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The tale of an underrated hitter

Brian Giles was a really good hitter

Brian Giles swings at a pitch Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Many fun aspects come with researching different subjects for baseball trivia every week. You learn about the history of the game. You pick up on fun little curiosities and coincidences, but perhaps most importantly, you gain a newfound level of appreciation for certain players that may be overlooked for one reason or another.

Numbers do not lie and although the perceived notion of any given player can be affected by X number of factors, there is something to be said about being surprised when you see the career stat line of a player that maybe doesn’t get that much recognition.

I ultimately believe a lot of what this series covering borderline Hall of Fame cases is about is this. Whether any given subject of one of these pieces is a Hall of Famer can be up for debate at a later point, but it’s almost a disservice to that player to bring up these discussions.

Bobby Abreu was a terrific ballplayer, undoubtedly overlooked while he was still playing as showed by his lack of All-Star appearances, and often, when you hear his name come up right now, it is quickly followed by:

“There is no way Bobby Abreu was a Hall of Famer”

It gives you a poor perception of an illustrious career. Abreu deserves to be praised for his efforts and recognized for the exceptional player that he was, whether he gets to Cooperstown or not. I think that’s a little bit of what’s being done here.

In my latest piece of trivia, I noted that Brian Giles has the most impressive single-season in terms of walks in the 21st century with 135 free passes in 2003. That caught my attention and I decided to look at the career of you guessed it: Brian Giles.

Now I am not here to tell you that Brian Giles and his whole sum of two All-Star game appearances is the biggest Hall of Fame snub since Edgar Martinez’s initial years on the ballot. I would also tell you that maybe All-Star appearances and other individual accolades may not be the best standard to judge a player’s career.

I can tell you for sure that Brian Giles is tiers and tiers above Starlin Castro and the latter has more mid-summer classics. The same mistakes that happen with All-Star, Gold Glove, Cy Young, and MVP voting, happen with the hall of fame as well, so to justify your standard for one with the other is not the best approach.

Here is his career slash line to get back on track to Brian Giles.

.291/.400/.502

You see a lot of talk about Barry Bonds and the fact he was probably a Hall of Famer before his involvement with PED usage and while I tend to agree with that, here are his numbers as a Pittsburgh Pirate, where he was a bonafide star.

.275/.380/.503

Contextualizing for the era, Bonds was still the better hitter, but one cannot help being amazed at the similarities. With no deep dive, I can certainly tell you here that Brian Giles is an underrated career hitter.

A late bloomer without his first season until he was 26 years old in Cleveland, Giles only amassed a little under 8000 plate appearances which are not necessarily bad by any stretch of the imagination, he did after all play regularly until 2008 when he was 37, before falling off a cliff in 2009 and retiring.

Before he was the main prize of Billy Beane’s 2002 deadline, Ricardo Rincón had already cost Cleveland a great deal. He was the piece acquired in a one-for-one swap with the Pittsburgh Pirates at the end of the 1998 season.

Until then, Brian Giles was a pretty good hitter in Cleveland with a .876 OPS in 299 games, but nothing that screamed cornerstone of a franchise, but then he left for the Pirates. While a part of why Giles doesn’t have the recognition he deserves may have to do with the fact he spent the better part of his career with bad Pirates teams and after leaving Cleveland he went on a postseason hiatus between 1998 and 2005. The fact remains that Giles was a stud in Pittsburgh.

The lefty-hitting outfielder played 610 games from 1999 through 2002 with the following numbers:

.309/.426/.604 - 160 OPS+ - 149 HR - 436 RBI

434 Walks to 292 Strikeouts

23.8 bWAR

If you look at the stats closely and this is a four-year period we are talking about, not a single season. Giles’ numbers are remarkably similar to a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Chipper Jones.

.322/.427/.586 - 156 OPS+ - 145 HR - 423 RBI

426 Walks and 329 Strikeouts

24.3 bWAR

Career-wise, Giles isn’t that far apart, with Jones holding a similar edge in slugging percentage that Giles did during those four years. None of this is to say that they’re on the same level, far from it, there are many caveats to be made and to justify their different places in baseball history, but it helps illustrate the picture that Giles was a really good hitter.

Here is another Braves great with similar numbers to Giles.

.295/.385/.504 - 138 OPS+

That is Freddie Freeman over his 1565 career games.

If I can leave you with one thought is this: That Brian Giles could really hit the ball.