Saturday, December 16, 2017

Actually, Ken Giles is Good.

I ran a scientific poll:

There are approximately 342.5 of the respondents who don't even think Ken Giles is good. I'm here to prove you wrong. The other nice 69% of you may casually go on about your day.

Let's get a baseline here: In 2017 the Average AL Reliever:
4.11 ERA/1.30 WHIP, with a .244/.318/.402 slash line, and a 2.62 K:BB ratio.

Ken Giles:
2.30 ERA/1.04 WHIP, with a .198/.268/.297 slash line, and a 3.95 K:BB ratio.

So that's cool. But we already know that Ken Giles should not be measured against dudes like Warwick Saupold. Now the basics, with ranks among 155 qualified relievers in 2017:
2.30 ERA (16th)
2.39 FIP (11th)
3.09 xFIP (16th) - Incidentally, Joe Smith ranks 3rd on this list.
11.92 K/9 (18th)
0.57 HR/9 (23rd)

Cherry-picking? A little bit. He had a 3.02 BB/9, which ranks 61st. But what is it about Ken Giles that makes 31% of respondents think he's Not Good? Confirmation bias. He had a bad April in 2016. He had a rough April in 2017, too. Ken Giles allowed 16 earned runs all during the regular season, but five of them came in his 3rd-5th appearances of the season (two straight 2ER outings against Seattle on April 6 and 11, and 1ER at Oakland on April 15). From that point forward (end of regular season) Giles threw 57.2IP, 39H/11ER, 74K:17BB, a .192/.253/.281 slash line, 1.72 ERA/0.97 WHIP, and a 4.35 K:BB ratio. All the hits he gave up? Giles allowed 2+ hits in just eight of his 63 appearances. He didn't allow a hit in 31 appearances (less than half, admittedly).

So what we're left with is the 2017 postseason, where Giles allowed at least one earned run in six of his seven outings (the Astros were 5-2 in his postseason appearances). ALCS G4 is on Giles. He pitched in two World Series games (G2 and G4), faced eleven batters, retired five of them and gave up 4H/5ER, 3K:2BB. You probably already know that Giles threw 7.2IP, 12H/10ER, 10K:5BB, 3HR in the postseason. Of the 12 hits he allowed, six went for extra-bases. This is decidedly Not Ideal, but does it make Ken Giles "bad?"

Let's not forget that Craig Kimbrel - who ranked in the top 2-3 of the above ranks among 155 qualified pitchers - allowed 4H/1ER, 2K:1BB in 2IP in the ALDS after having given up approximately four hits all throughout the regular season. Aroldis Chapman only pitched in two ALCS games (1.1IP) and allowed 2H/1ER. David Robertson, who had thrown 68.1IP with a 1.84 ERA in the regular season, allowed 7H/5ER in five ALCS innings. Kenley Jansen allowed 6H/3ER in 8.2 innings of relief in the World Series. Brandon Morrow (2.06 regular season ERA) gave up 8H/5ER in 5.1IP in the World Series.

Are those guys bad? No. We credit to the Astros for touching up The. Best. Pitchers. In. Baseball. to win the World Series. To say that Ken Giles is bad because he got roughed up in the playoffs is misguided at best. Everyone got roughed up in the playoffs - except Rich Hill, who dominated, and I will never understand how. Chris Devenski allowed 9H/8ER in 8IP and I don't hear anyone talking about how "unclutch" he is. Chris Sale had an 8.38 ERA in the ALDS. Zack Greinke had a 7.27 ERA in two games. Yu Darvish had a 6.14 ERA. Cy Young winner Corey Kluber was worse than Giles (in an obviously smaller sample), giving up 10H/9ER and 4HR in two starts totaling 6.1IP.

And don't forget that there may very well be a simple explanation: the postseason baseballs. The World Series balls were allegedly "slicker," limiting the effectiveness of the sliders of Giles and, thankfully, Yu Darvish. Verlander confirmed it:
I don't think it's the case of one pitcher saying, hey, something is different here. I think as a whole everybody is saying, whoa, something is a little off here. 

Giles threw his slider 47.3% of the time which ranked 5th-highest among 274 pitchers with a minimum of 60IP in the regular season. (Luke Gregerson - who perhaps wisely only threw 3.2IP in the entire postseason - ranked 6th in slider percentage.) Other pitchers who ran into some trouble in the playoffs and also threw sliders more than 30% of the time in the regular season include Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw, Luis Severino.

Ken Giles isn't bad. Is he a head-case? Maybe, a lot of relievers are. To say he's bad is to say that you really only watched the postseason.