Ken Giles, the newest Astros reliever, may only have 115.2 innings pitched at the major league level on his resume.
But the Astros’ Giles potential sure has many among various baseball circles excited. One recent instance of this is the MLB Network ranking the former Phillie closer as one of the top ten relievers in the game of baseball. Seventh overall to be exact.
It seems like the Astros players are receiving quite a bit of love from MLB Network’s analytic tool called “The Shredder”. And a top ten rating speaks volumes of the ability that Giles brings to the Astros, who haven’t had a dynamic closer since the days of Jose Valverde. Giles will look to prove himself as one the primary relievers on a contending team. But the talent he brings to the team is too much to ignore. For example, Giles can reach 100 MPH with his four-seam fastball. How many relievers have that type of arsenal at their disposal? Not many.
Here is the Top Ten reliever list in full starting from descending order:
10. Craig Kimbrel
9. Darren O’Day
8. Tony Watson
7. Ken Giles
5. Zach Britton
1. Wade Davis
The fact that Giles finishes behind the incredible Yankee bullpen trio in Miller, Chapman and Betances is not surprising at all. The same can be said of finishing behind Davis, the Royals closer, as well. Britton and Melancon are excellent late-inning options, and both are well deserving of their rankings. But Giles himself is also worthy of his top ten ranking.
Yes, Giles’ sample size throughout his career is still relatively small. The pressures of finishing close games and pitching in high leverage situations for a team that is aiming for a repeat playoff appearance in 2016 will be different than closing for the last place Phillies. But when compared to other nine relievers in the top ten list from MLB Network, Giles holds his own and in some ways outpaces his contemporaries in 2015.
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For example, he held the lowest HR/9 out of the top ten list at 0.26. The closest reliever to him from the list was Tony Watson of the Pittsburgh Pirates at 0.36. Limiting home runs as we all know is an important aspect for any pitcher, especially one that is counted upon to pitch in high leverage situations. And his FIP of 2.13 was the third lowest on the list with only Britton and Chapman finishing better than Giles. His 2.0 WAR was also tied with both Davis and Miller in 2015 and only trailed first placed Chapman by 0.5. And Giles’ average fastball velocity of 96.5 per Pitch/fx data from Fangraphs comes in fourth on the list, which is behind only Chapman, Kimbrel, and Betances. In addition to his fastball, the young flamethrower also uses a slider that has a nasty bite.
Needless to say that Giles definitely pitched his way into the top ten reliever conversation based on his work in 2015. But his start in 2014 when he was arguably even better also solidified him as one of the best relievers in baseball. In fact, his 1.56 ERA is the lowest in baseball history through a minimum of 100 innings pitched. His historic start doesn’t appear to be a fluke, and he should play a major role in the Astros’ plans heading into the upcoming 2016 season. And quite possibly be considered one of the top relievers in baseball on an annual basis throughout the foreseeable future.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs**