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.

Charlie Morton helped create a lasting memory. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

By the time this story is out it will be a fact; Charlie Morton will have signed with the Tampa Bay Rays ending his tenure as a Houston Astro.

Going into free agency this off season, it was hard not to expect changes to come, especially with so many high profile Astros up for free agency. I fully expect Dallas Keuchel and Marwin Gonzales to be gone, but losing Good Ol Uncle Chuck was a little surprising.

All things considered, the Astros bringing back Morton seemed to make sense. Keuchel is due for a big pay day, and all signs point to that being with another team. Lance McCullers, of course, will miss the 2019 season to recover from his Tommy John procedure. With another year of Cole and Verlander, and a promotion to McHugh, it seemed like Morton would slide back into a solid rotation.

That, as we all know now, was not the case as CFM agreed to a two year, $30 million dollar contract with the Tampa Bay Rays.

……….

Maybe I'm a masochist, but I spent last night re-watching the 2017 World Series highlights, Game 7 to be specific. The Astros were in complete control, up 5-0 after the second. A platoon of McCullers, Peacock, Liriano, and Devenski got them through five. Morton entered the game in the bottom of the sixth. On his very first pitch, he gave up a base hit to Joc Pederson. He then proceeded to give up a walk to Foresythe and a single to Ethier, allowing the Dodgers to score their first run of the game, it was 5-1. After facing six batters in the sixth inning , Charlie reminded us why we added the F to his name as he retired the next nine batters in a row to win the game and the 2017 World Series.

Morton's post game interview with Buster Olney was as haunting, and prophetic, as it comes.

"All this (adversity) has made me a better person, a better ball player. I appreciate that as much as this ( winning the WS). This is the epitome of what you can do in this game. Look at us. This is crazy. To go from Fenway Park, to beat the Yankees and now the Dodgers. It's extraordinary. It hasn't sunk in but I'm so grateful for all these guys, for all the fans in Houston. I hope everybody enjoyed every second of this."

When the team who suffered through pitching ailments all of the postseason needed a stellar pitching performance the most, Morton delivered. When a city that needed something to believe in after a historical hurricane caused monumental damage, Charlie Morton did not falter. In a city where it's easier to find a reason why our teams won't succeed, Morton was not going to allow anything to take this moment away from him, away from us.

As iconic as Joe Bucks " ground ball to the right side could do it" call was, the moment in which McCann rushed a shocked Morton will live in my head forever. Finally, it was over. The Astros had their championship. Charlie Morton had his World Series win. Houston had its hero.

Growing up, my father had a plethora of stories about his favorite moments in sports. I have listened to more stories about Luis Hernandez than I care to ever have. It is funny looking back now because I will be doing the same thing to my eventual children. When it comes time for me to share why I love sports so much, it will be hard for me to not start with Charlie Morton's performance in the 2017 World Series.

Morton gave the best two years of his career to the Astros, and through that helped make this team a championship city again. He will, without a doubt go down as a hero in Houston sports. More importantly, to me at least, Morton will go down as a member of my favorite team of all time, the 2017 Astros.

Goodbye, my friend. Thanks for the memories that will last a life time.

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