Astros Countdown: Top Five Individual Pitches
By Colin Gay
3. Ken Giles’ Slider
With a pitcher like RHP Ken Giles, it is hard just to pick one of his two nasty pitches. It is either a four-seam fastball that averages out at 97 mph or a slider with a nasty break thrown about ten mph slower. Either way, this two-pitch combination has been effective especially in the strikeout numbers, striking out 116 batters in his 76.2 innings pitched in an Astros uniform over the past two seasons.
So why am I focusing on the slider as opposed to the overpowering fastball? First of all, this breaking ball is what Giles throws the majority of the time, throwing it a career high 54.8 percent of the time this season.
100 miles Giles!
It seems like the slider is the pitch that Giles uses to get ahead of hitters to use his fastball as his strikeout pitch. For example, in his last appearance against the Texas Rangers on May 1, Giles faced SS Elvis Andrus who eventually grounded into a double play to end the game and earn Giles save No. 7 of the year. However, if you look at the pitch sequence, Andrus saw three straight sliders until Giles tried to get Andrus to strike out on a high 99.7 mph fastball for the second out.
With the increased usage of the slider this season, it seems like hitters are more likely to swing through this breaking ball than the four-seam fastball. Last month, batters whiffed on 20.88 percent of breaking balls thrown by Giles compared to only 5.19 percent of fastballs.
The slider he throws is a bit above average regarding velocity, but the interesting aspect f the pitch is his release point. Giles released his breaking ball 1.05 feet before pitchers usually do. With this, the average spin rate on the pitch is 147 rpm higher than average, and the average exit velocity is only at 77.58 mph.
It may be kind of different thinking to use a breaking pitch to set up a straight heater, but with all of the strikeouts attached to Giles’ name, he must be doing something right.