Fitting in Both Rollins and Galvis

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

twitter.com/JSalisburyCSN/status/231142785439395841

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.

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14 comments

  1. Brian

    August 02, 2012 05:39 PM

    Would the potential of Freddy to improve at the plate make sense to try him out at 3B instead of Polly, which we pretty much know what we’re going to get (above average defense, average hitting when healthy but far below when not)?

  2. Brian

    August 02, 2012 05:41 PM

    This is of course a big if, considering Freddy’s back and the fact he has never professionally played 3B.

  3. Pat

    August 02, 2012 07:02 PM

    It might just be best to let Galvis spend the next two years at AAA. His bat isn’t there yet.

  4. joe

    August 02, 2012 09:05 PM

    How about chooch at third

  5. LTG

    August 02, 2012 09:42 PM

    Chooch at third might not be such a bad idea, if Sebastian Valle were viable. He used to be an infielder and still takes ground ball practice.

    I don’t quite see why retaining Polanco is so obviously a better idea than Galvis at 3B (which is not advocating for putting Galvis at 3B). They had the same wOBA this year, and I don’t think we should expect Polanco’s bat to improve next year. Otherwise, Galvis is young and can still heal well, so his back shouldn’t interfere with making the transition to 3B. And he’s got the raw skills to play that position. Good reflexes, good footwork, strong arm. Maybe you want a wider frame to absorb the bad hops but that’s not essential. So I don’t see why it is obvious that Galvis is a worse option than Polanco. Perhaps, Galvis’s bat will get much worse next year and, so, be much worse than Polanco’s. But that is a bit of speculation without evidence and, so, not a reason to dismiss putting Galvis at 3B as a non-idea. It is all things considered in the last resort idea pile, but so is retaining Polanco.

  6. nik

    August 02, 2012 10:01 PM

    I think Galvis is bound to see plenty of time at 2nd again next season. He’ll be a useful injury replacement fill-in while getting regular ABs in AAA. Amaro has to get creative to fill third. Maybe trying to pry away Jed Lowrie from Houston and putting him at third.

  7. Madguitrst

    August 03, 2012 02:59 AM

    Tommy Joseph is the next 3rd baseman. If you haven’t seen him hit, YouTube him. He has a natural power stroke. Maybe needs to work on bat speed, but I think he has the potential to be a good power hitter….very soon.

  8. hk

    August 03, 2012 05:26 AM

    If the Phils are looking to go cheap at 3B next year, I think that a Wilson Betemit / Freddy Galvis platoon could work. I spent the entire offseason calling on the Phils to sign Betemit to serve as the LH-hitting part of a 3B platoon with Polly. Betemit has a .376 wOBA vs. RHP’s this year and .354 wOBA vs. RHP’s for his career while Galvis, from the SSS of this season, seems to be a better RH-hitter and most probably the better defender.

  9. hk

    August 03, 2012 05:35 AM

    Upon further review, Baltimore signed Betemit for 2 years with a 2014 vesting option that looks likely to vest, so the Phils would have to trade for him. The O’s are paying him $1M this year, $1.75M next year and will have to pay him $3.2M in 2014 if he gets 700 PA’s in 2012 and 2013 combined – he already has 343 this season. Well, at least we had Ty Wigginton for $2M this year.

  10. Hog

    August 03, 2012 05:41 AM

    What was the PED Galvis got done for and how much of his athleticism could be put down to that?

  11. Hellfish

    August 03, 2012 07:15 AM

    While Joseph is not a 3B he is used to (at least occasionally) playing an infield corner position (1B). He obviously has an arm being primarily a catcher. Maybe the Phils should try him out at 3rd – maybe he could develop into a serviceable 3B defensively. Worth a try – if his bat warrants it – he’s only 21.

  12. hk

    August 03, 2012 07:50 AM

    Why would anyone want the Phillies to move Joseph from behind the plate? According to all reports that I have read, his defense is improving and the consensus is that he should be able to stay at C. That offensive potential from a C is far more valuable than that offensive potential from a 1B. Between Ruiz’s age and Valle’s lack of development – don’t be fooled by the “promotion” to AAA – Joseph projects to be the C of the future.

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