Did Giles Bounce Back, and Where Does He Go from Here?

Brian GilesAs part of the book-writing process, I’m going through pretty much everything that we’ve covered here at Ducksnorts over the past year or so. One question we asked last November was whether Brian Giles‘ 2006 was a blip or the beginning of a slide.

Among other things, we looked at a slew of historical comps for Giles and found that most of the guys who continued to play didn’t experience further catastrophic decline. There were a couple notable exceptions (Fred Lynn, Ray Lankford) that haunt Padres fans in particular, but in general, we were looking at a group of players that didn’t fall off the proverbial cliff at age 36.

Thankfully, Giles didn’t go Lynn or Lankford on us. He ended up more-or-less duplicating his ’06 season, with fewer walks and more power. I have concerns about the former (his BB/K ratio went from “freakish” to merely “real good”), but overall Giles’ game didn’t deteriorate — especially when you consider that he played much of the year hurt.

One of the other comps we mentioned was Moises Alou. Although he didn’t show up on Baseball-Reference’s list of similar players for Giles last year, he had in previous seasons. Well, he’s back at #8 on Giles’ list through age 36.

I like the Alou comp for a few reasons. First, he experienced a severe drop in power at age 35. Second, although his plate discipline slipped a shade, it never disappeared. Third, Alou made some gains in the power department at age 36 — they were larger than Giles’ last year, but the point remains that the apparent decline was abated in both cases.

Of course, part of my fascination with Alou stems from a hope that Giles will follow a similar path. From age 37-40, Alou has been a dangerous, if not always available, offensive weapon. It’s nice to think that maybe Giles has that in him as well.

If you look at what Giles’ other comps did from age 37 onward, you’ll see that Alou isn’t the only data point working in his favor. Bob Johnson enjoyed three more fruitful seasons, although that was in the ’40s and the game has changed a lot since then. Reggie Smith and Ellis Burks each had one more good year in them, with Burks kicking around a little after that.

Not everyone rebounded. Tim Salmon did, sort of, but only after missing a season due to injury. And even then, he played just the one year in a limited role. Kind of like Lankford, come to think of it. We’ve talked about Lynn. Dante Bichette? I don’t even know why he’s on this list; I can’t think of a less similar hitter, so we’ll ignore him. Paul O’Neill posted some nice counting numbers because he was surrounded by greatness. David Justice retired. We don’t know about Ryan Klesko, but given that he’s now a .260 hitter with no power, I don’t like his chances.

The other point to remember, and forgive me if I sound like a broken record, is that these are just statistical comparisons. This is just one tool we can use to evaluate players and examine possible paths their careers might follow. We can’t look at Giles and Alou, and extrapolate based on the fact that their records are similar in many respects. We can’t point to Alou and use him as an argument that Giles will elevate his game. The best we can do is note that this sort of thing has happened in the past and it might happen again.

You know all this already, but I have to say it anyway…

Winter Leagues

  • Saguaros 16, Team China (box | recap). This one ended via mercy rule after seven innings. The Saguaros reached double digits in runs for the second straight game. Matt Antonelli, batting seventh, doubled in four at-bats. Nick Hundley got the start at DH and went 1-for-4. Will Startup threw a seven-pitch perfect sixth, while Jonathan Ellis allowed a single in his scoreless seventh.
  • Navojoa 9, Guasave 6 (box). Oscar Robles doubled and walked in five trips to the plate. Luis Cruz, playing third base, doubled and singled in five at-bats. Between them, they drove in five of their team’s nine runs.
  • Magallanes 4, Caracas 3 (box). Paul Abraham allowed one run on three hits and a walk in an inning and a third. That was enough to get hung with the loss.

It keeps raining in the Dominican Republic.

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85 Responses »

  1. 49 … I love the idea of whomever we have at 2B next year being a “former-SS” … ie. someone who is also our backup-SS.

    I went to 2 of the Padre games up at Seattle in 2006 in which Mariner 2B-man, Jose Lopez, a former-SS, really kill’d us in those games defensively … an unforgetable reminder of the value of up-the-middle-defense (which I think is generally highly- but still under-valued).

  2. Kevin, good point. A manager can definitely pick you up a few wins or losses over the course of a season; it’s the idea that Joe Torre is a great manager based on the Yankees’ success I take issue with.

    48: Good call! Erstad and Eckstein on the same club could lead to the highest grittiness percentage in franchise history! Do you think we could get Podsednik, too? Ozzie always said he was a grinder.

  3. 52: Has Lenny Dykstra officially retired yet?

  4. 52: I absolutely agree about Torre. He’s just not good.

    44: Not really.

    Martin’s favorite player was Rickey Henderson, other than Munson, of course. He managed him in Oakland and New York. Martin’s leadoff hitters included Carew, Rickey, Willie Randolph, Mickey Rivers. Really good ones. He also always had home run hitters in his lineups.

    Herzog was really into the running game, of course. But he tailored his teams to big turf parks in Kansas City and St. Louis. A great observation about him from Bill James: He looked at what a player could do, not what a player couldn’t do.

  5. #49: Agreed about Eckstein. I like his OBP. Really don’t understand why anyone would think that Adrian, Kouz, and Khalil need a fire lit under them, but I don’t understand why people think a lot of things.

    #54: James also noted that Herzog’s use of the running game stemmed from the fact that he had fast guys on his team. He adapted his managerial style to the club and home park at his disposal, not the other way around like, e.g., Maury Wills.

  6. Right, he made great players out of Willie Wilson and Willie McGee, who really weren’t.

    He told Wilson to stop hitting the ball as hard as he could. He told him to hit over the infield’s hit and run like hell.

    The Yankees didn’t think McGee was a major league starter, but Herzog knew he would be in his park.

  7. 54: Those are good leadoff hitters no matter who managed them. He resisted hitting Reggie higher in his lineup because he was worried the strikeouts would kill his running game.

    Not sure James is accurate there. Herzog looked at Fred McGriff and decided he wasn’t a good clutch hitter because he didn’t have enough RBI. Since he never managed in a high-power environment it’s hard to know how he’d handle it, but if you read his “You’re missing a great game,” he comes off as a crusty curmudgeon, lamenting almost all of the changes of the last 20 years.

  8. 57: Not that Herzog managed McGriff, but that was his opinion of him.

    On Wilson, I thought it was the other way around. Willie came to the Royals as a slap-hitter. After a few years a hitting coach told him to start swinging harder. It’s in the last BJHA, but I can’t get to mine right now.

  9. On Wilson: He turned into a poor hitter after Herzog. It was a new hitting coach. But Herzog accentuated his strengths.

    Martin understood what Rickey brought to a team better than anyone else. Most just marveled at his steals.

    On the Reggie part, Martin did want Joe Rudi instead of Reggie. But half of that was because of Reggie being Reggie. Half of the reason he hit him lower in the lineup was to spite him.

  10. 43: Yep, the caller said those guys and the team looked lackluster at times. You know, TW, you’re right about Eckstein. Not the worst idea for 2nd by any stretch if he’s plus defensively there.

    A little alarm goes off any time I hear someone say the Pads need a grinder or sparkplug. If he can actually still play the game, then fine. I was tempted to call in and suggest Erstad for CF. Kentera would probably love the Podsednik idea and subsequently credit him for the ChiSox’s WS victory – well along with Blum, of course.

  11. Oops, make that 55, not 43.

  12. I dont think Eckstein would sign a one year deal.

  13. pages 758-759 of Historical Abstract:

    “Wilson came to the majors in 1976 as a speed burner whose hitting was suspect. In 1979 Whitey Herzog taught him to swing softly with his wrists, basically just dropping the head of the bat in front of the pitch, and for several years, doing that, he was a highly effective hitter, hitting hundreds of soft popups that settled between the infield and out. …

    “Worse yet, in the mid-1980s the Royals hired Lee May as a hitting coach. Lee May legitimized Wilson’s fantasies about being a real hitter, taught him to drive the ball hard to the outfield, so that somebody could run under it and catch it. His batting average dropped 50 points overnight, but Wilson thought it was cool because he was hitting the ball so much harder than he used to.”

  14. On pages 117 to 121 of the 1988 Baseball Abstract, James breaks down what a manager does — game level decision making, team-level decision making and personnel management and instruction.

    He talks about Herzog throughout and how he is excellent at all three. He also points out that nearly all of Herzog’s lineups with the Royals and Cardinals had very good walk numbers. In 1987, even Vince Coleman walked 70 times. Ozzie Smith, in his career year that season, had 89. In 1985 and 87 when the Cardinals won pennants, they lead the league in walks.

    The fact that Herzog found role for players who other teams didn’t think were very good and that he valued defense so much can be viewed as “moneyball”-type decisions.

  15. Not that we ever really seriously thought it could happen, but the UT is reporting the Pad’s will sit out for the A-Rod bidding (Cabrera as well).


  16. Re 65: This is also reported at MLBTR, although they site the UT.


  17. 59: I don’t see how a manager being willing to sacrifice wins to spite his best hitter is an endorsement of his managerial skills. And Rickey had a lot of success under a lot of different managers. His best season was under LaRussa. He was really good for Steve Boros.

    64: I’m not discounting James’ beliefs, but if Herzog was that great an instructor, he might have taught Wilson (or Frank White, for that matter) to take a walk. As much as I love Bill James, I’m a little suspect of him when it comes to former Royals. James was a Royals fan when the Royals were great. Whitey had more than a bit of a cult, much like LaRussa does.

    I’m not saying Herzog was bad. I’m saying he might not be suited for many current baseball teams. Like most managers, he has to be in the right situation, with some influence over personnel decisions. Put him in charge of the 2007 Red Sox or even the 2007 Padres, with very little depth, no team speed, how many wins does he add? Put him on the 2007 Marlins, he can run as many infield practices as he wants, he’s not turning Cabrera/Ramirez/Uggla into plus defenders.

  18. MLBTR also reports that Schilling would be willing to pitch for the Pad’s next year. I read that he would be agreeable to a one year contract to see if he can still pitch effectively.

    If I were a wagering man (and I’m not) I would guess Towers makes a strong bid for 1 yr of Schilling.


  19. Herzog adjusted to his talent. He would have done that anywhere.

    He did instruct Wilson quite well. He made him a .300 hitter, instead of a .250 hitter. You want him to teach him to take 75 walks a year, too? He can’t build the perfect player out of what was a fast runner.

    White was the best defensive second baseman in the game. So a manager can live with some of his faults.

    I think Herzog in his prime would be great for next season’s Padres. Do you really think he ran people all over the place because he felt like it? That’s sort of absurd. He did it because that was best for his teams.

    All of Martin’s teams showed significant improvement when he took over. The only reason he eventually ran himself out of town was because of his personality. But I’m just talking about managing players and the game.

  20. As for Martin’s spite of Reggie, that’s a personality issue. Not one I am endorsing.

    But at managing a ball club, he was incredible. Jeff Burroughs, Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Rickey. Lots of career years under him. There’s a reason for that.

  21. 65 … thanks for the link! Here’s another nugget from that article …

    Chase Headley – a Double-A star who will play third and left field in spring training

    … hmmm … I think that’s the first I’ve heard of it being Headley going to the OF rather than KK …

    also, I don’t understand why the Padres don’t get into the “Cabrera auction” with the idea of making him an OF’er?

    eh, but then that reminds me that what the padres really need is more/better pitching … it’s just hard to forget all those games when it seemed like the bats couldn’t generate even a single run …

  22. Ouch, Cameron’s taking a beating from the commenters on Krasovic’s story.

    ” … he’s a crap CF. Many times he’s had the chance to make a BIG put out near the wall, and many times has he alligator armed it or just missed it completely. All you Cameron apologists need to go back and look at the tape.”

    “Cameron is a rally killer who swings at terrible pitches. His batting average is miserable. Imagine Peavy’s strikeout record if he got to pitch to this loser. On top of that, he repeatedly misjudged fly balls, making routine fly balls look like web gems only because of his bad judgement.

    … He may be a nice guy, but if I want a friend I’ll get a dog…I need an outfielder who can bat north of 300.”

  23. TW, great point about James and former Royals. I’m not saying Herzog wasn’t a good manager, but he probably wasn’t as good as James makes him sound.

    P4FL, I hope KT takes a run at Schilling. I think there’s a lot more potential there for a strong late career season than there ever was with David Wells.

  24. http://money.cnn.com/2007/10/25/commentary/sportsbiz/ So baseball’s revenue tops $6 Billion at a minimum in 2007. That’s an average of $200M each team, ( the average attendance was 1.6M) MLB says that’s a 50% revenue increase from 2004, therefore the ave. revenue was $133M back then. Say a team had $55M in payroll then and broke even, other expenses would be $78M. If those other expenses increased 10% per year, they would be $101M in 2007. To break even in 2007, the payroll would be $109M.

  25. 69: There was more to Wilson hitting .300 than just the White Rat. He started playing on artificial turf. He got older, having made his major league debut (at a game I attended!) at age 20.

    White was superb. I really doubt any truly great manager would think that asking him to pay attention to the count when he was hitting was going to sap him of his athleticism on defense.

    His book gives a pretty clear indication of the kind of baseball he likes. I don’t think he’d run the 2007 Padres because that would be suicide. But I do think he’d have been lobbying for Juan Pierre.

    70: Every year players have career years. Bochy managed Caminiti, Vaughn, Kevin Brown, Trevor Hoffman, Dave Roberts to their best years. Or turn it around, Gwynn’s two best years came under Larry Bowa – yes, Larry Bowa – and Jim Riggleman.

    Munson had 126 OPS+ and 141+ seasons under Ralph Houk. That ties his career high. The 141 was by far his best, the 126 tied for second. Henderson’s best year was 1990 under LaRussa.

  26. 76: Convincing.

  27. Elias rankings are out: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/2007-10-31-elias-rankings-complete_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip#

    Bradley and Barrett are Type A, and Cameron is Type B.

    Did Bradley’s injury pretty much ruin the shot at Type A compensation for the Padres?

  28. I saw Headley play a lot this summer and I really like his swing ! I am not sure yet about big power numbers from him – he is a big time gap hitter who may get stronger and is also definitely athletic enough to play left field. I have been reading on some websites about Chase Headley’s short work with the Pads as being “disappointing” –to me it was the opposite, I really liked the way he played –to me he played like he belonged
    he also hit a few bullets in his first days at Wrigley that were caught otherwise the short sampling numbers would have been higher .

  29. Various 2007 Padres relievers on the Elias list:

    8 Trevor
    20 Scott Linebrink
    21 Cla
    25 Heath Bell (WTF?)
    45 Doug Brocail
    60 Joe Thatcher
    103t Justin Hampson
    107 Kevin Cameron

    I’m sure I missed some, considering we carried 13 guys down there half the season. Heath Bell has to be top 10 next year if he has anything close to a similar year.

  30. Andruw Jones is a type B, so that definitely makes him more attractive. We wouldn’t lose our first round draft pick if we signed him.

  31. The bottom keeps falling out of Cameron’s Free Agency: “I’ve played drunk.”


  32. 74 … this tells me that Scott Boras, as usual, is being very practical … that’s a lot of revenue …

  33. 83: Ouch….just saw that in the UT. Bye bye Mikey?