The Ken Giles Era is Over

Ken Giles has struggled this season, especially in non-save situations. On Tuesday, his frustrations boiled over.
Ken Giles has struggled this season, especially in non-save situations. On Tuesday, his frustrations boiled over. Photo by Jack Gorman
"F*** you, man!"

It wasn't like it was Ken Giles' first implosion on the mound this season or his first post-collapse outburst — you'll recall this is the guy who literally hit himself in the face when leaving a game earlier this year. But, when Giles dropped the F-bomb on his way to the dugout on Tuesday night after ultimately giving up three runs in the bottom of the ninth, you could almost hear the door closing on his career as an Astro.

On Wednesday, the Astros demoted Giles, sending him to Triple A Fresno. The were adamant it had nothing to do with Giles's reaction on Tuesday, but it doesn't take a genius to read between the lines.

When watching the replays of Giles's exit, it's not 100 percent clear he was directing the expletive at manager A.J. Hinch, but it sure did seem like it. The look on Giles's face was that of a petulant teen who just got told it was time for dinner for the fourth time by his dad and forced to march into the house to eat his broccoli. For Hinch's part, he said he didn't know if he was the target, but if it was, "we'll talk about it." They obviously did.

Setting Tuesday night's foot stomping aside, this is one in what has been a line of problematic appearances for the former closer. And before you go pointing out that he is 12 for 12 in save opportunities with a zero ERA, you may want to compare that to his plus-six ERA in his other 22 relief appearances. He's 0-2 with a 4.99 ERA overall in 30 innings of work. He's given up more runs (17) this year than he did all of last year even though his strikeout-to-walk numbers have been excellent.

More importantly, it looks like hitters have figured him out. The sweeping slider that was often Giles's strikeout pitch has none of the snap it had last year, leaving hitters to sit on his fastball, which has velocity, but doesn't appear to have nearly as much movement as in previous years.

It was bad enough in the 2017 postseason that Giles was essentially benched, working fewer than 8 innings in the entire playoffs including the World Series. He never really improved this season, starting the year as the closer, but slowly watching that role be passed to a cadre of Astros pitchers including Hector Rondon, Chris Devenski and Collin McHugh, none of whom are everyday closers.

And this incident, along with his generally churlish attitude, seemed out of place set against the backdrop of the mostly mild-mannered and fun-loving Astros clubhouse. It's a long season, as they say, and while tempers occasionally flare, it's happened too often for a guy who should be more angry at himself than the manager who yanked him from what was a stinker of an outing.

Clearly, Giles wasn't going to make trade bait, so sending him to the minors became the only option (no pun intended. If he never returns to the major league club, and it seems likely he won't, put a pin in the Oakland A's game on July 10, because that's where it actually ended.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke