INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Barry Laminack: Why you shouldn't be freaking out about Ken Giles...yet

Your Ken Giles panic is unwarranted. Al Bello/Getty Images

It seems like the cool thing to do early in the 2018 Astros season is to freak out over Ken Giles.

Now let me start this by saying I'm not a Ken Giles apologist.

Did he have a bad World Series? Yes.

Is he frustrating? Yes.

Is he a good closer? Yes.

Is he an elite closer? No.

But to say Ken Giles isn't any good, or needs to lose his job (as I've heard a few folks say already this year, 13 games in to the season) is just silly.  

The first thing these freaker-outers (totally just made that up) point to is how much he sucked in the World Series, and to that I say, no doubt! He did suck, and so did Josh Reddick, but nobody is calling for him to lose his job. Corey Kluber won the Cy Young and then posted a sweet 12.79 era in the postseason last year, higher than Giles 11.74 if you can believe that.

Besides, Astros fans should be used to their big named starters sucking in the playoffs, right?

Remember how Bagwell and Biggio had bad playoffs seemingly EVERY playoffs?

Remember how Jose Altuve hit .154 in the playoffs in 2015? BTW, THATS ALSO WHAT HE SLUGGED!!

Oh, say, do you guys remember when the best closer in baseball, Kenley Jansen, had a blown save (game 2)  and a loss (game 5) in the 2017 world series?

This is fun.

Anywho…

...oh and before we get to the data, a word for you "eye testers" out there, because inevitably somebody will say, "Hey stupid, I don't need stats, the eye test is all I need!!!!"

Well, just remember that you probably focus more on the bad than the good with your eye test (and memory). That's what numbers are for, to show the truth..aka facts.

So when you look at the numbers last year Ken Giles was one of the better closers in baseball.

He ranked 8th in saves with 34.

Among closers who ranked in the top 10 in saves he was tied for third with only four blown saves, and only three others in the top 10 had an era under 3.00 like he did.

Now let's get nerdy.

There's a new stat that I found the compared something called shutdowns and meltdowns and it was basically a better way to quantify how good of closer is based on whether they shut down a situation or melted down in that situation.

More on SD and MD from Fangraphs.com:

"Shutdowns (SD) and Meltdowns (MD) were created as an alternative to Saves and Blown Saves in an effort to better represent a relief pitchers value. While the Save rule is odd and complicated, Shutdowns and Meltdowns strip away these complications and answer a simple question: did a relief pitcher help or hinder his teams chances of winning a game? If they improved their teams chances of winning by a certain amount, they get a Shutdown. If they instead made their team more likely to lose by a certain amount, they get a Meltdown.

Think of Shutdowns and Meltdowns as a simple way to determine whether or not the pitcher had an effective outing or not.

...40 shutdowns is roughly as impressive as 40 saves or 40 holds. Dominant closers or set-up men will typically have 35 to 40+ shutdowns and a handful of meltdowns.

Meanwhile, meltdowns are more common than blown saves, and they can happen to both closers and non-closers alike. The worst relievers will rack up around 10 to 15 meltdowns in a season."

Here's a nifty chart showing how Giles stacks up against the games best closer (Jansen, Kimbrel and the up and coming Corey Knebel):

As you can see, Giles had just as many “meltdowns” and Kimbrel last year, and both only had 2 more than Jansen.

If you look at their shutdown percent and meltdown percent (not shown) it shakes down as follows:

SHUTDOWN PERCENT (higher is better):

Jansen 64.62%

Knebel 60.53%

Kimbrel 46.27%

Giles 38.09%

MELTDOWN PERCENT (lower is better):

Jansen 4.62%

Giles 7.94%

Kimbrel 7.46%

Knebel 11.84%

Does Ken Giles make you cuss? Sure.

Doe he have bad outings? Yep.

Dallas Keuchel hasn't been great thus far, nor has Lance McCullers, and everyone's bullpen darling Brad Peacock took the L yesterday vs. the Twins after he couldn't get the job done, yet nobody is asking if these guys should lose their jobs, so chill out with Ken Giles.

At least give him a chance because guys like him, with stuff like he has, don't come around very often.

And lets not forget, Giles is still relatively young in baseball years. In fact, I was surprised to find out when somebody asked if he should be sent down, that he actually could because he only has 3.1 years of service time. That's very young for a closer.

He is got a lively, gifted arm and when he's on he is electric. The problem is he is young and inconsistent and still needs to mature in his role, and that can take some time and drive fans crazy.

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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