Brian Giles – Hall Bound?

By jason keen
Updated: November 30, 2012
brian giles hall of fame

Brian Giles – Hall Bound

When I first heard that Brian Giles was slated to appear on the 2016 Hall of Fame ballot I chuckled to myself. Prior to researching his statistics, not only did I think Giles was good enough for the Hall of Fame, I did not think his name should even appear on the list of candidates to be eligible. And while I still do not think he will make it to Cooperstown, it will not be because of his playing ability but for a serious of unfortunate events that defined his career.

The Initial Eye Test

If you listen to any baseball enthusiast you have heard of the 5 tools; hitting for average, hitting for power, baserunning skills and speed, throwing ability and fielding ability. Most power hitters can’t hit for average. Most speedy players can’t hit for power. While Brian Giles is by no means a 5 tool player in any stretch of the imagination he had an incredible knack for hitting for average and power without the strikeouts that generally accompany such stats. Only 14 players have hit more home runs than Giles and struck out less. Of those players 10 have retired to Cooperstown and another in Albert Pujols will join as soon as his illustrious career comes to an end.

Brian Giles would retire hitting .291/.400/.502 with 287 home runs, not exactly shabby numbers, but good enough to get into the hall of fame? let’s see. In the history of Major League Baseball only 22 players have achieved these numbers, 11 of which are in the Hall of Fame and 11 are not yet eligible . Of the 11 not yet eligible Frank Thomas, Albert Pujols, Jeff Bagwell and Chipper Jones are sure fire Hall of Famers. Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez may or may not make it because of ties to performance enhancing drugs. Larry Walker and Todd Helton may or may not make it because of the mile high argument. Edgar Martinez may or may not make it because of the designated hitter argument. This leaves only Lance Berkman and Brian Giles. Berkman himself is knocking on the door of Cooperstown hitting .296/.409/.544 for his career and .317/.417/.532 in the playoffs.

Need more proof that Giles was in fact a great player? In terms of plate discipline and power, there are few better. In fact, only 12 players in the history of major league baseball have hit more home runs with a better base on ball to strikeout ratio than Giles, ten of those names align the walls of Cooperstown. The other two are Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols.

Humble Beginnings

Brian Giles was drafted straight out of Granite Hills High School in the 17th round of the 1989 draft. He would spend the next three plus seasons at Cleveland’s various Single-A affiliates hitting .310 in 1989, .289 in 1990 and .310 in 1991 before finally being promoted to Double-A halfway through the 1992 season. In his first full season of Double-A in 1993 Giles hit .327/.409/.452 with 57 walks and only 43 strikeouts in nearly 500 at-bats. The following season he would be promoted to Triple-A where he hit .313/.395/.479 with 16 home runs. He would put up similar stats the following season in Triple-A hitting .310/.395/.501 with 15 home runs. He would finally be called up to the big leagues that year going 5-9 in limited at-bats. But the following season he was sent back down to Triple-A where he hit .314/.395/.594 with 20 home runs in only 366 plate appearances. This same season (1996) he was called up yet again and hit .355/.434/.612 with five homers in 143 plate appearances.

So how does a guy who has proven big league talent that can hit .300 at both Triple-A and the big league’s not get any playing time? The answer is bad luck. On another team Giles may have been promoted in 1994 and had three more years of statistics under his belt when all is said and done. But this was the mid-1990′s Indians, remember them? Well allow me to reintroduce the three outfielders that played ahead of him:

Player 1994 Stats 1995 Stats 1996 Stats
Albert Belle .357/438/.714 .317/.401/.690 .311/.410/.623
Kenny Lofton .349/.412/536 .310/.362/.453 .317/.372/.446
Manny Ramirez .269/.357/.521 .308/.402/.558 .309/.399/.582

Period of Dominance

By 1997, the Indians could no longer ignore his productivity between Triple-A and the major league’s so he was called up for good. But as luck would have it Giles would split time with David Justice in both 1997 and 1998 as the team was stacked with all-star outfielders and designated hitters. With the Indians being committed to David Justice, Kenny Lofton and Manny Ramirez for the foreseeable future they dealt Giles to the Pirates for Ricardo Rincon before the start of the 1999 season.

Giles would average .309/.426/.604 with 35+ home runs and doubles and 100+ runs and runs batted in over the next four seasons with Pittsburgh. Barry Bonds, Todd Helton and Jason Giambi were the only other players to equal or better those stats over the same four year span. Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi won three Most Valuable Player awards between them while Giles never finished higher than 13th. How dominate of a player was he? Only Barry Bonds, Vladimir Guerrero, Sammy Sosa, Chipper Jones and Carlos Delgado were intentionally walked more time than Giles.

The San Diego Padres

After playing in 105 games for the Pirates in the 2003 season and hitting .299/.430/.521 with 30 doubles and 16 home runs, Giles would be traded to his hometown San Diego Padres. Sounds like a dream come true considering the Padres would be moving into a new stadium the following year. Unfortunately for Giles the team would be pitcher friendly PETCO Park, which is more of a nightmare to left-handed hitters. To put into perspective, according to the Bill James Handbook 2010, PETCO has a three-year left-handed batter homer park factor of 61, meaning lefty HR output was reduced by nearly 40 percent. In Giles 6 seasons with the Padres he hit 51 home runs on the road and only 28 at PETCO, which means he hit 80% more home runs away than he did at home. Even at a pitcher friendly park Giles hit .285/.386/.446 during those same years.

What Could have Been

We are left wondering just how differently his career would have played out if he were drafted by a different team than the Indians. What if Giles would have started as a 24 year old in the Majors instead of wasting his skills in the minor leagues for three years. What if the Indians didn’t acquire David Justice and Giles didn’t have to platoon for time for two more years? What if the Pirates didn’t trade him to the Padres who moved into the least left-handed hitting friendly park in modern day baseball? What if Giles didn’t veto a potential trade to the Red Sox in 1998 and he finished off that season at hitting friendly Fenway Park. And, what if his career wasn’t cut short because of a lingering knee injury at the age of 38? Heck, as a 37 year old he hit .306/.398/.456 with 40 doubles and 12 home runs (only 4 at home).

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