Despite a roller coaster 2016 season, Astros reliever Ken Giles entered this season as the de facto face of the Astros bullpen.
Let me make one thing obvious: The Astros bullpen is one of the best in baseball today. There is simply no way to deny that tidbit of truth. You can partially thank Ken Giles for this development.
As you all may recall, Giles had a less-than-memorable 2016 season. Sure, the final result wasn’t all that bad, but he did have the occasional dud. Those duds were the reason why Giles has been portrayed in a somewhat negative light. For example, he had a disappointing month of April last year from a pitching perspective (9.00 ERA/6.75 FIP). This performance, fairly or not, set the tone for his first season in Houston.
If you remove those lackluster results from the record, though, Giles would’ve finished last season with a 3.23 ERA/2.16 FIP with a 37.6% K%. Perfectly acceptable numbers from a high-usage reliever from my point of view.
Fast forward to today’s Memorial Day weekend, and you will notice that Giles has had a much improved April (4.35 ERA/1.76 FIP). The most damning part about his performance last month was the three-game stretch in which he surrendered all five of his runs. From April 17th onwards, though, it appears that Giles has turned the corner.
Giles has basically transformed into the reliever that the Astros have desired from the start. For over a month, the hard-throwing right-hander has been one the team’s best pitching options late in the game. One part of the improvement appears to be from his ability to locate his pitches more effectively.
If Giles can keep this up all season, then Chris Devenski may have some competition as the Astros best reliever. More importantly, this development could allow manager A.J. Hinch to be more liberal in his usage of relief pitchers. This could be an opposing team’s nightmare knowing that both Giles and Devenski are waiting in the wings to shut your offense down in later innings.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant**