More than 200 plate appearances into the season, Brian Giles remains the worst regular in baseball. Suffice to say, Giles abrupt decay is a bit surprising. Sure, he’s 38 years old and plays in a notoriously suppressive offensive climate, but even Giles’ park-adjusted numbers are repulsive. His .255 wOBA translates to -12.7 offensive runs. Giles has played nearly as poorly on defense, posting a -8.1 UZR despite playing an outfield corner.
All told, Giles has been worth 1.5 wins below replacement level, good for a “value” of $-6.9 million; the Padres are paying him $9 million over the course of this season.
Giles has struggled to hit the fastball this season to the tune of -2.25 runs per 100 heaters faced, a glaring weakness which the league has exploited by throwing him fastballs 66% of the time. It’s hard to tell whether Giles has lost his bat speed or something else along the way, but his performance this year represents a drastic drop from that of his previous seasons:
2006 0.12 wFB/C
2007 0.92 wFB/C
2008 1.16 wFB/C
Meanwhile, the velocity of the average fastball he’s seen is just about the same: ~91 miles per hour this season and last, and ~90 MPH in 2006 and 2007. In other words, Giles’ subpar performance against the hard stuff this season can’t be attributed to his having faced a greater percentage of flamethrowers. The two home runs he has hit were surrendered by Chad Billingsley and Edinson Volquez, and both came in fastball counts.
Moving forward, I would still expect Giles to improve offensively. He currently sports a .218 BABIP, compared to his low of .274 over the past three seasons. Giles’ line-drive rates remain respectable, and his walk/strikeout rates have stabilized. The only weapon his game definitely lacks is power. His ISO is down from .150 to .083, although as Dave pointed out in the off-season, the inverse relationship between fastballs seen and ISO likely explains some of this decline.
I’m sure the Padres were a bit miffed with Giles’ decision to block a move last year. I can’t imagine how thrilled they are to see his value all but vanish within a year.