Your 2016 Giants: Cueto Home and Road, First Half and Second Half, Splits

I had discussed Cueto's stats regarding first and second half previously.  When he had his first start for us in Milwaukee, much was made about his much better results at home vs. on the road.  So I thought I would look into that as well.

ogc thoughts

Unfortunately, none of the baseball stat sites look at splits of splits, so the data would not have been that easy to collect and analyze.  So most likely, I probably wouldn't have bothered to follow up on this thought.  However, I had already went and collected Cueto's stats for calculating his PQS (pretty darn good) and, though it was some work to split everything up, it seemed doable enough, so here's what I found.

First off, yes, he has been much better at home than on the road, especially home at Cincinnati:  3.05 ERA at home, 3.54 ERA on the road.   So basically ace at home, good on the road.

But he has also changed significantly from his early seasons, starting in 2011.  Clearly, he's much better at home, but that don't matter anymore for us since he's pitching in SF now, so, to me, the interesting number is his 3.17 ERA on the road since 2011 (and these numbers are all before any of his SF stats).   Like with his first half stats, it's his BABIP of .286 that helps him perform better, so his corresponding FIP is 3.56.  Also, as we'll see later, clearly, he has a very low HR/FB rate is contributing to his higher xFIP, as xFIP assumes both an average BABIP of .300 as well as an average HR/FB of 10.5% (Fangraphs using that but from what I learned it was 10%).  Though per Fangraphs, xFIP not that much higher than FIP, so it appears that his lower HR/FB don't affect his ERA as much as his peripherals much.  And I would note that his SIERA is about the same as his FIP/xFIP, so all the major estimators view his stats as not representative of his skills.  So I'm not going to bother with FIP below, as he's clearly beating FIP through most of his career, and by a good margin.

The pattern for both home/road and first/second half holds in his career too (all averages):
  • H1:Home: 2.71 ERA, 3.53 K/BB, 7.6% HR/FB, 3.98 PQS, 61.0 Game Score 
  • H1:Road:  3.25 ERA, 2.51 K/BB, 5.2% HR/FB, 3.34 PQS, 55.6 Game Score
  • H2:Home:  3.39 ERA, 3.90 K/BB, 6.9% HR/FB, 3.37 PQS, 55.6 Game Score
  • H2:Road:  4.06 ERA, 2.03 K/BB, 6.4% HR/FB, 3.00 PQS, 50.9 Game Score
But, as good as that looks, it does get a lot better once he reached his potential (for example, ERA of 4.27 before), particularly in Cincinnati, starting in 2011:
  • H1:Home: 1.97 ERA, 4.51 K/BB, 7.5% HR/FB, 4.21 PQS, 65.9 Game Score 
  • H1:Road:  2.78 ERA, 2.91 K/BB, 4.1% HR/FB, 3.67 PQS, 58.9 Game Score
  • H2:Home:  2.46 ERA, 4.33 K/BB, 6.3% HR/FB, 3.46 PQS, 60.8 Game Score
  • H2:Road:  3.76 ERA, 2.20 K/BB, 5.2% HR/FB, 3.17 PQS, 52.1 Game Score
Looking at parks that he pitched in, here are some interesting splits:
  • SF-AT&T:  1.69 ERA, 1.75 K/BB, 5.9 K/9 (3 starts)
  • NL West:  3.33 ERA, 2.23 K/BB, 6.8 K/9 (17 starts)
  • NL Central:  3.32 ERA, 2.36 K/BB, 6.58 K/9 (47 starts)
  • NL East:  4.20 ERA, 2.48 K/BB, 7.8 K/9 (26 starts)
  • CIN-GAB:  2.91 ERA, 3.60 K/BB, 8.1 K/9  (98 starts)
  • AL teams:  3.55 ERA, 2.20 K/BB, 6.4 K/9 (28 starts; includes a couple of KC starts w/ Reds)
No HR/FB, PQS or Game Score stats, just used the Park splits from  It would be interesting to see how the splits by H1/H2 affects his stats by parks.   Did he see NL East teams mainly in H2 and NL West teams mainly in H1?

I also found it odd that he faced that many more NL East than NL West.  He faced even more AL teams, and did a little worse against them.  Perhaps that's just how it fell since he was the ace most seasons for them and got the opening day start.   There were the three NL East games in 2013, when he had a very shortened season, plus the three in AT&T, and subtracting those, he only had 3 more starts against the NL East, so it appears to just be how the rotation fell for him.  He also had three AL games in 2013 as well.

Maybe I'll tackle splitting the parks by halves with my collected stats another day, as it was a pain summing up by home/road, H1/H2 splits, plus my goal to keep these posts shorter.  He was roughly the same by any slice you look at except for NL East being much worse ERA but much better peripherals, oddly enough.

In any case, he has pitched about as well against NL West teams as he did NL Central, so him moving from Cincinnati to SF should not affect his road stats much, if he just continues what he has done before.   Maybe improve slightly as he'll be pitching in Cincinnati on the road, and might not have such a tilt towards NL East teams as he did in his career stats.

How Will He Pitch With and In SF?

The major questions are:  why did he do so well in Cincinnati, and can he reduplicate that in SF?  His home stats in Cincinnati were stellar across the board.  Will he be able to do that in SF?

He has done well in SF in terms of ERA, but his K/BB and K/9 were not good at all; but only 3 starts and against the Giants offense, not other teams.  So that's not a great guide as to what he'll do in AT&T for us.  Of course, he got bombed in the first inning in his first SF start, then was dominant in the following 6 IP, so perhaps it was initial nerves?

As a coincidence, his first home start for the Giants matched his first start in AT&T in 2011, 7.0 IP, 2 walks, 8 K's, only the hits and runs are wildly different, he shut them out on 5 hits then.  Also wildly different are his second and third starts in SF, when walked 6 and struck out only 6 in 14.1 IP, but only gave up 4 ER, for 2.51 ERA.  So he struggled, relatively, against the better Giants offense in 2012 and 2014, but still pitched well there.  All small samples, single games, but should be noted, I believe.

Plus, in the history of the park, AT&T has mostly been a pitcher's park.  There was a period in the middle where it played as a neutral park, and I had thought that Bonds was a major factor, but it continued to 2009.  Since 2010, however, it has been a pitcher's park mostly, though not in 2014, when it was near neutral again.

In addition, GAB is a severe hitter's park, and to have a pitcher like Cueto who not only wasn't affected by the problems that affected other pitchers there, but was superlative, period, was a huge advantage for them when he was pitching for them.   One would think they could have matched the Giants offer (especially since taxes in CA >>> OH), and thus less money overall could still be equal after taxes.

Plus, we aren't even looking for him to do as well as he did in GAB for his deal to work out for the Giants.  Here is his road stats from 2011-2015:

  • Road-2011-2015:  3.17 ERA, 2.59 K/BB, 3.47 PQS, 56.1 GameScore

If he can do that for us overall in 2016, I think everyone would be happy with that.

Lincecum, Bumgarner and Cain have been better at home than on the road, minimum of 0.36 better.   Looking at the NL 2015 stats, pitchers were 0.35 better ERA.  And that makes sense, there is a slight home advantage in the MLB.  If Cueto could continue his road dominance of 3.17 ERA that he did in 2011-2015, then if he matched that min improvement, he would have a 2.82 ERA at AT&T in 2016.   Assuming an even 50/50 split for his home and road, that works out a 3.00 ERA overall for Cueto.   That is twin ace performance, paired with Bumgarner.

He Already Had the Righetti Magic Going For Him

Righetti, as one Fangraph analysis noted, appears to have some sort of magic going for him:  Giants pitchers appear able to avoid homers no matter whether at home or on the road.  The 10% HR/FB mean that FIP+ incorporates, don't really apply to Giants pitchers, at least in the Sabean-Righetti era.

I believe it relates to how the Giants approach hitters.  An analysis by ESPN long ago looked at Rueter's (I said a long time ago :^) splits between bases empty and runners on base, and found that once a runner got on, he gave up more walks and less strikeouts and homers, in order to avoid allowing the runner to score.  I think the Giants focuses on that with their pitchers.

Same for Cueto, he gives up much less homers than average.  No matter where he has pitched, at least looking at the aggregated H/R and H1/H2 splits, his HR/FB was significantly under the standard of 10% HR/FB, roughly 5% on the road (and obviously significantly higher in Cincinnati, due to the park, making his great numbers home vs. road even more impressive).   He obviously has figured out how to prevent homers previously with the Reds.

And now he pitches in a park that severely hurts LH power hitters and even hurts RH power hitters (as well as non-power hitters, clearly).   And thus LHH should not hurt him as much with their power as they would elsewhere.  So his HR/FB numbers should improve pitching half his starts in AT&T.

Though, however, he has a reverse split against hitters:  .690 OPS and 145 ISO vs. RHH, .674 OPS and 134 ISO vs. LHH.   So he already has an advantage against LHH.   Thus AT&T should give him some sort of additional advantage, and he should have even more of a reverse split, as he reduces his LHH numbers significantly in SF.

Thoughts on Cueto

Cueto is just a good pitcher, has been for many years now.  He figured out the key to GAB and dominated there with that knowledge.  Still, he was pretty good on the road as well, everywhere except the NL East.   Not sure if that's a career long problem, or one where, maybe, he got blasted there early in his career, skewing his ERA there.  Anyway, barring injury, he should have a very good season with us, if career patterns hold, a great season if he can figure out AT&T like he did GAB.

There is that issue of pre and post All Star Game, as I mentioned in my prior post, where he is good but not great in the second half on the road.  Still not sure what could have caused that.  It was mentioned in my prior Cueto post that perhaps it was the heat in Cincinnati and the East, but don't know how to check that.  Still, that makes some sense.

In any case, I think that his career stats are representative of his skills.  That modern sabermetrics can't capture that shows that it is missing something valuable in certain pitchers.  Something that teams can exploit if saber-driven teams is also wearing blinders, blindly thinking that sabermetrics is the be all and end all to the question of evaluating baseball talent.  As they won't bid up these players, resulting in a lower final contract.  And that's the essence of Moneyball, buying undervalued assets/skills.

In this case, Cueto's unusual pitching mechanics and motions is creating a lot of deception, kind of like a knuckleballer, and would explain how he beats FIP by such a wide margin.  And perhaps that's the key to his second half decline, as most players are fatigued sometime in the second half, and maybe that split second loss due to fatigue results in a loss of deception.  I'll try to look into his monthly stats another time.

I have the game stats compiled and pivoted, so if anyone can think of another stat that would be interesting to look at, let me know.  I am thinking of following this up with a look at his strike stats, as those are available, but this is probably too long already and so I'll save it for another day.