With all of the talk of Braves fans focused on the struggles of Adam LaRoche, Jeff Francoeur, and the bullpen, one very bad season is flying under the radar. Marcus Giles has gone from being one of the best offensive second basemen baseball to Keith Lockhart, putting up a .235/.326/.324/.650 line for the year. While Giles has been a little unlucky, his PrOPS for the year is .687, which isn’t so hot. What happened?
Well, what talk I have seen about Giles often mentions steroids, and the suggestion is understandable given the burden of proof for these things these days. Giles is playing about 180 OPS-points below his career. And since his breakout season in 2003, his isolated-power has dropped from .216 to .132 and .170 in 2004 and 2005. This year, it’s under .100. Given the stiffer testing policies people are wondering if that’s the cause.
But the thing is, although Marcus is playing below some of his past numbers, there is a very good explanation for his drop-off: it’s a mirage, his early power was a fluke. It turns out that Giles has been one of the luckiest hitters in baseball over the past four seasons. In my article on PrOPS in the The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006, I list the 25-luckiest PrOPS seasons—meaning OPS exceeded PrOPS—over the pas four years. Giles appears twice: his 2003 is number 11 (overperformance of 0.086) and his 2005 is number 19 (overperformance of 0.081). Additionally, based on Giles past PrOPS performance, I projected he’d have an OPS of 0.776 this year. He’s still hitting below that, but I don’t expect his OPS to stay where it is for the rest of the season.
Giles is not a bad player, in fact, he’s a good player with excellent defense and on-base skills. However, those flashes of a potential MVP that everyone saw—including me—were largely a product of luck, not steroids. The only juice Giles might have been on is Felix Felicis.