Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Looking at Brian Giles

I was in the midst of posting this response in the comments section, and I figured it was better suited as a post...

John,

I know a lot of people have been raising questions about Giles recently, as he's had a miserable start to his season.

I know he's 38, but this is also a very small sample that may not be indicative of anything.

In 2005 Giles hit .145/.294/205 over 100 or so pa's from early April to early May.

In 2006 Giles hit .115/.303/.135 in roughly 70 pa's from late June through early July.

In 2007 Giles hit .175/.273/.330 in more than 100 pa's from early Sept until the end of the season.

In 2008 Giles hit .218/.365/.308 in more than 70 pa's in late April through mid-May.

The point is that just about anything can happen to just about anyone over a span of 150 plate appearances, and in fact, something similar has happened to Giles in each of the past four seasons.

Here's another example: in 2003 when I was still in Oakland, we had the reigning AL MVP, Miguel Tejada, playing shortstop. After his first 120 pa's or so of the season, he was hitting .157/.229/.287 - the reigning MVP! By the end of the season he was up to .278/.336/.472 - right in line with his career norms.

Though Brian hasn't swung the bat the way all of us are accustomed to seeing, he has had some bad luck and his approach has improved. In the first 15 games Brian walked just four times and struck out 10. That is unusual for a guy who walked more than he has struck out over the course of his entire ML career. However, in the past 16 games Brian has walked nine times and struck out five. That's more like it and could be a sign that he's seeing the ball better. Then again, that could just be small sample sizes playing tricks on us...

The real point is that we're generally better served by looking at the body of work over a longer time frame than we are by focusing on the last 100 pa's. Furthermore, bad streaks get exacerbated early in the season because the numbers on the scoreboard look so terrible. If a player has a tough stretch in July that takes his average from .280 down to .255, it doesn't get nearly as much attention.

All of that doesn't mean that we're blind to changes of skill level, especially as players age. However, it does mean that players with long track records of success ought to be given more leeway before making irrevocable decisions.

22 comments:

dan said...

Paul,

With an established veteran like Giles, how large of a sample size do you need to discern whether poor play is indicative of a change in signal rather than just noise? (If anything, your answer here could help me with my fantasy team.) Thanks.

JC said...

Occam's razor: "The simplest explanation is most likely the correct explanation."

Which in this case equals: Brian Giles is old. Get over it.

David said...

I am encouraged by the turnaround in his K/BB ratio. That said, I hate to be this snarky, but using Tejada as an example may not have been the best choice in the world. The world is a different place for major league baseball players now than it was in 2003. I'm pretty sure Giles and Tejada (among others) would agree.

Ray said...

What is the difference between Giles' slow start this season and the slow start Jim Edmonds got off to last year?

Diesel said...

@ JCIt's probably best to only toss out concepts like Occam's razor when you actually understand the concept itself, and more importantly its limitations. The Razor probably helps explain Giles' early-season struggles about as well as the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

What's funny about your comment is that the simplest answer, were one to be sought, would be "small sample size." In fact, there are tons of simple answers. You've picked one that suits you, which is fine. Just don't pull old William into your ill-defended argument.

Snark and ignorance are a fatal combination, champ.

JonB said...

I read all the stats and explanations like anyone else. Still, I have yet to hear a good reason from any direction on why a player needs to work through an epic slump while batting in the 3-hole. Why not in the 7-hole, or better yet, in the cage?

Anyway, this is much like what Bochy did with Vinny Catilla. It makes no sense, hurts the team, and infuriates your paying customers.

planetjeffy said...

The sample size is too small. BG has performed year after year. Usually you will see steady declines, not the drop off we are seeing, unless there is an injury or it's Andruw Jones. It is not like he is keeping a .300 hitter on the bench. That being said, if things don't take off in a week or two, sit him on the bench for a week.

John said...

Paul-

Thank you for doing my homework for me. I did not know that Giles has had so many quite similar, what, extended slumps?

I apologize for my laziness.

I also want to say that this blog has been one of the best things about the Padres over the past couple years; your sporadic posts have definitely kept up my interest in the team.

I do hope that Giles pays back Bud Black and the organization for all the confidence Black and the Padres have put in him. I just figured the payoff would have come by now.

Looks like Giles is batting leadoff today. So he has a chance not only to get himself going, but to give the team a shot in the arm.

Or to infuriate me even more since his stats justify No. 8 in the order, or even No. 9, behind Peavy.

Thanks for the blog, Paul.

Poolie said...

I see 2 options:

1- Flush him now:
- we loose $9M
- get nothing in return
- he will heat up with another team. You do not go from .306 and 9th best hitting average in the NL 2008 to a .150 hitter overnight. It very reasonable to project that he will still finish the year around .280 depiste the bad start (see Paul's examples). This would mean that he would have to hit .310/.320 the rest of this year to get there, and we would have missed on that for zero returns.

If he was blocking Blanks, I could see that he would be blocking valuable landscape but Blanks wouldnt be ready for RF by mid-summer in the best case scenario. Venable and Macias are 4th and 5th OF's at best so no need to make room now for them either.

2- We stick with the plan. i.e. let him heat up, then when his value is back up, trade him to a contending team this summer, get some decent prospect in return and have the new team eat part of his salary. Then Venable/Macias can keep the seat warm until Gigantor is ready to spread his wings in RF.

At the current rate anyway, a Macias and Venable CF platoon should be replacing the current sad Gerut & Hairston combo by end of May!

jason said...

as a fan, i'd rather watch kyle blanks stumble around the outfield than giles and his sub .200 avg, lack of power, speed, and arm strength.

not a fan of veteran leadership.
A-Gon is a veteran. Problem solved.

Glenna said...

I guess a lot of us are at the point where we also want to frequently look at someone like Kyle Blanks in RF.

Paul DePodesta said...

dan,

That's a great question.

When a player does something that they've never done before (either good or bad) we need to investigate if it's an odd occurrence or a fundamental change in the player. We actually have some ways of looking at this, but I can't get into detail.

Paul DePodesta said...

JonB,

Fair enough. You have a point.

Paul DePodesta said...

jason, glenna, et al,

I hear you, but let's remember that Kyle Blanks has played exactly one game in the OF, and he also only has about 130 pa's in AAA. We had a similar situation with Headley last year - move to a higher level while learning a new position - and it can take some time.

That said, I think we're all excited about Kyle, and we look forward to having him up here.

What's He Thinking? said...

et him heat up, then when his value is back up, trade him to a contending team this summer"

Umm, didn't the Padres try that last year? They all but had him traded to Boston and Giles said no.

Where are all these "he sucks" people when you get a career .275 hitter batting .350 through the first six weeks of the season, but then by September, he's batting .275. Guess how he went from .350 to .275. A lot of bad PAs. But he's hitting for his career average, so people are willing to live with it. Like others said, if Giles were hitting .350 at the point, you'd be all excited, but then if he finishes the season at his usual .280, no one would even notice the struggles.

myk13 said...

Paul why has the transition to move Blanks to the OF just now getting started? Were you guys thinking Adrian Gonzalez was going to regress or something? We all know he is our 1B and Blanks has no shot at making it over there so i am puzzled as to why he didn't start making the transition while still in AA?

WebSoulSurfer said...

JC, How does that explain Giles production last season?

If Giles age was the only factor then would one season make that big of a difference?

Somehow I don't think it does.

I think bigger factors in Giles production this season has been on two different areas of focus.

1 - The new emphasis by the hitting coach on hitting the ball down. Giles ground ball rates are up and his line drive rates are down 40%. Line drives are what you get most of your hits on and the vast majority of your 2 and 3 base hits. Giles needs to focus on doing what he has done well for 14 seasons, and forget what Lefebvre has to say. It simply does not apply to Giles who has always been a line drive type of hitter.

2 - Mental. The lawsuit and things that have been dredged up as well as the questions he must be fielding about it from the media and the fans seems to be affecting his production and his concentration.

JonB, no player can work through a slump unless he is facing live pitching. You CAN take extra batting practice or time in the cage, but I would be surprised if Giles was not already among the first in the cage every day and the last to leave. His work ethic is one of the reasons he has been so good for so long.

Moving Giles around in the batting order has seemed to have a detrimental effect so far, although it has been an extremely small sample size. He has gone 3/23 the past week with 2 strike outs and no walks. There is alot to be said for simply letting a player hit through his slump.

Last season Alfonso Soriano was hitting .164 after 25 team games and Piniella left him at lead off and it paid off when he got hot and finished the season at .280.

Last Season Jimmy Rollins had a prolonged slump from May 24th to June 29th in which he hit just .210 and the Phillies simply left him in the lead off and let him hit his way out of it.

If a player has a history of production, good managers will generally allow them to hit their way out of their slumps without changing them around much in the line up.

Giles was not hitting well during the Padres 9-3 run either and there was no public outcry for the Padres to sit him or move him down in the line up. In my opinion no one would say a thing if the Padres were winning.

David said...

JonB on Tuesday: "I read all the stats and explanations like anyone else. Still, I have yet to hear a good reason from any direction on why a player needs to work through an epic slump while batting in the 3-hole. Why not in the 7-hole, or better yet, in the cage?"

Paul on Wednesday AM: "JonB, Fair enough. You have a point."

Giles on Wednesday: Batting 7th.

Let me try: At some point a small sample size is no longer small. I'm just curious at what point the front office will pull an Edmonds and put someone with some athleticism (not to mention a throwing arm) in right field. Macias seems to be thought of as a AAAA player, but he seems more capable at this point.

hector said...

For what it's worth. I like Gaudin and Perdomo because they still have promise an electric arms. I believe that Giles will turn it around, but Duaner Sanchez has to go.

I don't understand why the team is struggling so much, what pressure? it is not the media, it is not coming from the high attendance figures, and certainly it shouldn't be coming from the front office that slashed half the payroll.

There is no pressure, just play the kids game. Wait for a good pitch to hit and put the fat part of the bat on the ball where it is pitched.

Alejandro said...

websoul. I once heard Mark Grant saying that after the 35´s there is years where you feel your body 3 or 4 years older from one year to the next one, and that happens a lot of times in MLB. So not age but olderness could be a factor in BG this year.

ArizonaPadreFan said...

I am curious how much of it has to do with a new hitting instructor, or better yet, an organizational change to it's approach to hitting.

Remember, the philosophy completely changed under Sandy Alderson, from the MLB level, all the way down to the lower levels of the programs. In watching Jim Lefebvre's interview on hitter's approach, it was different than what was preached for the past 3+ years.

How long should this process take? As for Kouz, it was specifically mentioned that his swing was being made over.... thus far with lackluster results.

guapo said...

I wish the Bay trade hadn't happened and we weren't having this conversation.