What to Expect from Ken Giles with the Houston Astros
The prize addition in the offseason, right-handed relief pitcher Ken Giles is expected to do great things as the likely closer for this Houston Astros team. On December 12th, the Astros acquired Giles from the Philadelphia Phillies along with shortstop prospect Jonathan Arauz for right-handed pitchers Mark Appel, Harold Arauz, Vincent Velazquez, Thomas Eshelman, and left-handed pitcher Brett Oberholtzer.
With the Astros unloading major league caliber talent and top-notch prospects for Giles, the expectations are high for the five years they have him under club control. Although he may be a better option than any closer the Astros have had in recent memory, it may be wise to lower expectations from what he did in Philadelphia to what he will do in 2016.
Giles’ start to his career is one of the best for a relief pitcher in baseball history. He has posted a career 1.56 ERA in his 115.2 innings pitched, which is a baseball record. He also averages 11.75 strikeouts per nine innings and has saved 16 games. While he was the setup man behind Jonathan Papelbon, Giles recorded 25 holds.
Although his start to his career has been sensational, if you look closer at his numbers, there was a steep decline in his numbers between 2014 and 2015. His fastball velocity decreased from 97.2 mph to 96.5 mph. This affected his strikeout percentage, which decreased from 38.6% to 29.2%, and his walk percentage, which increased from 6.6% to 8.4%. This led his WHIP to spike from 0.79 to 1.20. Also, his home runs given up per nine innings increased from .20 to .26.
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The reasons his numbers spiked up is obvious. His playing time increased from 45.2 innings in 2014, where he finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting, to 70 innings pitched in 2015. With this being his first season starting as the closer, his numbers may not be consistent with his statistics in Philadelphia.
With the transition into the American League, Giles will face arguably tougher batters than he did in the National League. Also, Minute Maid Park, with a short left field porch, won’t do him any favors either. That being said, here are his projections for 2016 for his first season being a full-time closer:
Saves/Save Opportunities: 33/37
With this being Giles’ first year entering as the guy in the ninth inning, there will still be some adjustments need for him to succeed. With the increased ability of the hitters in the American League, Giles’ numbers may show a bit more of a regression than Astros fans are expected.
With closing experience in the Astros bullpen already in Luke Gregerson, AJ Hinch has multiple options at the end of a game. Depending on who is up in the seventh or eighth inning and how close the game is, Giles may be used in those situations too. This may skew his numbers a bit too. No matter when Giles’ number is called, he is sure to be a reliable option to get his job done.
Stats used from Fangraphs