The first day of Spring Training has come and gone, and the Astros already have some roles figured out. Or do they?
Entering his second season as an Astro, Ken Giles is presumed to be the closer for the upcoming 2017 season. This shouldn’t be a shock or a surprise to anyone.
Or could the Astros have different plans? You be the judge based on manager A.J. Hunch’s comments to Mark Berman of Fox 26 News.
One current luxury of the Astros is the quality bullpen depth. Gregerson and Harris in theory will close in place of Giles if the occasion arises. But Giles appears to be the primary closer going forward based on Hinch’s comments. This is a different approach than what Houston employed last year with Gregerson eventually being named the closer for Opening Day in New York.
However, this development probably won’t, or shouldn’t, stop the Astros from using various pitchers dependent of the situation at hand. The same goes for Giles, no matter the inning. And that is the right decision in my opinion.
Nowadays, the practice of using your top relievers in high leverage situations. Like the sixth inning with the bases loaded in a close game. Or maybe the ninth inning of a tied game even though there is no guarantee that the offense will score. The Cleveland Indians with Andrew Miller this past offseason may have been just the beginning of the trend. Of course this was in the postseason, which is a different beast than the regular season.
Regardless, Giles will need to put his up-and-down 2016 season behind him to the dynamic reliever that the Astros need. A better start than last April when opponents posted a .433 wOBA in ten innings would be a good place to start. In fact, a better April would be advisable for the entire team.
Once you looked past that forgettable April though, Giles was a solid reliever for the Astros. His 2.86 FIP/2.67 xFIP paint a much better picture than the 4.11 ERA. And despite his troubles, Giles’ 2016 strikeout rate increased by 6.2% compared to his 2015 rate. So it is easy to see why the Astros trust the age-26 reliever with a key role in the ‘pen.
**Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs**