Ken Giles Has Emerged As A Top-Shelf Reliever
Before Ken Giles‘ mid-June call up to the Major Leagues — after throwing all of 13 2/3 innings in his first taste of Triple-A competition — some space was devoted here to urging caution and patience with the talented right-hander. It was not misguided, as Giles was displaying control problems reminiscent of Phillippe Aumont. He walked 13 of 114 batters he faced prior to his promotion to the majors. The 11.4 percent walk rate would be the 33rd-highest out of 201 relievers with at least 25 innings pitched this season.
Additionally, with the Phillies in the midst of another lost season, it made little sense to rush a rough-around-the-edges reliever to the majors and start his service time clock earlier than necessary. There was reason to want to see more than 28 2/3 innings above Single-A from the right-hander. In short, there were a lot of reasons to keep Giles away from the major leagues.
The Phillies didn’t, and they got it right.
Since making his major league debut on June 13, Giles has an astounding 1.27 ERA and a 41/6 K/BB ratio in 28 1/3 innings. Pick a stat, any stat, and Giles smells like roses.
1.34 FIP. 1.81 xFIP if that’s your flavor. 1.36 SIERA. That’s not just good; that’s elite. It’s the type of stuff that commands multiple years and tens of millions of dollars on the free agent market. Come with me.
Giles’ 39.4 percent strikeout rate is the sixth-highest among all major league relievers with at least 25 innings pitched. His 5.8 percent walk rate ranks 41st out of 201. Giles’ 6.83 K/BB ratio is seventh-best in baseball. His 33.7 percent K-BB% (strikeout rate minus his walk rate) is fourth-best.
Here are the relievers, between 2011 and 2013, who posted a K/BB ratio of 6.5 or better (min. 50 IP):
Granted, there are a couple names on there — Mujica and Lopez, whose ratios had less to do with striking batters out than refusing to let them reach base with a walk — who don’t make your loins quiver, but that’s a pretty solid list of closers. It’s hard to fake your way onto lists that involve Uehara, Papelbon, Kimbrel, and Rivera.
Obviously, the Giles hagiography must come with the standard warning about relievers: small sample size. 28 innings is nothing. It’s four or five starts from a guy in the rotation. The league has only had a few months to get acquainted with him, so his ability to adjust to the adjustments will be an important factor in his success going forward.
The talent, however, is there. He is clearly a reliever capable of taking over as the Phillies’ closer once they decide to close the book on Jonathan Papelbon. Furthermore, that may be a role in which he sticks for many more years, including the time when the Phillies are no longer a bottom-feeder in the National League. Giles could be one of a select few who could help usher in a new era of Phillies baseball, along with Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, and J.P. Crawford.