The San Francisco Giants can pitch. This is not a surprise to the average baseball fan. They are the reigning World Champions. They possess a terrifyingly young and effective starting rotation anchored by Tim Lincecum. Ryan Vogelsong is the grizzled veteran of the rotation at 33 and he is enjoying the best season of his career after years in Japan and the minor leagues. Consider entering this season he had a career record of 10-22 and so far this year he is 4-1 with 7 consecutive quality starts. He is 5th in the Giants rotation. Intimidating.
This afternoon staff ace and 2 time Cy Young award winner Lincecum will take the mound against the Reds. Lincecum is 4 days shy of 27th birthday and he has on his mantle 3 consecutive NL strikeout crowns, the aformentioned Cy Young’s, 1000 career strikeouts and just 899.1 innings pitched. His career record is 61-31. Did I mention he is still 26 years old?
Add to these two starters 26 year old Matt Cain and 28 year old Jonathan Sanchez and you not only have a good staff this year but for as long as you can afford it. But wait I only mentioned 4 starters who did I miss?
Quite possibly the unluckiest pitcher on the Giants roster. And the youngest by 5 years. I am referring to Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner is 21 years old until August 1 and in his fledgling career he already has 23 quality starts. Last year he went 7-6 then 2-0 in the postseason including a masterful performance against the powerful Texas Rangers lineup in game 4 of the World Series where he pitched 8 innings of shutout baseball giving up just 3 hits and 2 walks. So how could I consider Madison unlucky? He is currently 2-8 this season including the loss Thursday night against the Reds. After a rough start to the season where he went 0-3 in his first 4 games allowing 15 ER in 17.1 innings, Bumgarner settled in. His last 9 starts he has gone 2-5, not a great result for a month and a half of baseball. That is until you look a little deeper and see that during these 9 outings he has a 1.93 ERA with 17 runs, 13 of them earned in 60.2 IP. He has not allowed a single home run and all 9 starts were quality starts. Baseball-reference.com writer John Autin recently wrote a revealing historical research column about Bumgarner’s challenge that I stumbled upon while working on the QRO report. So what in the world is causing Bumgarner’s problem? Aside from an average defense and extremely poor run support the Giants also have an average bullpen. Statistically they are no better than the Reds in contrast with my assumptions. Here are the numbers:
|San Francisco Giants Relievers|
|Giants Staff Totals||190||123||56||11||65%||29%|
|Data through 6/10/2011|
RA = Relief Appearances: Total # of Relief Appearances
QRO = Quality Relief Outing: # of Appearances where more outs are recorded than hits + walks and a 3.00 ERA is maintained for the relief appearance.
FRO = Failed Relief Outing: # of Appearances where earned runs are allowed, inherited runners score or no outs are recorded. (See ERA allowance in the QRO description
ND = No Decision. Does not meet the criteria for a QRO or a FRO
QAR = Quality Appearance Ratio: QRO/RA
FAR = Failed Appearance Ratio: FRO/RA
The Giants are plagued by a problem similar to the Reds. They allow far too many walks. Brian Wilson took a couple of weeks to get started this season but The Beard is rolling right now and leads the staff with a 79% QAR. Javier Lopez has been solid and I would be surprised not to see Ramon Ramirez numbers continue to improve. Guillermo Mota has struggled and Dan Runzler is back in AAA Fresno as a result of his difficulties.
What allows the Giants to overcome the lack of run support is the the exceptional rotation but they have not had to overcome injuries to the pitching staff, especially in light of the critical injuries to the starting lineup. Freddie Sanchez dislocated shoulder compounds the problems created by Buster Posey‘s fractured fibula. If injuries would begin to plague the pitching staff the Giants could be in serious trouble.
I like to think I am an analytical thinker and I guess the results of today’s analysis proved that I do exhibit lemming-like behavior. I believed the hype about the quality of the Giants bullpen but these numbers paint a different picture. They are ok but they can be beaten.
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