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…
OPS+ 96. ERA+ 89: The San Diego Padres had a miserable season, especially as the majority of “baseball people” thought that they would end up somewhere around mediocrity, or perhaps better. A 63-99 record is truly putrid. A -127 run differential was better than only that of the Nationals’ and the Pirates’ differentials, within the National League. All of this from a team that many penciled in to win more than they lost. There are two parts to a team: Pitching/Defense, Offense. Both were below average, and both were integral parts, that together, resulted in poor performance. Both consisted of course, of everything that they were, the tangible anyway. To lose 63 games with some talent, everything must collectively fail. It isn’t as if there wasn’t any talent on this Padres team. Adrian Gonzalez once again put together an incredible season, and is another superstar that is lost inside an organization that not many seem to follow, outside of San Diego. Gonzalez slugged 36 home runs while playing in a field that may or may not have more space than than the Grand Canyon.
Jake Peavy once again had a year that most pitchers would love to have had. Peavy only made 27 starts which is about five or six fewer than a team would like, but his overall numbers were still good. And Brian Giles quietly, as members of the Padres generally do, put up some nice numbers at the age of 37: .306/.398/.456.
The Padres had absolutely no offense from the following positions: Catcher, Second, and SS. This cannot happen if a team wants to make some legit noise in the playoff race. Khalil Greene was terrible. Tad Iguchi was awful in only a half a season. Edgar Gonzalez held his own, but hit for little power…and is 30, meaning he probably won’t be much, if anything. And the foursome that consisted of Bard, Hundley, Barrett, and Carlin was nothing short of horrendous at the catching position.
Chris Young, once again, went down with an injury, making only 18 starts. Maddux was ok while he was there. And everyone else struggled in the rotation.
What needs to be done? The Padres can do one of two things. They can completely revamp the farm by trading away most of what they have on the Major League squad. Or they can hold onto their two biggest trade chips: Adrian Gonzalez and Jake Peavy, and try and make a run in the next few years, more realistically 2010. Gonzalez is very cheap for the next two seasons. Peavy is expensive for a team in the Padres situation, but still cheaper than the market would value him. If I keep one of them, I keep Gonzalez. But the Padres may be wise to have a fire sale, which would mean Goodbye Adrian, Goodbye Jake, Goodbye Chris Young and Khalil Greene. Anyone who is young enough (Headley, Kouzmanoff, Hundley?) and has enough talent AND are not going to break the bank when their contract needs to be renewed, need to stick around. The Padres could do a lot of positive damage to their farm system trading Gonzalez and Peavy. And trading Chris Young could help a little too. But keeping Young, and hoping he pitches well in the beginning of 2009 may be the best bet for the team. Then if Young does succeed early off, trade him. However the team doesn’t need to rush in order to decide on Gonzalez and Peavy. Both are under control for the next two seasons, and beyond in Peavy’s case. And both are among the best in baseball, so leaving them in town, and making a few acquisitions, while letting the young talent develop, may give them a shot in 2010. But really, trading away both and restocking the farm sounds very appealing. Because a strong farm is everything in this game. It is the one place that money matters least. And of course, the sooner they trade away those two players, the sooner the prospects will be ready, assuming they go for lesser developed players.
The Padres spent $73 million in 2008, and are apparently seeking out ways to cut costs. So the idea of keeping the stars, while acquiring other stars via free agency is out of the question. That is why replenishing the system sounds so inviting. If they were realistically going to spend money, then signing Derek Lowe and Pat Burrell might sound like a good idea, but they are not going to spend it, so it isn’t a question. Teams that don’t and/or can’t spend money need to have young, cheap alternatives waiting in the wings of the system. And that is what the Padres probably need to focus on.