Thursday, July 4, 2013

Favorite Braves List - Second Base

(Previous information on this series can be found here.)

Favorite Braves List (so far)
Ace Starter - Greg Maddux
Catcher - Brian McCann
First Base - Fred McGriff

Last summer, I began this list with first McCann and McGriff.  Following that, I began to add pitchers and Maddux became the first to join the list.  It's been some time, but it's time to add to this list with a second baseman.  Maybe next week or the week after, the #2 starter will join the team. 

Some Honorable Mentions - How can you not like what Mark Lemke did in his time with the Braves?  Though, not to crap on people's parade, but the idea that Lemke was tremendously better in the playoffs than the regular season is way overdone.  Regular season OPS - .641.  Playoffs OPS - .688.  Why does no one talk about Lemke's 4 for 19 run in the 1992 World Series?  Also honorable mention to Kelly Johnson.  There was a time where I was accused, and rightfully so, of being a KJ apologist.  Martin Prado also deserves a mention.

Favorite Braves List - Second Base
Marcus Giles

This was a very tough selection as, outside of Lemke, no one really took over second base for very long.  However, this is my favorite list and that's more than enough justification to select Giles to man second base.  For a three-year period, there were few better options at second base in the National League not named Utley. 

Giles was a 53rd round selection of the 1996.  To put that in another way, there were 1,511 players selected ahead of Giles.  The Braves selected 53 players ahead of Giles, signing players like Jason Marquis and Mark DeRosa and, of course, the number one pick for the Braves...your future start first baseman... A.J. Zapp.  When Giles posted a 6.5 WAR in 2003, Zapp posted a .842 OPS in his third season at AA.  For the Mariners organization.  He would later play in the Reds and Dodgers organizations before hanging up while never getting a major league at-bat.

After being drafted as a draft-and-follow, Giles signed before the 1997 draft.  A lot could be said about Giles, and a good deal was, but he was more than just the brother of Brian Giles.  He pummeled the Appalachian League after being drafted in 1997 and followed that with a tremendous run at Macon in 1998, slashing is way to a .329/.433/.636 clip.  After a .906 OPS in the Carolina League while playing half his games in traditionally pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach, Giles made it into the Baseball America Top 100 entering 2000 as the 74th best prospect in the minors.  He followed by putting up his weakest season, though an .860 OPS from a 22 year-old second baseman is exciting.

He entered 2001 as the 54th Top Prospect in the game according to Baseball America.  Injuries got him to the majors for 68 games and he entered the Braves lexicon with a May 15th Grand Slam in the bottom of the 8th inning that sent the Braves to a 5-3 win.  Two days later, he was back in AAA and after two months in AAA (with an .875 OPS), Giles got promoted to finish the year in the majors two months after his demotion.  He finished the season with a 1.1 WAR and a .769 OPS. 

Atlanta allowed Quilvio Veras to leave after the season and put Giles in as the starting second baseman entering 2002.  After a good April, he slumped badly in May and Bobby Cox lost confidence in him.  He was demoted for over two months before finally getting a callup in August and finished the year as a bench player behind Keith Lockhart

Not ready to give up on Giles, the Braves gave him another chance in 2003 and he exploded, slashing .316/.390/.526 on his way to an All-Star selection, an 18th finish in the MVP race, and a 6.5 WAR.  Since 2000, it ranks as the 17th best season by a 2B.  Five of those seasons, though, come from just Chase Utley

Giles entered 2004, looking like a sure bet to continue his success and possibly land a nice fat extension.  However, in early May, while going out for a flyball, Giles met Andruw Jones via a giant collision.  It put him out for a couple of months and his level of production wasn't even close to his 2003 numbers.  His batting average was still sound at .311, but despite only a five points loss in batting average, his BABIP was up 20 points.  His ISO was completely buried, however, falling from .211 to .132. 

2005 saw Giles return to form, or almost to it.  His 5.3 WAR ranks 30th at his position since 2000.  His ISO came back up to .170, though is wOBA was the same as 2004 with a .360.  Still, it looked like Giles was going to remain the steady contributor at second base and if he produced in 2006, that extension was still possible.

However, he fell on his face, posting a 1.2 WAR with his defense, which had been so good since his callup, being a significant weakness for him.  His ISO fell to .125 and with it, his batting average.  The Braves, faced with a choice to spend $4.5-$5M for Giles in 2007, chose wisely to non-tender him.  Amazingly, he got $3.25M to play for the Padres he responded with a 0.1 WAR. 

His career was over.  In 2008, the Rockies brought him to spring training, but didn't take him north.  Neither did the Phillies in 2009.  The following year, he plead guilty to assaulting is wife. 

How did it all go wrong for Giles?  Well, there are many theories and one of the most prevalent is that Giles was a product of steroids.  As baseball cracked down on it, certain players saw their careers threatened and possibly, Giles was one of them.  His later domestic battery charge often seems to also occur with those that abuse steroids.  But players do become solid contributors at the major league level and peter out after a few years all the time.  Are they all on steroids or is baseball a lot harder than people seem willing to admit? 

At the end of the day, though, I loved Giles, at least at the time.  He was short and, if you want a common theme with this blog, an affinity for short guys is one of them.  I'm 5'4" myself so seeing short people succeed at a game that was so difficult for me to stick with athletically warms my heart.  I was sadden by his quick fall from one of the best at his position in the game to a guy who couldn't even make it out of spring training.  His spot on this Favorite Braves list is precarious, though Dan Uggla's struggles look to keep him on the team for the next couple of years at least. 

No comments:

Post a Comment