Why Are the Astros Not Using Ken Giles as Their Closer?

After a big trade this offseason to get Giles, the Astros have named Luke Gregerson their closer. Does that make sense?

The way things stand right now, the Houston Astros traded five players this offseason for a set-up reliever.

Manager A.J. Hinch announced Monday that Luke Gregerson will be the team's closer to start the season. Meanwhile, Ken Giles, the guy they traded five starting pitchers for, including top-100 prospect Mark Appel and Phils' number-five starter, Vincent Velasquez, will open the season as the team's set-up man.

It's a perplexing move, given the importance the team seemed to place on getting Giles, who finished last season as Philadelphia's closer. And when you look at the numbers, the decision doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Pitcher IP ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 Saves FB Velo fWAR
Ken Giles 70 1.80 2.13 11.19 3.21 15 96.5 2.0
Luke Gregerson 61 3.10 2.86 8.70 1.48 31 89.1 1.2

After Jonathan Papelbon was traded by the Phils to the Washington Nationals, Giles took over as closer and never looked back, giving up just five earned runs in 24 1/3 innings pitched for a 1.85 ERA, holding opponents to a .185/.227/.250 slash line. He went 13-for-15 in save opportunities as well.

One thing the Astros said they wanted for their bullpen was some velocity, and Giles knows how to bring the velocity.

Meanwhile, Gregerson had a fine season in his own right, holding down the Houston bullpen into the playoffs. And while he was productive, his stuff is nowhere near as dominating as Giles', and the inference from the offseason trade in which the Astros acquired Giles was that he was being brought there as the team's closer.

The move would make more sense if Gregerson had a lot of experience as a closer, but last season was his only true experience as the ninth-inning guy. His previous high in saves was nine, with the Padres in 2012. 

Of course, Giles did struggle this spring, giving up seven runs in nine games, but spring training statistics are hardly a good barometer for judging this sort of thing. And it could be that the team will flip-flop these two relievers at some point. They are an analytically-minded franchise and perhaps aren't as wedded to the idea of "set-up man" and "closer" as we've come to know them.

Still, if you have Giles on your fantasy baseball roster, go get Gregerson if he's available, because it will be him, not Giles, getting the saves for the time being.