In his first season with the Astros, Ken Giles was supposed to be that lock-down guy they lacked in 2015. At times, he looked the part. At times, not so much.
On October 12, 2015, the Astros were in a terrific position to advance to the ALCS. Following a great effort by starter Lance McCullers, they carried a 6-2 lead into the eighth inning. Just six outs away from advancing and Will Harris gives up a bases-loaded single to Lorenzo Cain to make it a 3-run game. No big deal, still up by three, just cue the shut down closer… wait, why is Tony Sipp running in from right field?
Sipp came in and allowed an RBI single to the first man he faced. Following an E6 and an RBI ground out, the Astros found themselves trailing the Kansas City Royals 7-6. They lost the game 9-6 and later lost game five of the series in Kansas City. An abrupt end to a Cinderella season.
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So, in Dec. 2015, Astros fans rejoiced as they turned on their television sets to find out the Astros had gone out and tracked down that elusive big-time bullpen arm. Giles looked like just the man to end the pain still heavy on the hearts of Houstonians. He was fresh off the heels of an amazing campaign with the Philadelphia Phillies that saw him finish with a 1.80 ERA in 70 innings pitched.
He did come with a hefty price tag attached however. The Astros were forced to part ways with Vince Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer and former first overall draft pick Mark Appel. But, after the excruciating loss suffered at the hands of an insufficient bullpen just two months before, it seemed like a small price to pay.
Going into the spring, it appeared as though Giles had wrestled the closer role away from Luke Gregerson. But after a disappointing spring training, in which Giles posted a 6.75 ERA over 9.1 innings, the closer role was once again awarded to Gregerson.
April was an absolute abysmal month of baseball in Houston as the Astros found themselves starting the season at an alarming (7-17) mark. In that span, the pitching staff posted a league-worst 4.97 ERA. Giles was not immune to these early struggles.
In his first month as an Astro he had an ERA of 9.00 and had already given up twice as many home runs (4) than he allowed in 2015. Obviously, he was not living up to the potential the Astros saw in him when they traded for him. It also did not help that Velasquez was off to such a hot start in Philadelphia. He had a 1.78 ERA in four starts in the month of April. It begun to look like the Astros made a terrible mistake in trading him.
On the rise
After such a bad start, Giles had nowhere to go but up. He slowly started to bring his ERA to a respectable number over the following tow months. In May and June, he posted a 3.13 ERA with eight holds and one save in three opportunities.
But in July, Giles truly began to look like the pitcher for whom the Astros traded. Over nine appearances in the month of July, he did not allow a single run to score. He also began to dominate hitters at the plate, striking out 18 batters in 8.2 innings pitched. He struck out 58 percent of all batters faced over that span. This excellent month brought his season ERA all the way down to 3.89 and helped him to reclaim his position as the team’s closer.
These terrific numbers carried over into the coming months as he was able to convert on his next nine save opportunities. By Sept. 10, he was cruising with 10 saves and a 3.51 ERA. He would then close out his season on a bit of a low note however. In his last nine appearances on the season, he allowed eight earned runs, including two in a vital game against the Texas Rangers on Sept. 13. He picked up another blown save in that game as well as the loss.
Overall stats and impressions
He finished the season at:
- 2-5 W-L
- 4.11 ERA
- 69 Games
- 65.2 IP
- 15 saves in 20 opportunities
- 30 ER
- 102 K/25 BB
Giles definitely got off to a slow start in 2016. But he came around toward the middle of the year and started to make a name for himself in Houston. He has some electric stuff, including a fastball that can reach the triple-digits and a slider that completely disappears to the hitter when it is on. Giles has certainly become the top arm in the back of the Astros’ bullpen and will most likely retain that position for the 2017 season.
**Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com**