Houston Astros: Is Ken Giles still a reliable late-inning option?

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 9: Ken Giles #53 of the Houston Astros pitches during the game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum on May 9, 2018 in Oakland, California. The Astros defeated the Athletics 4-1. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ken Giles
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 9: Ken Giles #53 of the Houston Astros pitches during the game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum on May 9, 2018 in Oakland, California. The Astros defeated the Athletics 4-1. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ken Giles /
facebooktwitterreddit

Houston Astros fans have seen this before. During his two-and-a-half years in Houston, Ken Giles has shown inconsistency in late innings. But has he lost any of the team’s trust?

Houston Astros fans seemed premature when manager A.J. Hinch added complexity to his closer mix early this year. Ken Giles, the traditional closer, owned a swollen ERA after a few appearances. Meanwhile Chris Devenski and others earned time in the ninth inning.

Giles quickly reestablished his manager’s confidence in him, relinquishing no runs across eight outings. But then he blew up against the Yankees, resulting in a punch to the face – from himself.

A similar notorious feat occurred last weekend, when Giles allowed three runs while notching zero outs. Nevertheless, the meltdown was a team effort that ended in a 10-9 loss.

The closer’s erratic performances in Houston put him in the hot seat at some point every year. Yet, he somehow finds himself back in the ninth. 

More from Call to the Pen

It’s understandable for a closer to have off nights. Few firemen post perfect save records, but some are noticeably better options than others. Giles has the repertoire and the resumé to succeed.

Hence, Hinch continues to throw him into tense situations.

During his stint with the Astros, Giles has been a second-half pitcher. He boasted better numbers in the post-All-Star period each of the past two seasons.

But even at his best, fans must question whether he will be the best ninth-inning option. Hinch utilized other hurlers – primarily starters – to close playoff games. Giles, meanwhile, owned a shoddy 11.74 ERA last October.

Surely, Giles has stretches of promise, exemplifying the power and poise that appealed to Houston. Yet, opponents hit him hard when he gets unraveled. And typically, it’s too late for an Astros comeback when that occurs – it also inflates his ERA.

However, it seems that Hinch hasn’t lost his trust in Giles yet. That could change quickly, though.

Is the Astros’ bullpen trustworthy?

The team’s breakdown against Cleveland was forgetful to say the least. Yet it highlighted that Houston’s relief unit isn’t as flawless as anticipated.

Still, it’s hard to complain about a top-5 ranking in relievers’ ERA and batting average against. Of course, the bullpen’s usage has been rather limited due to the starters’ phenomenal start.

When looking at Houston’s relief staff, four of the pitchers sport attractive numbers, all averaging more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings. Moreover, they also own ERAs under 3.00.

However, the other four main relievers possess unimpressive numbers, though the statistics still aren’t completely dreadful. And they’ve all played a role in the Astros’ success thus far.

Nevertheless, while Hinch may have confidence in his dependable bullpen corps, some fans might not. With the available relief options on the market, it’s understandable if the front office sought some help from the outside.

Essentially, general manager Jeff Luhnow will do so.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Astros aren’t reliable in the later innings. The team has a decent save percentage and hasn’t completely collapsed on a consistent basis.

Nonetheless, Houston is usually not content with whatever roster it pieces together. When there is an opportunity to improve the ball club in any way, Luhnow looks into it.

The key question surround the starting pitching and whether it can maintain its historic pace. Surely, that would help the team’s relief crew.

Next: Stassi is making his case as a future starter

It’s hard to argue against anotherHouston  Astros playoff berth, even if the bullpen struggles occasionally. But if a significant weight eventually is put on the relievers’ shoulders, outcomes may worsen.

And in a competitive American League – and West division – it could mean trouble.