Baseball Analysts originally brought this to my attention, and it caught me by surprise, and “surprise” may be an understatement. Brian Giles has enjoyed a very rewarding career, numbers wise, and I am sure he can’t complain about his finances either. Giles’ case is the exact reason I rely on numbers, rather than a reliance on media created markets, and the same reason why I try and do my own thinking, and not place too much emphasis on what ESPN tells me to think.
See, Brian Giles has basically played on two teams throughout his career, aside from a brief two year stint with the Cleveland Indians. The two teams that Giles has spent a combined ten years on, are the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Diego Padres. Now tell me, who outside of those two cities actually watches the two teams play on a regular basis? I sure don’t, in fact, even if I do choose to watch a few National League teams play, I can sure find some teams that are more exciting to watch than them. They don’t win, or haven’t been consistent winners, other than some decent years by the Padres in which they seemed to be the worst team to make the playoffs when they did. The Pirates even more so, they just don’t win, and have not experienced winning in some time now.
But back to Giles; the RF has put up some pretty stunning numbers for a player that gets little attention. Have many ever referred to Giles as a great player? An OPS+ of 139 in 14 seasons suggests that he might very well have been. Giles has batted .294 over the duration of his career, reached base at a clip of .404, and slugged a very good .511. Giles is a corner OF, so his expectations at the plate are slightly more demanding than most other positions. But he has gone above and beyond that. Giles hit 35+ home runs in four straight full seasons before splitting time between San Diego and Pittsburgh in 2003. After that, Giles never even came close to hitting 30 home runs again, most likely because Petco was the park that he played in, and partially I am sure because was no longer in his “prime.”
The “counting stats” are not there, and that has something to do with Petco, definitely. But even if Giles played in a neutral park, he probably would still fall short of the numbers a player “requires” to be inducted into Cooperstown. 300 home runs are not going to grab anyone’s attention 6+ seasons from now, but an OPS+ over 135 might, if the voters actually looked at it. That .404 OBP might, if they focused on it a little more. I am not suggesting that Giles is a Hall of Famer, necessarily, simply pointing out that his case is much stronger than most would probably think of it to be. “Under the radar” is what Pittsburgh does to a player, just ask Jason Bay who has gone from underrated, to possibly being overrated after 2009 is spent in Boston (Bay is a very good player, but a few walk-offs in Boston may have him closer to the Pujols category in the minds of some fans).
So this is why I rely on the numbers. Must I say it again? I don’t watch Brian Giles enough, and almost definitely never will watch him enough in the future either. He has gone somewhat unnoticed in two small markets, and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if he is off of the Hall of Fame ballot after a single year. But that doesn’t mean that he isn’t worthy of at least sticking around a few years, or more…