2014 Ken Giles: 2011 Craig Kimbrel’s Long-Lost Brother

With 2014’s baseball season winding down, end of year award discussion is starting to kick into high gear. It seems every day there’s a new article discussing X player’s case for winning Y award, when likely Z will win it.

Mike Petriello wrote an article discussing the NL Rookie of the Year race, and in it stated that it comes down to two players — Billy Hamilton of the Reds or Jacob DeGrom of the Mets. Ken Giles of the Phillies may not be considered a contender for the award, but by every statistical measure Giles’s 2014 rookie season compares  favorably with Craig Kimbrel’s 2011 RoY winning season.

In 2011, the NL Rookie of the Year award was a unanimous decision — Craig Kimbrel! Ice in his veins! 46 saves! Those strike outs! That slider! Could you vote for anyone else in good conscience?

Kimbrel was (and still is) a fantastic pitcher. But if his case for Rookie of the Year was unanimous, does that mean Ken Giles should also garner some consideration? And if Ken Giles had started the season at the Major League level and produced like he has so far, what would that look like? Would he have a better shot then? Let’s dive into the numbers.

Note: I am not an expert with projections. Therefore — all rate stats will stay the same between Ken Giles’s 2014 season and the full-season extrapolation. Sorry to disappoint.

First, some dashboard stats:

Both pitchers allow very low AVG despite having average to below-average luck with BABIP. Their LOB% is well above average, and they don’t allow a lot of home runs. As a result, their accumulated WAR values are both very good. Let’s dig into some rate stats to see how they compare there.

By FIP and xFIP, these pitchers are comparable. By ERA Giles has the advantage, which likely can be explained by the difference in BABIP.

Both pitchers have K rates that are simply awesome. Kimbrel gives up a few more free passes,  but makes up for it with some more K’s. As a result, their xFIP is nearly identical.

Now let’s look at how they achieve these results:

Stuff wise, they mirror one another. Both fastball/slider guys, with some real heat on their fastballs and sliders that fare rather well.
The real eye-opener — they even attack hitters the same way. Take a look at Kimbrel’s Pitch% heat chart in comparison with Giles’s. They are remarkably close to one another.


So we have two pitchers that have great stuff and get great results, but Giles is not considered a candidate. Why? Oh right:

Kimbrel was the closer and Giles was stuck behind the 13 million dollar man.

That should not sway our opinion and lead us to devalue the year Giles has had. We are smarter than that! If Giles had been up since April (and ready to face major-league hitters), in all likelihood we’d be talking about him when it came to NL RoY voting.

One last note: Minimum 40 IP, only two rookies have ever had a lower FIP than Ken Giles. Those occurred in 1884 (Henry Porter, 1.27) and 1908 (Roy Witherup, 1.31). Baseball history is long and filled with many numbers. Ken Giles ranks near the top of that list, and the two players in front of him played in the dead-ball era. What Giles is doing is special, and should be recognized.

David Palardy is a father, husband, software developer, amateur sabermetrician, and lifelong Phillies fan. More of his writing can be found at palardelphia.com, which is mostly but not exclusively Phillies related.

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Spitball McPhee
9 years ago

Literally the first I have heard of this guy; impressive reliever though.

9 years ago

Kinmbrel throws a curve ball not a slider.