Crash Landing: The Enigma of Freddy Galvis

Favorite baseball players don’t come along very often, for me at least. A true favorite player is an emotional commitment and it takes time for that level of personal investment to build up. I can list dozens of players I love to watch play. I may even refer to some of them as favorites off-hand from time to time, but true genuine favorites in the literal sense of the word? For me only two players have achieved that status: Scott Rolen and Chase Utley. I don’t know when my next favorite will come along, but I know no one is particularly close right now. Instead, what I have right now are short-lived obsessions when one player is on an exciting tear. At various times this year, I’ve favored Odubel Herrera or Aaron Nola or Vince Velasquez or Maikel Franco. But at this specific moment in time, my “favorite” is a player I endearingly refer to as “The Enigma”, shortstop Freddy Galvis.

Here’s the most important starting point with Freddy Galvis: he has the worst on-base percentage in the majors among qualified hitters and the player with the second most, Alexei Ramirez, was released by his team earlier this week. Not only that, his .269 OBP isn’t far off from his career mark of .278. So it’s bad, but it’s also unsurprisingly bad. No one expects Galvis to be an offensive force because we’ve been watching him in the majors since 2012 and he’s consistently been ineffective at the plate. There’s absolutely nothing enigmatic about that.

But then there’s this ridiculous stretch he currently finds himself on. Entering play last night, he was sporting a .278/.333/.577 slashline in 105 plate appearances since (arbitrary end point alert) August 6th. A .577 slugging percentage! The power surge was thanks to seven home runs in the span of the month. Last year, Galvis set his career high for home runs in a single season with seven. This year he matched that in a stretch of 105 plate appearances!

This is part one of The Enigma. He is an offensive dud, but on occasion he pulls off extraordinary displays of power. Like that walk-off home run off Aroldis Chapman.

And as you know, not all of his home runs are cheap corner shots. Just this Monday, Galvis hit an absolute bomb into the upper deck at Marlins Park:

Galvis is listed at 5’10”, 185 lb. and puts up absolutely dismal offensive numbers on the whole, but then he puts on a display like that and it makes you question everything you think you know about this game. His recent surge has him up to 16 home runs on the year, more than double last season’s career high. His home run total puts him in the middle of the pack among qualified shortstops. It’s not elite, but it’s also not nothing. Add into the mix the fact that he has 13 steals and you’ll find he’s one of just six qualified shortstops with double digit steals and homers this season.

MLB Shortstops Double-Digit Steals and Homers
Player Team HR SB
Jonathan Villar MIL 15 52
Eduardo Nunez MIN/SFG 15 35
Francisco Lindor CLE 14 17
Xander Bogaerts BOS 17 13
Freddy Galvis PHI 16 13
Carlos Correa HOU 19 12

He is the literal worst person in the league at getting on-base, but on the occasions that he does produce offensive value he makes it count. The net result this year as things stand right now is a 70 wRC+ or offensive production 30 percent worse than league average. It’s not good. It’s not even particularly close to good and with nearly 1,700 career plate appearances under his belt, there’s no compelling reason to think it’s ever going to get good. But those glimpses of what could be, that’s The Enigma.

The second part of his enigmatic baseball persona is his defensive production. He is a truly elite defensive player who will make mind-boggling highlight reel plays like the one that the Phillies broadcast crew talked over last Friday:

But throughout his major league career, he’s had a maddening propensity to follow up these defensive exploits by booting routine grounders. To be perfectly fair to him, this is a trait which has mercifully begun to dissipate this year. The easy explanation for these defensive miscues was that a lack of focus hamstrung him on mundane plays. It’s also been blamed in the past on him taking his struggles with the bat out with him on defense. Whatever the cause, it is frustrating to the highest degree to watch one of the best defensive talents around make bonehead play after bonehead play. The Enigma strikes again.

He’s an offensive dud with shocking pop that comes out of nowhere. He’s a defensive wizard who is lousy with misplays. These enigmatic contradictions will likely keep him from ever getting a starting role on a truly competitive team, but it’s hard to deny that it adds a layer of excitement to watching him play. You never quite know what you’re going to get and, lately, he’s been an absolute joy to watch. Maybe I’ll move onto another new favorite at some point in September, but I’ve certainly enjoyed this Galvis-centric portion of my 2016 Phillies watching experience..

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14 comments

  1. Dave

    September 08, 2016 08:50 AM

    The stats make it very difficult to justify Freddy as an everyday player. But the glove plays, and he’d seem a good fit as a util guy. My favorite thing about Freddy is that he actually looks like he LOVES to play baseball. He’s got heart.

    He just doesn’t get on base enough.

  2. Carmine

    September 08, 2016 08:58 AM

    I have always liked Freddie. He has had setbacks, even MERSA for heavens sake, and bounced back. What is frustrating to me is that he could be better. With work, patience and good coaching, a player can improve his OBP. The power and defense show that he has talent. I think that a franchise with a better development program than the Phils had when Freddie was in the minors could have made him (and may still) a more valuable player.

    • Bob

      September 09, 2016 10:38 AM

      I think every player has a ceiling. No matter how much or well a development program is there are physical limitations on players. He can take batting practice until his hands ache and study film until his eyes are weary. But hitting a ML pitcher is very, very difficult and some players just can’t do it no matter how hard they try. A lot of players put themselves on the very best diets and training regimens and still can’t hit well.

  3. Romus

    September 08, 2016 10:07 AM

    Have to like Freddy’s enthusiasm and determination.
    His revamp defensive game and long ball pop are exceptional…but everything else, not so much
    And a wRC+ of 70…oh boy.
    If I were him, since he is defensive gifted at most all positions…I would entertain learning how to catch this off-season in winter ball. He will be 27-years old next season and may be pushed off ss by JPC by May/June. So he needs to add some value to his game.

  4. RU

    September 08, 2016 10:40 AM

    Have to agree with you on all counts with energetic Freddy. 16 HR ? I didn’t think he would have that in his entire career. Moreover, he invariably has hit them when it was significant in a game ; i.e., no other Phil got even a hit and he wakes them up, pust them back in a game, or it ices a game. He seems to have had a flair for the dramatic. Meanwhile, his defense does appear to be more “stable” punctuated by the numerous highlight plays. Forever, we have been told he is a defensive genius but it is also refreshing to see him pop these balls out. Sometimes a player’s contributions far outweigh the metrics that people now use for evaluation. He can play SS on my team, lousy OBP or not.

  5. John

    September 08, 2016 10:57 AM

    -
    -13

    Please stop with the Crawford stuff. He can’t hit 250 in the minors and has no power.

    • Romus

      September 08, 2016 02:54 PM

      John…follow baseball much?
      Here is his slash after 1800 minor league PAs. – 278/ .372/ 759

      • Bob

        September 09, 2016 10:32 AM

        I think John was referring to his AAA stats. A-ball stats don’t mean much to me at this point. I’m focused more on his AA and AAA numbers. JP has gotten on base a ton at AA, so that portends well. JP has not shown much power, so he’ll need to do better than a .320ish OBP. JP needs another half-year at least in AAA with how poorly he has been performing as of late. He’ll only be 22 next year, so there’s plenty of time to let him develop a little longer. He should make it, but his lack of success at AAA shows he is just not ready.

    • Romus

      September 08, 2016 03:04 PM

      Crawford ………………………….13%…both Krate and BBrate……25 HRs in 1800+PAs
      Freddy-MiLB metrics………15%-Krate….6%BBrate……………..25 HRs in 2500+PAs

  6. Steve

    September 08, 2016 12:46 PM

    I too love/hate watching Freddy.

    Still remember the high hopes/excitement when he got the start in 2012 and the Freddy chants…

    When was the last chant of anything at the bank…. feels like April of 2012 to me

    • Romus

      September 08, 2016 01:42 PM

      Thought I heard some ‘Goodbye Ruben’ chants a year or so back.

  7. Major Malfunction

    September 08, 2016 04:01 PM

    I distinctly remember Schmidt working with Galvis in spring training and making him use a fatter handled bat so he would have more tendency to “slap” hits rather than try and hit for power.

    Did he change bats, approach, and hair style all at once 🙂

    • Bob

      September 09, 2016 10:34 AM

      Looks like Galvis closed up his stance from last year. More power but lower OBP

  8. Francisco (FC)

    September 08, 2016 11:23 PM

    You never quite know what you’re going to get

    In a nutshell, Freddy Galvis is a box of chocolates?

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