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|
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..