Mention Brian Giles to a San Diegan, and there’s a good chance you’ll get a look/comment of disgust in response. Perhaps it’s in response to domestic violence allegations in his final season, which I’d agree is an appropriate response. However, there’s a serious misconception in San Diego about Brian Giles, with many fans believing Giles was an inadequate performer (or worse: awful). And that, my friends, couldn’t be further from the truth.
Acquired days before the August 31st waiver trade deadline in 2003, for Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, and a PTBNL (eventually, Corey Stewart), Giles was the club’s “big splash” acquisition going into Petco Park’s inaugural season. As one might suspect in this case, a certain set of expectations were placed upon Giles by Padres fans. At the very least, they were expecting the Brian Giles of 1999-2002. Widely considered to be the most underrated offensive player in baseball, Giles put up 157, 157, 150, and 177 OPS+ and 6.7, 6.3, 5.5, and 6.8 fWAR respectively in those seasons. And if you don’t believe in them there voodoo stats: 39, 35, 37, 38 home runs with an OPS of 1.032, 1.026, .994, 1.072. Brian Giles was really, really good over those four seasons.
On April 10, 2003, Giles injured his knee sliding into second base. He missed a month for an injury that would plague him the rest of his career. While Giles’ home parks in Pittsburgh (Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park) played fairly evenly (numbers from 2005-2009 suggest the same, though lefties have a significant advantage when it comes to hitting home runs), he did play in the hitter-friendly NL Central. During Giles’ years with the Padres, Petco Park ranked as follows: 28th runs/30th HR, 30th/30th, 29th/15th, 30th/29th, 30th/30th, 30th/29th. Going in, we really had no idea just how much Petco Park was going to suppress offense. We had (and perhaps still have) even less of an idea how Giles’ knee may have affected his performance.
Now that we have the excuses, let’s look at the reality (ages 33-38):
- 2004: .849 OPS, 23 HR, 128 OPS+, 4.9 fWAR
- 2005: .905 OPS, 15 HR, 147 OPS+, 5.8 fWAR
- 2006: .771 OPS, 14 HR, 1o7 OPS+, 3.2 fWAR
- 2007: .777 OPS, 13 HR, 11o OPS+, 1.0 fWAR
- 2008: .854 OPS, 12 HR, 138 OPS+, 4.4 fWAR
- 2009: .548 OPS, 2 HR, 53 OPS+, -1.7 fWAR
How did Giles raise his OPS/OPS+/fWAR even though his home run numbers went down? He hit a lot of doubles and drew a ton of walks, while lowering his strikeouts. The percentage of ground balls to fly balls went up in 2004, and continued to sway toward ground balls until the end of his career. The change of approach is obvious, whether it was due to knee issues or the ballpark. If home runs are your thing, I’m never going to convince you that Brian Giles not only wasn’t worthless, but a great player…however, here’s some more numbers: ranked 17th in 2004, 7th in 2005, 33rd in 2006, and 19th in 2008 respectively in fWAR in the NL. Only Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Headley, Phil Nevin, Khalil Greene, and Kevin Kouzmanoff have matched or exceeded 23 home runs in a season while playing their home games at Petco Park.
“Now David, you’re glossing over 2007 and 2009!” No, I’m just getting to them. In both seasons, Giles dealt with significant issues with his previously-injured right knee. After 2007, he had microfracture surgery. Even then, he was merely mediocre in 2007. In 2009, Giles was flat-out awful. This is your one real shot to bitch about Giles and be correct. However, he injured the knee AGAIN during the season, which was found to be arthritic. Being fair, he was done. Age, healthy, and off-field issues were catching up. These seasons, along with 2006, were the only seasons where Jason Bay was a more valuable player than Brian Giles.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: we have no idea whether or not he used PEDs. He was never linked to them, other than being guilty of being good during the right era. That’s not to say it isn’t a possibility, but we have no idea. Plus, we have more evidence that Petco Park is a really difficult place to hit a home run.
On top of being a quality player, we’ve had few characters on the team like Giles. Upon hitting the first MLB home run at Petco Park in an exhibition game vs. hated rivals Seattle, he wondered aloud if he shouldn’t be awarded a 30-lb bag of dog food. He LOVED to tan! And I challenge you to name another player in Padres history who has rubbed his freshly-shorn coin purse on Bill Murray. I think it’s time for us to come to terms with what we had with Brian Giles, and give it a big ol’ naked hug.
What do you say?
The Vocal Minority posts on Mondays and whenever we have visions sent by Pan, the goat god. This post brought to you in part by Queens of the Stone Age’s “…Like Clockwork”. Follow me on Twitter!