Was that title clickbait? Kind of, but not really.
When it comes to closers, one stat sticks out in the minds of baseball fans. Even the most progressive, forward thinking follower of this game equates closers to saves, whether it’s intentional or not. As opposed to say, the win, the save holds at least some merit, because if you have a fuck-ton of saves, it generally means that you’ve come up big for your team to preserve a victory in a close game.
But of course, doing any type of serious evaluation purely based on a stat like saves is incredibly old fashioned because like RBI, you often need to have a good team to be among the league leaders. It’d be hard to lead the pack in either one of those if your team doesn’t get guys on – and in – consistently, so it’s unfair to players to judge them on that.
The Blue Jays are well below .500, and that’s why this title is clickbait-y. But the overall record of the team shouldn’t detract from what Ken Giles has done this season.
When the team traded Roberto Osuna for Giles and pitching prospects David Paulino and Hector Perez, it kind of seemed like the Astros threw their morals out the window to buy extremely low on a good player. At the time, Osuna was still serving the tail end of his 75-game suspension for violating the MLB’s domestic violence policy, so the Blue Jays only got a fraction for what they could have got if they decided to trade him at the end of last season.
But Giles, 28, himself will be able to replace Osuna, and that’s not even factoring in the two other somewhat intriguing arms that came the Jays way. He already has three stellar seasons (2013, 2014, 2017) under his belt, and even though his 4.94 ERA in 2018 might suggest otherwise, he hasn’t been that bad this year.
We live in an age with unlimited information, so let’s look at something else to level the playing field between Ken Giles and his peers.
How about save situations?
If you want to feel good about the closer going forward, look no further than how he’s done with the game on the line.
I intentionally didn’t say that Giles hasn’t been one of the best relievers in the league, because well, he definitely hasn’t. If you want to talk about closers, the role associated with that archaic stat, he has been. We know about his 23 clean saves this year, but he’s actually been more impressive than that. In save situations, opponents have slashed just .152/.183/.203 against him. That .385 OPS against in save situations is actually second best league wide (Sox reliever Jace Fry is first) among all 116 MLB relievers with at least 15 save situations.
In addition to that:
- his .662 WHIP ranks him fourth after Fry, Sean Doolittle, and Edwin Diaz
- his K/BB rate of 9 ranks him fourth after Doolittle, Juan Nicasio, and Taylor Rodgers
- his 0.40 ERA ranks him first
Is the story here about Giles dominating the competition in save situations during lost season? No, it should be more than that. We’re all looking for things to be excited about that doesn’t involve the 19-year-old who has the expectations of an entire country, right?
This exercise actually proves that the save stat in itself is pretty dumb because there’s a lot of quality among those 116 relievers with not many saves. And honestly, who gives a shit about Giles slamming the door shut when the team fell out of the race before his acquisition?
A large reason why Osuna was valuable was because he was young. I don’t think having him start was ever in the cards for the team, so he was just resigned to being a closer. It’s actually not that hard to “make” a closer. Of those 116, I’d wager that a few of the better ones without many saves could become household names and make the big bucks if they were just pitching an inning later.
With Giles, you have a guy that already has shown he can close. He has two years left of control after this one, and could command something if flipped by the deadline next season.
But if you’re looking for more positivity, he can make us forget about the guy that he replaced when the Blue Jays are ready to contend again. And with the cavalry coming north soon, and parts of Baseball America’s third best farm system in the league already seeping north and impacting games, I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.