San Francisco Starts

Why is it that the San Francisco Giants are off to such a strong start this season (17-11 as of this writing)? Mostly it’s about the starting pitchers.

The Giants’ top four starters (Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez) have now all made six starts. In those 24 outings, they’ve combined for a won-lost record of 13-3 and a 2.20 ERA. In 159 innings, they’ve surrendered only 107 hits and eight homers, while walking 49 and striking out 154.

Just sayin’.

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  1. Lucas A. said...

    It really is a superb starting four.  I would say that the Giants and Yankees have gotten the best starting pitching so far this year.

  2. SharksRog said...

    The shocker has been Barry Zito.  This is even better than he pitched in his Cy Young season (when he stole the award from a more deserving Pedro Martinez).

    It would be hard to argue that Barry has been better than Giants ace Tim Lincecum, but an argument could be made that he has been even more effective than Tim.

    Lincecum’s dad Chris says that Barry is in the best shape of his life and is using his stronger core to push off the mound better, giving Barry more speed on his fastball and more bite on his curve.

    Meanwhile, Lincecum has been better than ever and is “only” 4-0 rather than 6-0 because the suddenly faltering Giants bullpen gave up two wins for him.

    Jonathan Sanchez has been a little inconsistent but is pitching the best ball of his career as a starter.

    And poor Matt Cain continues to pitch well but just can’t get a lick of run support.  Over the course of his career, Matt has likely been one of the top 10 or 12 starters in the National League.  Yet because of horrendous run support he has a career losing record.

    Over the past three-plus seasons Matt has received good run support only in his first 13 starts of last year.  In those 13 starts he went 9-1.  His remaining starts have seen him go a combined 22-38.

    One could argue that Matt (2.40 ERA) was better in those 13 starts in which he went 9-1 than in those in which he went just 22-38.  They would be right, of course.

    But in Matt’s NEXT 13 starts after the 9-1 streak, he posted a slightly lower ERA (2.38), yet went only 3-3.  The difference?  Matt had 60 runs of support in those first 13 outings but just 26 runs in the second 13 starts.

    In 2007 Matt’s 3.65 ERA was better than the rookie Lincecum’s 4.00.  Yet because of run support, Lincecum went 7-5 while Cain went only 7-16.  That year Matt was only 5-7 in games in which he gave up two or fewer runs.

    Lincecum is a far better pitcher than even Cain.  But he’s not as much better as his 44-17 career record compared to Matt’s 46-52 would indicate.

    Tim deserves his 44-17 record.  Cain deserves far better than 46-52.

    Has there EVER been a pitcher who pitched as much as Cain has, posted a 127 ERA+ and yet had a losing record?

    If Cain sued his hitters for non-support, he wouldn’t even need his baseball salary.

  3. anon said...

    ^ I did a BR search restricting it to the modern era (1920-present), and required a minimum 162 innings, and the answer to your question is nope. in fact, matt cain is the only starter on that list with a losing record. (he’s the one with the .469 record, but BR won’t let you see top 5 unless you’re a paid subscriber.)

  4. Nick Steiner said...

    The Cardinals played the Giants earlier this year and they (the Cardinals) were overmatched.  The first game was Lincecum, who the Cards actually worked pretty well and were able to knock him out after the 7th with well over 100 pitches and a decent amount of baserunners.  Unfortunately, they only scored 1 run.  After Lincy, the Giants had a rested Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affedlt ready for the eighth and Wilson for the ninth.  Honestly, 1 run was a job well done for the Cardinals.  Game 2 was a similar story, except Zito pitched even better than Lincy. 

    The Cardinals were finally able to break out a little against Cain in the third game and not get swept, but I’m very worried about the Giants in the playoffs now.  Really, on a good day from one of their starters with a fully rested pen, 2-3 runs should be the expectation.

  5. SharksRog said...

    I would have to disagree that the Cardinals worked Lincecum well in their recent game.  Their only run against him came on a combined running and fielding mistake.

    With Matt Halladay on second base with two outs in the seventh inning, the batter hit a single to left.  Matt was just reaching third base as the ball was fielded by Mark DeRosa in shallow left field.

    Down by four runs, Matt shouldn’t have tried to score and risk one of the Cardinals’ seven remaining outs.  If he holds third, the Cardinals can potentially close the game to within one run if the next batter homers.  If he is out, the Cardinals are down to six outs and have no one on base.

    DeRosa realized Holliday shouldn’t try to score and double clutched.  When Holliday continued on, DeRosa’s belated throw was weak and wide.  Mark wound up on the ground after the play, frustrated that he had been schooled like a rookie.

    Albert Pujols had a fine game, crushing a double to left center on the first pitch he saw from Lincecum and later adding a second hit.  He did pop up a 2-0 fastball with no outs and runners on first and second bases in what was the Cardinals’ best chance to get back into the game.

    Holliday followed Pujols’ infield fly by grounding sharply into an inning-ending double play, and the Cardinals’ best shot had gone a-glimmerin’.

    The Giants bullpen held the 4-1 lead for Lincecum.  It is the last lead they have successfully maintained in Tim’s starts, giving up wins in each of his last three outings.

    The Cardinals were trying to force up Lincecum’s pitch count in order to get him out of the game.  I would agree with you that they were reasonable successful in that regard.

    Had Pujols or Holliday come through with the two runners on, they might in fact have worked Lincecum very nicely.

  6. obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

    Since when is pitching into the 8th inning considered being “knocked out”?

    I would note that Sanchez was affected by a cold for two starts, his two bad starts, before he started recovering in his latest start, though probably not fully recovered yet.

  7. Nick Steiner said...

    The Cardinals got 6 hits and 3 walks in 7 innings against Lincecum.  That’s well above the amount of baserunners he would usually give up.  He allowed 4 line drives in 18 balls in play for a 22% clip and needed 120 pitches to get through 7.  The Cardinals had at least 1 runner on in 6 out of the 7 innings including runners in scoring position in each of the last two innings that Lincecum pitched. 

    I said that Cardinals worked him pretty well and the data supports it.  Lincecum’s amazing so he’s still able to put up 1 run in 7 innings even when the opposing team is putting up a good fight, but it was clear that the Cardinals did a good job battling Lincecum.

  8. SharksRog said...

    You make some very good points, Nick.  I thought about several of them when I made my post.

    To some degree, we are both talking about the same coin—just looking at different sides of it.

    Sounds like you’re a Cards fan.  I had the pleasure of watching them a few times at the old Sportsman’s Park and once in the new stadium.  Missed Busch Stadium in between.  Sort of bounced right over that Astro Turf.

    You have had the pleasure of watching Albert Pujols.  Do you think by the time he retires he will be known as the greatest right-handed hitter of all time?

  9. Nick Steiner said...

    Yeah, like I said it was insanely frustrating to watch that series.  Even if the Cardinals were taking good at bats the quality of the Giants pitching, both the rotation and the pen, made it so that really didn’t matter. 

    Yes I am a Cards fan, and I do think Pujols will end up being known as the best RHH of all time.  If you believe in the quality of the league getting harder, which I do, his numbers in context to Aaron’s or Mays are just better.  Of course I never got to see Aaron or Mays so I can’t tell you how they look compared to ‘Bert.

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