Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2015 Keltner List: Brian Giles

Brian Giles was one of my favorite players. Being a Pirate fan over the last twenty years has taught me many things, and one is to appreciate a good player on a bad team. So, thank you, Brian Giles, for playing so well for so many for such a poor team.

1. Was he regarded as the best player in baseball?

Not to my knowledge.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

From 1999-2003, definitely. Giles was the face of the Pirates franchise at the millennium. In 1999, he Todd Ritchie, Jason Kendall (even though he played in only 78 games), Kevin Young and Warren Morris led the Pirates to 78 wins, the closest that the team came to a winning record between 1992-2012.

He was arguably the best position player with the Padres in 2004-05. The Cleveland teams he played with were absolutely loaded.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Giles played right field at the end of his career, but spent his time with the Pirates starting in center and left. He was never the best player in baseball at any of those positions, and was not the best left fielder in the NL during his time. Defensively he was average; most of his value was in hitting in a hitter-friendly era.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Giles was a bench guy and part time DH on the heavy hitting Cleveland Indians teams of the mid 1990s, and went to the post season three times with them (1996-98). He would not appear in the post season again until 2005-06 with the Padres. His OPS in 77 postseason ABs is .597. The Indians won their division by more than 5 games in 1996-98.

5. Was he a good enough player to contribute past his prime?

The first time Giles received 500 AB in a season was his first year with the Pirates in 1999 at age 27. Over the next 10 seasons he was durable, averaging close to 150 games per season. He appeared in 147 games in 2008 at age 37, playing on an arthritic knee that eventually forced his retirement following the 2009 season. In his last full time year, he slashed .306/.398/.456 and posted 40 2B for the first time in his career.

6. Is he the best player in history not in the Hall of Fame?

No. Giles is not the best outfielder not in the Hall of Fame.

7. Are most players with similar statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Giles has seven "truly similar" players (similarity scores over 900). None of these players is in the Hall, but three are interesting. Reggie Smith, the player most similar to Giles, received 3 votes on his first year on the ballot in 1988. I find this unfair, as Smith was a much better player than that. Fred Lynn got between 4.5 and 5.5% of the votes in 1996 and 1997 and was off the ballot. Lynn was a better player than this indicates. Perhaps the most interesting is Dante Bichette, one of the poster boys for the 1990s offensive explosion and the Coors Field effect.

Bichette is a direct contemporary of Giles and received 0.6% of the votes in 2007. While this is due to the effect of playing in Denver, it may speak to what will happen with Giles next year. 1990s hitters have not done to well in the voting thus far. I have often thought about the coincidence of steroids and the expansion of baseball into the thin air of Coors, but I don't know what to make of it.

8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

In Giles' case, no. He is at 53 on the HoF monitor and 41 on the HoF standards. His career peak of 37.3 WAR is higher than several Hall members (Chuck Klein, Willie Keeler for example) but is lower than the average hall member.

9. Is there evidence to suggest that he was much better or worse than his statistics suggest?

Giles was implicated by Jason Kendall for using Adderall back in 1997-8. (See: http://www.bucsdugout.com/2010/3/11/1368924/jason-kendall-implicates-brian). I am not sure what became of this, but every player who hit more than 30 HR in the 1990s was suspected, and again, this is a problem of baseball's own making. Adderall itself is used for treatment of ADHD and is banned by baseball unless you have a doctor's note or pre-existing condition.

Giles' power number did drop off appreciably in San Diego, but most of that can be attributed to PetCo Park.

10. Is he the best player eligible who has not been inducted?


11. How many MVP type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times did he come close?

Giles finished in the top 10 in MVP voting once (2005 San Diego: .301/.423/.483, led league in walks with 119) and in the top 20 in three of his four seasons in Pittsburgh.

12. How many All Star type seasons did he have? How many All Star games did he appear in?Did most other players who appeared in this many ASG go to the Hall of Fame?

Giles was named to two ASG (2000-01) but started neither. This would be a VERY low number for a Hall of Famer. I would argue he was worthy of a selection in 2005 but Tony LaRussa selected Jake Peavy instead.

13.If this man was the best player on his team, could that team win the pennant?

I would say no. Giles is rare in that he was clearly the best player on his team for nearly four seasons. For those four seasons the Pirates were 84 games under .500. This is not the fault of Brian Giles, but is the fault of multiple factors and the luck of the Pirates in those years.

 14. What impact did this player have on baseball history?

The main impact Giles made was helping the Pirates open PNC Park as the centerpiece of the "new" Pirates. Besides the Kendall accusation, Giles is not suspected of doing steroids, one of the few power hitting, productive outfielders of the 1990s who has escaped unscathed.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of the Hall of Fame?

In 2008 a video surfaced that appeared to show Giles hitting his girlfriend in a bar in Phoenix. In 2010, the resulting domestic violence suit was thrown out, but is currently on appeal by former "Baseball Wives" cast member Cheri Olivera. I refuse to call this woman a "reality TV star" as there is no such thing as "reality TV." He went to the now ubiquitous for celebs-beating-their-significant-others anger management classes.

The video looks pretty conclusive (http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports/Alleged-Beating-by-Padre-Caught-on-Tape.html) and the resulting court cases have bankrupted Olivera and caused Giles to sell his mansion in San Diego. Giles maintains that Olivera is a "gold digger" and went so far as to demand the return of Olivera's engagement ring (valued at over $107,000). Well, Jack Ass, don't grab your girlfriend by the back of the head and slap her around.

Giles was a good player, a strong hitter with an excellent batting eye, but is not a hall of famer.

Monday, June 23, 2014

2015 Keltners Come Early: Troy Percival

This year, I will start early on the Keltner list, to take breaks between my job and writing for graduate school. Sheesh.

I will begin by looking at some of the first year ballot people, which is quite an interesting list for 2015.  Today, it is Troy Percival, one of the top closers of the late 90s and early 2000s. He was drafted in the 6th Rd out of UC-Riverside. He spent his first season in the minors as a catcher in 1990, then switched to the bullpen at Boise in 1991.

  1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
Not to my knowledge. He was well respected, but never considered "the best".
Was he the best player on his team? No, but was a big part of a World Series championship.
     2. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Percival appeared in the post-season just once but was on the World Series champion 2002 Angels. In the 2002 post season, he recorded 7 saves in 9 appearances, and was dominant in the AL Championship series against the Twins (2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 3 1/3 perfect IP.) Down the stretch in 2002, Percival posted a great 1.61 ERA after the All Star Break. He blew a save on April 21 against the A's, dropping the Angels record to 6-12, and only blew three more during the rest of the regular season.

In 1997, Percival recorded 13 SV in August and September as the Angels faded to second. While he was voted a full share of the 2006 Tiger's series share, he was on the DL all season with a forearm injury

     3. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play past his prime?

The aforementioned injury cost Percival the better part of two seasons before he decided to comeback with the Cardinals in 2007. The 2005 injury was at age 35, and Percival had pitched in at least 50 games 10 seasons in a row before he was hurt. After his comeback, he was not the same pitcher, but managed to last one season as a closer for the Rays in 2008.

     4. Is he the best player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?


     5. Are most players with comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Of Percival's 10 best comps (all over 900 on the similarity scale, a very strong comp number) none are in the hall. His #2 comp was the closer on the team Percival's Angels beat in the 2002 Series, Robb Nen. While Nen, Jeff Montgomery, Rod Beck and Tom Henke were all good relievers, none are particularly good candidates.

     6. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

Percival never led the league in saves (ummmmmmm.....Mariano Rivera?) and is borderline on the hall of fame monitor. He is very low on the HoF standards, and his career peak is roughly 1/2 the WAR value of the 5 relievers in the hall of fame.

     7. Is there any evidence to suggest he was significantly worse or better than his statistics?

Not really. Percival may have been the first closer to be groomed as such when in the minor leagues; I am not sure about this, but he certainly was one of the first. He is also the career leader in saves for the Angels franchise.

     8. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?

I would argue no and would pick Lee Smith. One could also point to John Smoltz, but as he was a starter for the majority of his career, I would go with Lee Smith.

     9. How many Cy Young/MVP seasons did he have? Did he ever win a Cy Young award? If not, how many times was he close?

Percival never got a vote for a Cy Young award. Not one. He deserved a few in 2002 probably, and maybe a few other seasons.

     10. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?

Percival was selected for four ASG and pitched in three (1996, 1998-99, 2001). He was deserving in 2004. For the five relievers in the Hall, they average seven appearances, not including Mariano Rivera's non-eligible 13 appearances.

     11. If this man was the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

I don't think so. Granted, closers are an important piece of a ballclub (regardless if the "book" covering their use is nonsense) but the one postseason appearance in Percival's career with the Angels speaks for itself. For the best Angels of the period, I would go with Tim Salmon, Darin Erstad or Jim Edmonds.

     12. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Again, I am not sure if Percival was the first pitcher to be groomed as a closer from A ball on. If so, that is a fairly important place.

     13. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

When Percival was voted a full share for the 2006 World Series, he used the money to pay for a box at Comerica Park for the use of the players wives. He has run multiple baseball camps in southern California, and coaches at his old high school.

While a good pitcher for quite a few years, I don't think Percival is a Hall of Fame candidate.