Fitting in Both Rollins and Galvis

Jim Salisbury tweeted this earlier and I figured it is worth explaining why this is a good thing:

Fans have become very fond of the 22-year-old Freddy Galvis for his defensive prowess and max-effort plays despite his lacking production at the plate (.266 wOBA). He was never much with the bat, but took a big leap last year between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, finishing with an aggregate .716 OPS between the two levels. That mark vastly exceeded his previous career-high OPS of .588.

As offense declined around the league over the past few years and the importance of pitching and defense subsequently increased, there’s a lot more tolerance for an offensively-light, defensively-sound player like Galvis. Offense is at its lowest since 1992, a time when Ozzie Smith, a 15-time All-Star and owner of a career .666 OPS, was among the most popular and respected players in baseball.

If the Phillies were to shift Jimmy Rollins over to third base and put Galvis at shortstop, however, they would be losing a lot on both ends. For one, Galvis isn’t demonstrably better than Rollins defensively. The sample sizes are much too small to cite any stats — and even if you did, there’s not a clear favorite — but while Galvis might have the edge in speed and range, Rollins has his own advantages in positioning (like his double play partner Chase Utley) and decision-making. When you consider how much better Rollins is offensively (.319 wOBA) and on the bases (17-for-21; Galvis didn’t attempt any steals in 200 PA), Galvis would have to be the defensive equivalent of Adrian Gonzalez to Rollins’ Prince Fielder. And even then, it wouldn’t be worth it.

Then think about what the Phillies would miss out on by moving Rollins to third base. The average shortstop has posted a .298 wOBA while a third baseman has put up a .316 wOBA. By converting wOBA to runs…

( ( Rollins’ wOBA – Positional Average wOBA ) / 1.15 ) * 600

…we see that the difference between the two positions, over 600 plate appearances, is about ten runs or a full win. The difference between Rollins’ .319 wOBA relative to the positional average is +11 runs at shortstop and +1.5 runs at third base. There’s also the question of whether Rollins’ defense would be comparably as good at the hot corner, which likely wouldn’t be the case since he’s spent exactly zero defensive innings at third base in his entire professional career dating back to 1996 when he was a 17-year-old in the Appalachian League.

The net gain for the Phillies would have to be well in excess of ten runs above replacement at shortstop above what Galvis would have to do to match Rollins, something Galvis realistically could only do defensively. Considering that Rollins is at 3 fWAR as a 33-year-old near the end of his career, it’s statistically improbable that Galvis would provide the Phillies an upgrade not just at shortstop, but at any position. His bat is just too bad and his defense, while great, isn’t anywhere close to good enough to make up for the difference.

The New Look Outfield

With Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence gone, the Phillies will be looking at their remaining set of outfielders, including veterans Juan Pierre and Laynce Nix, recent acquisition Nate Schierholtz, as well as John Mayberry and recent call-up Domonic Brown. It’s a crowded bunch and none of them are guaranteed any playing time in 2013, so they will all be playing for a job in these final two months. It should make for some interesting baseball — at least as interesting as it can be with a team that is coming off of five consecutive division titles.

Each spot comes with intrigue. The Phillies may be in the market for a free agent center fielder in the off-season, such as Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton, and Angel Pagan. Brown figures to have a spot in either corner, but his playing time will depend on how he looks in the 200 or so plate appearances he should garner between now and the end of the season. Finally, the performance of Mayberry and Schierholtz  may determine their role in a platoon, as each compliments the other.

The latter situation is particularly interesting because platoons are rare, and effective platoons even more rare. The 1993 Phillies were famous for them, but even the most mundane of players have complained about a lack of regular playing time, so managers have preferred to run some players out for 600-plus trips to the dish even if as many as two-thirds of them are in unfavorable match-ups.

With San Francisco, Schierholtz took roughly four times as many hacks against right-handed pitching than against lefties (1,051 PA to 265, to be exact). Although he has an even split over his career, there have been drastic differences in the last two years. In 2011, he posted an .801 OPS against RHP and .562 against LHP; this year, he’s at .850 against RHP and .483 against LHP. To put that type of production in perspective, this season, there are only two qualified right fielders — Carlos Beltran and Corey Hart — who have posted an OPS above .830. Since the league sees between two and three times as many PA against RHP than LHP, by limiting Schierholtz to RHP only, the production from right field can be impacted greatly.

Mayberry had a breakout year last season, but hasn’t been able to quite replicate it in 2012. In both years, however, one thing was constant: he hit lefties very well, and right-handers not as well. Last year, his OPS against LHP was .953 and .785 against RHP. This year, he’s at .836 against LHP and .533 against RHP.

Realistically, if Schierholtz and Mayberry are applied correctly, the Phillies can get as much production out of right field as they were getting with Pence, and perhaps even more. The kicker is that they would be getting that production at a fraction of the cost. Pence is earning north of $10 million this year and is projected to earn $14 million in his final go in arbitration after the season. Comparatively, Schierholtz is earning $1.3 million this year and has three more years of arbitration ahead of him, while Mayberry is earning $495,000 and will enter his first year of arbitration after the season.

The Phillies should give a Schierholtz-Mayberry platoon a serious consideration and, if all goes well, they will have right field solidified well and cheaply, leaving them plenty of time and money to address other areas of need, such as center field and third base. It is a joke in Saber circles to say something is “the new market inefficiency” as it is a reference to Moneyball, but platoons may just be a market inefficiency and the Phillies have one staring them right in the face.