Ryan Vogelsong threw at least seven innings for the 11th time this year. He had 10 such outings last year. I like how we metaphorically clapped Vogelsong on the back, and told him, "Good show, chap! Bully of a comeback!" And then figured he'd never do it again. I didn't expect him to turn into Todd Wellemeyer over the offseason. But I didn't think he'd get better.
He wasn't supposed to get better.
Last year, I was pulling for Vogelsong to make the All-Star team so damned hard. It was going to be a great story because, heck, he wasn't going to get another chance. I knew there were other pitchers who had a good claim, but the human-interest story of Vogelsong put him over the edge. How could he not make it?
This year, I'm pretty sure the MVP of the game will get a pewter Ryan Vogelsong trophy. Just making the team isn't good enough. The players who don't win the award will have to bow before it and kiss its hand. Even the Dodger All-Star. Kiss it. Kiiiiiisssssss it.
He wasn't supposed to get better. If you're looking at his strikeout rate and walk rate, technically he didn't get better. But that part about the innings is what makes him better this year. His shortest outing of the year was six innings. Tonight was his 11th-straight quality start. The quality start gets a bad rap as a stat because its detractors assume the overwhelming majority of quality starts are of the six-inning, three-run variety. The opposite is true. It's a good shorthand, simple stat for "went deep, didn't get shelled."
Ryan Vogelsong goes deep into games, and he doesn't get shelled. The three names at the top of the San Francisco Giants quality-start-streak board are ones you'd expect. Gaylord Perry had 17 straight quality starts between 1967 and 1968, Tim Lincecum had 15 straight between 2007 and 2008, and Juan Marichal had 15 straight in 1963.
But the rest of the names aren't chumps. Johnny Antonelli? Five-time All-Star. Mike McCormick? Last Giant to win the Cy Young before Lincecum. Don Robinson helped the Giants win two divisions, and Atlee Hammaker was something of a phenom before his shoulder exploded.
Then you get to the names who haven't had a quality-start streak this long. Matt Cain. Jason Schmidt. Rick Reuschel. Jim Barr and John Montefusco. Shawn Estes in his good years. Livan Hernandez when bare-minimum quality starts were supposed to be his raison d'être. Ryan Vogelsong has 11 in a row. Goes deep into games. Doesn't get shelled. Should probably give him seven in the All-Star Game, just to be sure. This time it counts, and all.
I get asked a lot how I do the research for my posts. Excellent question! Of course, there's Baseball Reference. That's the main one, the go-to. Their Play Index is an essential purchase if you're interested in baseball history. But they don't update their stats until early next morning. So if you want to find out what, say, Ryan Vogelsong's ERA dropped to tonight (2.23), you'll have to go to ESPN or MLB.com.
If you want career stats before the next morning, you have to crunch the numbers yourself. I have an Excel spreadsheet than I can dump stats in, put in the game stats for the night, and figure things out pretty quickly. So tonight I had to cull the stats from Baseball Reference, run a few database queries, fire up a couple of Play Index searches, and then go to MLB.com, go through the player cards that update in real time, and then plug those numbers in.
I took about a half-hour after the last out of the game to do this, and per my research, I discovered that the Dodgers have not scored a run over the last two games.
Earlier in the year, I was chatting with Marc Normandin at work (ON THE WEB), and he brought up a study of spring-training stats. I laughed because I assumed he was being a silly statistics man, but he brought it up again in passing. Turns out, there was something legit that John Dewan wrote about:
if a player had a spring-training slugging percentage 200 points above his career norm, you could expect him to have an improved season.
It's not a perfect rule. It's not flawless. But there's a little correlation. And Melky Cabrera, career .398 slugger coming into the season, had a spring slugging percentage of .629. So I believed Normandin and Dewan, and I didn't look back. I wrote my famous trilogy of Melky Cabrera predictions, in which I guaranteed game-winning home runs off Clayton Kershaw and an All-Star appearance, among other things. I'm still ticked that server crash erased them all. They were brilliant, prescient things.
Jonathan Sanchez started on Sunday and walked six in 5.2 innings. There was dissent about that trade -- honest-to-goodness dissent. If you didn't proclaim that trade the greatest in the history of the game, whatever you said looks like a bad high-school haircut. Hey, me too.
Even if Melky doesn't start the game, he'll be there in Kansas City. Just amazing. EVERYTHING'S AMAZING. YOU'RE AMAZING. THE GIANTS BEAT CLAYTON KERSHAW AGAIN. THAT'S AMAZING. EVERYTHING'S AMAZING.
One game out. Exactly one month ago, the Giants were in Miami. Madison Bumgarner was hit hard, and the Giants lost 5-3. They fell 7.5 games back. That's a good thing to remember if the Giants have a huge lead at some point. It's also a good thing to remember if the Giants slip back a little.
It's also a good thing to remember as you drift off to sleep tonight, completely at peace with your choice of hobbies and rooting interests. Tonight, you can go to sleep knowing that you chose wisely. You chose wisely.