineup, and he has been sorely missed for a couple of seasons now.  Plus, his hitting this season is making 2015 look like the aberration, and 2014, 2016 like they are his real talent level.  A good contact hitter should not be carrying a .240-ish batting average.  If he is up in the .280 range, then that boosts his OBP and SLG, and then his OPS is in the pretty good range.  Lastly, Pence needs to step up because he's been a key hitter, and hasn't hit for much this season.  Even if he hasn't been healthy in recent seasons, he's at least been a good hitter when in the lineup, a steady hitter.

Basically, we need a handful of the hitters to hit like they have shown in the past, and be steady, so that the others don't feel the need to put pressure on themselves, and relax, and let their abilities take over.

The Giants need to get going in June - and this Phillies series is not a good start - in order to be within spitting distance of the division leaders by the ASG.  If they are still 10+ games out by then, we might see some trades to clear out spots for prospects.  The press has speculated on some.

Cueto is a possibility, mainly because he's one of the few very good players who could be a free agent next season.  Nunez is possible, but I don't think probable, I don't see him pricing himself off the team, and I think the Giants like having a player who can play so many positions decently enough, while hitting decently enough, plus the fact that he's their only consistent base stealer.  Span is possible as well, his contract ends after 2018, and he's been hitting OK since getting healthy and returning to the MLB, and so someone might want a leadoff hitter (we would still have Nunez).

There were others, but I don't think so.  Moore was also mentioned, because of his contract, but I just don't see that happening, the Giants gave up a lot for him, they expect to see him man a rotation spot.  If he does get traded, I would take that as a strong negative opinion on his abilities.  Pence was also mentioned, but given that he's one of the team's better hitters, as well as the only outfielder we have that we can expect to hit well, I don't see how they could do.  I've seen Belt, but, like Pence, one of our better hitters.  Shaw is a possibility at 1B, which could enable the Giants to trade Belt, but given how bad our LF has been, I believe that we would see Belt starting in LF if Shaw continues to do well.  And, as a sign of what the Giants are thinking, if there was any thoughts of trading Belt in the front office, they would not have bothered to move Shaw to LF and play him consistently there since the beginning of May, and they promoted him to AAA as a LF as well.  If there were any trade thoughts, they would not have bothered, they would have brought up Shaw as a 1B when he was ready, and move Belt to LF or to another team, at that point.

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