Former Pirates’ Slugger Brian Giles was a one-and-done on the Hall Of Fame ballot, but he deserves another look at Cooperstown.
During the late-90’s to early 2000s, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a very impressive bat in their line-up. That bat was Brian Giles. Giles put up some extremely impressive numbers throughout his career. But when he retired in 2009, and first appeared on a Hall Of Fame ballot in 2015, Giles was a one-and-done ballot name. He didn’t get any votes and was taken off the ballot.
Every once in a while, a name slips into the Hall that confuses many. This is the case with former White Sox designated hitter/right fielder Harold Baines. Baines doesn’t really have career numbers that shout “Hall Of Fame”. For a DH, he was OK, but not on David Ortiz or Edgar Martinez levels. He has a career .289/.356/.465 line, 384 home runs, and 121 OPS+ across 22 seasons (11092 PA’s).
He only ever had 2, .900+ OPS seasons with at least 500 PA’s, and no 5+ WAR seasons. His 38.7 career bWAR ranks right around some notable names like Juan Gonzalez (38.7 bWAR), and Boog Powell (39.0 bWAR), but no guys that really deserved a plaque in Cooperstown. His 121 career OPS+ ties him with some other notable modern-day names like Matt Kemp, Carlos Santana, and Evan Longoria but again, no names that say Cooperstown deserving.
So that got me thinking, what are some names that should be reconsidered for the Hall? And if you look at it, Brian Giles definitely should be a reconsideration. Giles had an underrated career. He had a .291/.400/.502 batting line across his 15-year career. That’s a pretty good line. In comparison, Ken Griffey Jr. has a .284/.370/.538 batting line. Giles is just.009 BA points from being part of the .300/.400/.500 club.
A club with just 15 members including Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Frank Thomas. In the history of baseball, only 55 players have at least an OPS of .900 (min. 6000 PA’s). Brian Giles is one of them. His .902 OPS is just .005 points below Ken Griffey Jr.’s OPS, and just above Willie McCovey’s and Willie Stargel’s .889 OPS. He is also just one of 26 players with a .400+ OBP and .500+ slugging.
Giles ranks 69th all-time in wRC+ as well with a 136 wRC+. In OPS+, Giles borders on the top 100 line, tied with 11 names including Larry Doby, Bill Terry, and Arky Vaughn. I should also mention among Pittsburgh Pirates players who had at least 3000 plate appearances in a Bucs’ uniform, Giles has the highest wRC+ among any player at 156. For the one and only time Giles did appear on a ballot, he was 9th in both OPS+ and OPS.
Between 1999 to 2005, Giles was actually one of the best batters in the MLB. This was during a period when you had Barry Bonds setting home run records, Albert Pujols becoming one of the best hitters of all time, and Manny Ramirez putting up eye-popping numbers. Giles’ 150 wRC+ ranked 9th in this 7 season time span.
He also posted a strong 40.9 fWAR, which ranked 5th in the entire MLB. This is a pretty impressive feat considering the amount of talent in baseball in the late ’90s and early 2000s, and Giles not being one suspected of taking PEDs. His bWAR might not be too impressive. It sits at 51.1 (tied with Carl Mays and Kirby Puckett for the 287th spot), but there are far worse players in the Hall. He still passes Ralph Kiner, Jim Rice, Lou Brock in bWAR, and far surpasses guys like Bill Mazeroski and Pie Traynor.
Giles’ overall numbers would have looked better if he wasn’t a late bloomer. The lefty power hitter didn’t receive 500+ plate appearances until his age 28 season. Had he gotten regular PA’s from the time he started at age 24, Giles’ WAR would probably look a lot more impressive.
Brian Giles might not have the most exciting career. It only lasted 15 seasons, and most of them were spent on some pretty unspectacular Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres teams. But Giles definitely has some numbers that should make you look twice at his Hall Of Fame case. An OPS above .900 is something only a handful of batters have achieved throughout their career and was able to keep up with some of the best batters of all time in the late-90’s, early 2000s.
Being just a few points in batting average away from joining an elite club with some of the best batters of all time should also raise some eyebrows. Giles’ case is an interesting one and if he ever appears on a veterans committee ballot in the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if he snuck his name into Cooperstown.