Phillies Should Pair John Lannan with Freddy Galvis

I was thinking out loud on Twitter yesterday and said this:

twitter.com/CrashburnAlley/status/280052217833213952

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:

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.

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24 comments

  1. JM

    December 16, 2012 09:18 AM

    Shouldn’t Frandsen be considered before Galvis? His defense is just fine, and his bat, while it may regress, is still better than Galvis…

  2. hk

    December 16, 2012 10:44 AM

    Michael Young, the GIF that keeps on giving. I think pairing Galvis and Lannan is a great idea a la Nunez and Moyer. It is amazing to me that the manager can grasp this concept, but cannot comprehend the benefits of platooning. The Phils are rumored to be on the verge of signing Cody Ross, who is not much better than John Mayberry, Jr. and stands very little chance of producing more than what a strict Schierholtz / Mayberry, Jr. platoon would be projected to produce.

  3. Jim

    December 16, 2012 11:53 AM

    Last I checked … 2nd base isn’t called a hot corner. On top of that, Galvis is on the grass of the OUTFIELD, where Young is on the grass in the INFIELD. So, you took gifs representing the hardest spot for 3rd, and the easiest spot for 2nd. Just saying .. that comparison is unfair at best. For the last 2-3 years the issue for the Phillies has been lack of offense / situational hitting; and less about their defense. So, I’d take Young’s career worst at the plate over Galvis’ career best; even factoring in a def difference.

  4. Jeff T

    December 16, 2012 12:19 PM

    I <3 Math . . .

  5. Alex

    December 16, 2012 12:22 PM

    Let’s just get Young on Clostebol like Galvis was last year. Problem solved

  6. Greg

    December 16, 2012 01:25 PM

    Still upset they couldn’t find a way to send Howard back for Young. The Rangers need left-handed thump and might be moving Kinsler to first anyway. Wonder if there was any way to make the money work to include Kinsler and Howard. Like, pay 90% of howard’s salary. Woulda been worth it.

  7. John Paul

    December 16, 2012 04:55 PM

    Howard was never in the works. Hell, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play his entire career here.

    Bill, big picture, if the roster was set today, considering all reports of players health etc, do you see the Phillie’s making the playoffs? Do you see them contending?

  8. Mike

    December 16, 2012 07:16 PM

    Not trying to be that guy, just a question actually, but didnt Nunez start on a regular basis in ’07? Or was Wes Helms the starter?

    Also, @Jim, no stats to back this up but last year it seemed like defense was a really big problem

  9. JRFarmer

    December 17, 2012 08:30 AM

    Regarding Lannan… signed for $2.5M, plus $2.5M of incentives that can be earned.

    Mike Pelfrey just signed for $4M, plus $1.5M of incentives.

    Wouldn’t we rather have Mike Pelfrey at $5.5M than Lannan at $5M? Both pitchers have the potential to perform horribly, but Pelfrey at least has some possibility of pitching very well.

  10. Bill Baer

    December 17, 2012 08:43 AM

    They’re similar pitchers, but Lannan’s ground ball rate is better and he has more so out-performed his ERA retrodictors (though I am assuming Lannan’s out-performance is based on batted ball skill and not luck over 784 innings). Also, Pelfrey seemed to benefit greatly from the pitcher-friendly confines in Queens, as his home ERA is 3.64 (4.36 xFIP) compared to his road ERA of 5.30 (4.68 xFIP).

  11. Richard

    December 17, 2012 09:09 AM

    “Still upset they couldn’t find a way to send Howard back for Young.”

    You’re upset by this?

  12. Greg

    December 17, 2012 06:30 PM

    > “Still upset they couldn’t find a way to send Howard back for Young.”

    >You’re upset by this?

    Absolutely. Would LOVE for the phils to trade howard. I would take a league average 1B for the next year or so rather than have that albatross Howard contract. I can’t bear 4 more years of watching him whiff at sliders three feet off the place.

  13. Mcneildon

    December 17, 2012 08:22 PM

    I don’t think any team would take Howard unless the Phillies paid almost all of his remaining contract.

  14. Richard

    December 17, 2012 09:30 PM

    No, I get that you’d love for them to trade Howard. That much is obvious.

    But being upset that they didn’t – dunno, seems like you might be pitching your expectations a wee bit unrealistically. And by saying “seems” I mean to say that it’s kind of insane to be upset by that. There was not a snowball’s chance in hell that Howard was being traded this offseason. Criticize the Phillies for the moves that they have made or that were possible to make.

  15. John Paul

    December 17, 2012 09:52 PM

    Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Jay Bruce, Matt Kemp, Robinson Cano, David Ortiz…These are guys who have hit less HR’s since 2009. Only 10 guys have hit more HR’s in that time period. None of them are cheap either. Howard strikes out a lot but he also piles the runs on a lot, seventh in the league in that time period, but you want to give up a guy who bat’s in 56 RBI’s in 71 games when he was awful? 33 HR’s and 114 rbi last year was supposedly awful too…no logic.

  16. Greg

    December 18, 2012 12:13 AM

    I know there was no way Howard will be traded, but I would still love to see it. I’d still take Cruz, Hamilton, Bruce Kemp, Cano, over Howard any day of the week. Sure, Howard’s numbers since 2009 are impressive. But he’s only getting worse and worse. It DOES speak to how naturally gifted he is, given that he’s still managed to be pretty good while making zero adjustments to the way teams approach him now. Remember when he could kind of hit lefties?
    It’s just mostly the insane contract and his declining skills/body that make me wish he’d just get traded, even if the phils have to pay 70% of the money. Money they coulda spent on pujols or prince last year.

  17. Richard

    December 18, 2012 10:03 AM

    You’re going to see a rebound from Howard. He’ll never be worth the contract, since he never was the kind of player who could be worth that kind of contract.

  18. Heather

    December 18, 2012 01:45 PM

    Unless Michael Young hits .100 for the first two months or royally pisses off Charlie, you know this is never happening.

  19. Phillie697

    December 18, 2012 09:32 PM

    You know what’s upsetting and shocking? That there are still people who would defend Howard’s play and his contract.

  20. JRFarmer

    December 19, 2012 06:56 AM

    >> That there are still people who would defend Howard’s play and his contract.

    I think it’s pretty funny they come to this blog and try to use RBI to justify Howard’s worth.

  21. Bill Baer

    December 19, 2012 08:10 AM

    Not everyone is boned up on Sabermetric principles yet, so give people the benefit of the doubt: explain before mocking.

  22. hk

    December 19, 2012 02:20 PM

    Further to Bill\’s point, if the Phils play Galvis at 3B and Young at 1B whenever Lannan starts and the other team starts a lefty, the Phils could actually gain offensively as Galvis\’s WRC+ vs. LHP\’s last year was 98 whereas Howard\’s WRC+ vs. LHP\’s is 91 for his career.

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