The Yankees’ need for pitching has been well-documented. In fact, much of the trade deadline coverage has been about the starting pitching options that the Yankees may or may not be looking into. But, whether because they find the starting pitching options unappealing, or because they want to bolster a bullpen that has not quite lived up to its “best of all time” reputation, they could find themselves shopping in the relief pitching market.
After a rough 2018 in which he posted a 4.65 ERA and got traded from the Houston Astros to the Blue Jays, Toronto closer Ken Giles has returned to elite form in 2019, posting a 1.69 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 32 innings, striking out 54. He has actually been under-performing his FIP of 1.59, better than all but former Yankee Kirby Yates. His xFIP also ranks among the top ten in the league.
Giles checks off a lot of boxes that the Yankees target when looking at relief pitching. His strikeout percentage of 42.2% is second in all of baseball (minimum of 30 innings), behind only Josh Hader of the Brewers. His K/BB% of 34.4% is behind only Hader and Yates. He is primarily a fastball/slider pitcher, with a heater that sits in the upper 90s with a bit of movement, and a slider that generates whiffs 59% of the time. He’s also still arbitration-eligible, and will be under team control through the end of next season.
That said, there does remain some concern about Giles’ fit in Yankee Stadium. He generates a lot of fly balls. His fly-ball percentage of 43.8 is only slightly better than that of Jonathan Holder, and his GB/FB ratio is only 0.82. While this does not preclude success—Hader’s GB/FB ratio of 0.36 is the worst in the league—Giles simply does not generate enough soft contact to get away with being a fly-ball pitcher in Yankee Stadium.
Which leads us, of course, to the elephant in the room. I am reluctant to say that a player who has never pitched for the Yankees cannot handle the bright lights and attention of New York. In fact, I do think the need for this so-called “ability” to play here is overstated. But Giles has already shown a propensity for the...shall we say, the dramatic:
Uh, did Ken Giles just punch himself in the face? pic.twitter.com/Y8kbDIDVtl— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) May 2, 2018
Ken Giles could be an integral role of the bullpen down the stretch, or he could become the fanbase’s newest punching bag. Time will tell if the Yankees front office is willing to roll the dice.