I was thinking out loud on Twitter yesterday and said this:
Wondering if it'd be worth it for the Phillies to start Freddy Galvis at 3B for each of John Lannan's starts.
— Bill Baer 🌹 (@Baer_Bill) December 15, 2012
In my post yesterday about the Phillies’ recent free agent signings, I mentioned Lannan’s high ground ball rate and the propensity for those ground balls to be hit to the pull side. Since 2009, John Lannan has induced 1,005 grounders. 528 of them (52.5%) have been hit to the pull side, 160 to the opposite field (16%), and the rest to the center of the diamond (317, 31.5%). As a result, I concluded that the left side of the Phillies’ infield — Jimmy Rollins and Michael Young — are crucial to Lannan’s success in the #5 spot for the Phillies.
As Grant Brisbee illustrated in a recent post at SB Nation, Young’s defense is not very good at third base. Here is one of the .gifs Brisbee used:
Meanwhile, this is something Freddy Galvis seemed to do routinely last season:
I’m not going to cite any defensive metrics because they’re not reliable in single-season samples (in Freddy’s case, a half-season sample). Galvis, brought up through the Minors as a shortstop, had no problem shifting over to second base. Thus, it is not crazy to think he could transition smoothly at third base as well. In fact, some of the early ideas surrounding the team’s options at the hot corner involved pairing Kevin Frandsen and Galvis rather than going after a player like Young or Kevin Youkilis.
Lannan averages 25 batters faced per start, and has a 12.1 percent strikeout rate and 9.6 percent walk rate (I included hit batters in this percentage), meaning that about 78 percent of batters Lannan has faced have put the ball in play. More than half of them — 53 percent — have hit ground balls. So, that is between 10 and 11 ground balls per game. As we learned above, slightly more than half of those grounders goes to the pull side. And, as pointed out in my post from yesterday, three out of every four batters Lannan faces is right-handed. So, we’re talking about four or five ground balls per night to the left side, towards Young and Rollins.
The question becomes “is the downgrade in offense from Young to Galvis worth it for those five ground balls”? Young’s career average wOBA is .344 while Galvis posted a .267 mark in three months in 2012. In one game, the difference is about 0.3 runs:
- (((Young wOBA – Galvis wOBA)/wOBA scale)*plate appearances)
- (((.344-.267)/1.245)*4) = 0.295
The run value of a single relative to an out is about 0.8 runs. So, if Galvis made one play that Young wouldn’t have made in one out of every two starts, he would justify the maneuver. Of course, we are assuming that all of the ground balls become either outs or singles, which we know is not true. Unless the Phillies play Young consistently close to the line, some of them will become doubles, which have a run value of 1.1 relative to an out, justifying the move even more.
Such a tandem is not unprecedented, even for the Phillies. Back in 2007, the Phillies started the light-hitting, slick-fielding Abraham Nunez at third base 51 times. He started behind the left-handed, defense-reliant Jamie Moyer in 21 of his 33 starts, and an additional time in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Colorado Rockies.