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Is Ken Giles Back to Being 100 Miles Giles?

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The man known as 100 Miles Giles hasn't quite lived up to his billing this year. Yet, there is hope in his recent performance.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The nickname 100 Miles Giles is an unfortunate one for Ken Giles for a couple of reasons. First, it's just a boring and uncreative nickname. Why don't we call Jamie Moyer 82 Miles Moyer or Aroldis Chapman 104 Miles Chapman? Because those nicknames are lazy and stupid, that's why. I get that he throws fastballs that touch 100 mph, but he also gives awkward public addresses. We don't call him Awkward Public Speaker Giles.

The nickname 100 Miles Giles is also unfortunate because it set up a bit of a false expectation that his fastball would consistently hit 100 mph. According to Pitch F/X data at Baseball Savant, Giles only threw 8 fastballs in 2014 that surpassed the 100 mph barrier. Of his 413 fastballs thrown, he threw 100 mph on fewer than 2% of them. He has thrown 0 of his 202 fastballs in 2015 at or over 100 mph.

Of course, the concern over Giles's 2015 health and ability are real and significant even after you get past the unrealistic expectations set by his manifestly silly nickname. Compared to 2014, the velocities on both Giles's fastball and slider are down by over 1 mph in 2015. The average fastball is down to 96.23 mph from 97.96 mph in 2014 and the slider is down from 87.36 mph to 86.24 mph. That decline has had an impact on his 2015 numbers:


ERA

K%

Pull%

Cent%

Soft%

Med%

Hard%

2014

1.18

38.6%

41.8%

29.7%

20.9%

48.4%

30.8%

2015

1.86

22.1%

44.8%

34.5%

17.2%

50.0%

32.8%

Those numbers fit the narrative that hitters are able to get around better on Giles' diminished velocity. They are striking out less, pulling the ball or hitting it up the middle with greater frequency and, overall, hitting it harder. The classifications of contact quality are inexact, but the across-the-board differences for Giles remain illustrative.

*Before I proceed to paint an optimistic picture, a word of caution: we are entering deep into the realm of small samples. We were already there to some extent, but we are really entering a patch of bad footing ahead. With regard to pitch velocities, I think there is meaning in small samples as it represents a level of athleticism that is subject to very little luck. The use of batted-ball profiles and the such, however, is not presented as gospel. These may very well be the result of small-sample oddities. I tend to think there is some meaning to them as they fit what seems to be a very logical cause-effect story, but that is certainly debatable.*


Avg. FB Velo.

K%

Pull %

Cent%

Soft%

Med%

Hard%

2014

97.96

38.6%

41.8%

29.7%

20.9%

48.4%

30.8%

2015

96.23

22.1%

44.8%

34.5%

17.2%

50.0%

32.8%

April 2015

95.77

22.2%

51.7%

20.7%

17.2%

48.3%

34.5%

May 2015

96.72

22.0%

37.9%

48.3%

17.2%

51.7%

31.0%

5/17-5/24*

97.31

18.2%

12.5%

50.0%

25.0%

37.5%

37.5%

*This sample is tiny: 3 appearances, 37 pitches thrown.

Perhaps the most important, and reliable, point to take away from this is that Giles's fastball is slowly making its way back to 2014 velocity. This is probably necessary for Giles to be effective as a two-pitch pitcher. He throws his fastball on about 60% of his pitches, so a return to his previous fire-balling ways will certainly help.

After that, you'll notice that, even though the strikeouts don't seem to follow the uptick in his fastball, hitters have been pulling the ball less and have probably been hitting the ball less hard, or, at least, more soft. May Giles looks like a much better pitcher that April Giles in terms of his velocity and the quality of contact he is inducing.

Remember that Giles missed the first week of the season due to a lower back injury. The gradual return of his velocity over the last six weeks or so could simply be an indication that he is still recovering from that injury. Either way, the return of the velocity and the maybe-meaningful reduction in the quality of contact he has given up is an encouraging sign for one of the few rays of hope on the 2015 iteration of the Phillies.

So, to answer the question set forth at the outset, is Ken Giles, aka 100 Miles Giles, back? Probably not quite yet, but it appears that he is getting there.