A closer look: Who is new Mariners right-handed reliever Ken Giles?
The Mariners have added a hard-throwing right-handed reliever to hopefully be a stabilizing presence in late innings, but unfortunately we likely won’t be seeing him until the 2022 season.
As 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mariners insider Shannon Drayer reported Thursday, which you can read about in the link above, the Mariners and veteran reliever Ken Giles have agreed to a two-year major league contract. The two years is important as Giles underwent Tommy John surgery in September and very well could miss all of the 2021 season.
While fans may not be too thrilled that the biggest name the Mariners have added this offseason is one who likely won’t pitch in a game for over a year, it’s a move that, given the team’s current trajectory, could pay dividends in 2022.
So when we finally do get to see Giles toe the rubber in a Mariners uniform, what can we expect? Let’s take a closer look at Seattle’s latest acquisition.
Another hard-throwing RHP in the pen
Giles’ average four-seam fastball velocity in 2019, per Statcast, was 96.9 mph and over the course of his MLB career, which started in 2014, he has regularly been between 96 and 99 mph with the heater, which has also reached triple digits. His fastball velocity in 2019 was in the 94th percentile.
Giles will join Andrés Muñoz and Rafael Montero as hard-throwing right handers in Seattle’s pen in 2022. Kendall Graveman and Kenyan Middleton also throw hard from the right side, and they could be with Giles and those other two mentioned if they perform well in 2021. Both Graveman and Middleton are on one-year contracts for the 2021 season.
He has a history of missing bats
In 2019, Giles’ whiff rate and strikeout percentage were both in the 99th percentile in all of MLB, per Statcast. He struck out just under 40% of the batters he faced in 2019, ending the season with 83 strikeouts in 53 innings. Overall in his career, Giles has 478 strikeouts in 351 innings, good for a 12.3 career strikeouts per nine innings rate.
As noted, Giles has a great fastball, but he also has a slider that he uses roughly half of the time as well, which sits around 86 mph. While the fastball was good in 2019, his slider was even better.
Opponents hit just .124 off of the slider and 60 of his 84 strikeouts were with the breaking ball. He also allowed just five extra base hits off the slider, with opponents slugging a meager .190 off it. That pitch was a key reason why Giles’ expected slugging opponent percentage, expected opponent batting average and expected ERA were in the 95th, 97th and 98th percentiles, respectively, in 2019.
Overall numbers? Pretty good, especially in 2019
Giles was a seventh-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2011 MLB Draft and signed rather than playing college baseball at the University of Arizona.
Giles made his MLB debut at the age of 23 in 2014 for the Philadelphia Phillies and since then, he has accumulated a 2.74 ERA, 1.117 WHIP, 478 strikeouts, 110 walks and 115 saves in 351 innings in 357 career games.
He was especially dominant in his first two seasons, finishing his career with the Phillies with a 1.56 ERA and 16 saves in 113 games.
Giles was traded to the Houston Astros after 2015 and while he had some notable downs and struggled mightily in the postseason in Houston’s 2017 World Series run, he put up solid numbers with a 3.57 ERA and 61 saves in 70 save opportunities in 166 games.
Ahead of the 2018 trade deadline, Giles was traded from Houston to the Toronto Blue Jays and after a solid showing in 2018, he was at his best in 2019, finishing the season with a 1.87 ERA and 26 saves (27 opportunities) in 53 innings. He threw just 3.2 innings in 2020 and struggled with a brutal 9.82 ERA and 2.18 WHIP before being shut down and undergoing Tommy John surgery.