Two months short of his 28th birthday, ex-closer and possibly future ex-Astro Ken Giles is at a critical crossroad of a short up and down career. In the last year, he has gone from the closer for the World Champion Houston Astros to being sent to AAA after another pitching meltdown and personal meltdown last Tuesday night. How did he get here?
In 2009, he was drafted out of his New Mexico high school in the 44th round by the Florida Marlins. Instead, he went to junior college at Yavapai College in Arizona, best known for former alum and former Astro Curt Schilling. He was then drafted by the Phillies in 2011 and unsurprisingly, took a very up and down route to the majors over the next 4 seasons.
Over the next 3 seasons he had varying amounts of success with high strikeout totals, but control problems, spending all of 2013 at high A ball with a 6.31 ERA, while striking out almost 12 batters per 9 innings and walking almost seven. 2014 was the most critical season in his career as he blew through AA ball (1.20 ERA and 7 saves), AAA ball (2.63 ERA and 5 saves) and then leapfrogged into 44 games with the Phillies. He pitched brilliantly with a 1.18 ERA in 45.2 IP, while only allowing 1 HR, with 64 Ks and 11 walks.
100 Miles Giles continued to pitch well in 2015 and worked his way into being the closer; for the season he was 6-3 with 15 saves. His ERA was a very good 1.80 and he gave up only 2 HRs in 70 IP. His K rate dropped a little bit and his walk rate went up a little, but he looked like a very solid 25 y.o. controllable reliever when the Astros went after him in a five for 2 trade before the 2016 season, coming to the Astros with young SS Jonathan Arauz for former 1-1 draftee P Mark Appel, P Vincent Velasquez, P Brett Oberholtzer, P Tom Eshelman and P Harold Arauz.
Of course, the Astros had to ignore this little incident that seemed to be a bit of Shakespearian foreboding…
After he came to the Astros, it was expected he would be the closer immediately, but he began the season as mostly a 7th or 8th inning man. His first month stunk as in 11 appearances he had a 9.00 ERA, 2 losses and one blow save and 4 HRs allowed. His performance improved over the next 3 months and he was made the closer in August, finishing the season with 15 saves. He had brought his ERA down to 3.47, before he blew up allowing 6 runs in 1/3 IP in a blown save in late September. He finished the season with a meh 4.41 ERA and 15 of 20 save chances converted.
In the 2017 regular season, he stepped up and became the closer the team was expecting when they traded for him. He had two blips on the radar – 3 games in succession in early April and 3 games in succession in early June where he gave up 8 of the 16 runs he would allow for the season, but overall he was excellent in converting 34 of 38 saves with a 2.30 ERA.
Then during the 2017 post season, the wheels started to come off. He pitched in 7 post season games and gave up runs in 6 of them. He had two saves where he gave up a run (both in more than his normal 1 inning pitched), blew a critical save in game four against the Yankees, blew a 2 run lead in the 10th inning of the monumental game 2 against the Dodgers and lost game 4 against the Dodgers as he gave up 3 runs with 0 outs in a 1-1 game. He spent the last 3 games of the WS nailed to the bench.
2018 started much better than the previous two seasons as he appeared in 11 games in April, saved the only three save opportunities he had (the Astros were winning by big margins), giving up 0 HRs and 0 walks. Then on May Day, he came into a 0-0 game against the Yanks and gave up four runs in 0.1 IP and as he walked into the dugout he was seething and punched himself hard in the face. This was not a good thing. He seemed to right the ship a bit converting saves in six straight games appeared but still had off and on struggles, especially in non-save situations. As May melted into June he was no longer the only go to guy on saves as Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock and most significantly Hector Rondon picked up the save opportunities.
Tuesday night Giles came into a game with a 4-0 lead against the A’s. He gave up 3 hits to the first 3 batters as both his catcher and his pitching coach came out to try and settle him down and to give Rondon a chance to warm-up. A.J. Hinch took him out with a 4-1 lead and two men on base. Considering you normally expect closers to hold one run leads, taking him out at this point was the ultimate “no confidence” vote. Lip readers tweeted that Giles told Hinch what he could do with his firetruck (well that is the family friendly version) and before the Wednesday night game, Giles was headed to AAA Fresno and young Cionel Perez was coming back for the career debut he missed on his last call-up.
The Astros are not really forced to do anything about Giles at this point. They owe him about $2 million for the balance of 2018. They could just choose to let him go in the off-season. But…. what do you think needs to occur?
- Attempt to trade him for a bucket of balls to someone?
- Attempt to add him into some package trade for more than a bucket of balls?
- Let him stew riding buses in the minors and eating beanie weanies and see if he has an attitude adjustment?
- Bring him back up at the September call-up?
- Bury him like Jon Singleton and let him leave on his own when all is done?