Freddy Galvis: In Context

It is easy to look past Freddy Galvis. There is a top prospect waiting to assume his premium position on the baseball field. He does little with the bat. His numbers are underwhelming. But as we often see a player as a single WAR total, we may not be appreciating the full value of Freddy Galvis to the Phillies, because that value is hard to pin down.

As a glove-first shortstop, Galvis provides most of his value by preventing runs rather than creating them. While defensive metrics attempt to capture this value in a single number, they are far from precise. Consider 2016. By DRS, Galvis saved five runs with his glove. According to UZR, he saved fifteen. That’s a big difference, equating to roughly one win on the season. There is little doubt that Galvis is a terrific defensive shortstop. Placing an exact number on that contribution, however, is difficult.

On the offensive side of the ball, the numbers are more concrete. Galvis was among the worst hitters in the league. Evidence: a 74 wRC+. And yet, even a hard number like this misses the mark on Galvis. Why?

Freddy Galvis is clutch.

Among the swath of statistics at Fangraphs, there is a Clutch rating. Unlike most of the numbers you’ll find on their pages, the Clutch rating accounts for context. A player who performs better in high leverage situations, as compared to their context neutral performance, is considered clutch. They have this information going back to 1974, and since that time, 1444 players have come to the plate at least 1500 times. Of all those players, on a per plate appearance basis, Galvis is ninth in Clutch rating.

Because he performs better when the leverage is higher, Galvis has been more valuable than his numbers would indicate. His Clutch rating credits him with an extra three wins during his career. Consider, during that time, Galvis has been worth 1.4 WAR/600 PA. Accounting for those extra wins, that number jumps to 2.5. For his career, he has provided the same value as an above average major leaguer.

Galvis is not the franchise altering shortstop the Phillies hope they have in their top prospect. He’s a slick defender who comes up short with the bat, but hits a little more when it matters most. The actual value of those skills is hard to pin down. As to what they suggest: he’s been more valuable to the Phillies than a simple glance at his WAR total would imply.

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14 comments

  1. SJHaack

    March 29, 2017 12:56 PM

    The counter argument to going down this road of discussion is that if he was a better hitter all the time, there would be fewer times where he’d need to be clutch.

    • SJHaack

      March 30, 2017 10:28 AM

      The corollary to this is that good hitters tend to hit about as well in all situations, so they also hit well in the clutch whether we remember the “clutch” or not. All the good current shortstops are babies so it’s hard to get a career picture of them. But let’s take Derek Jeter because he has approximately 4 million plate appearances. His all time OPS is .817, and his High Leverage OPS is .808. With 2 out/RISP, his OPS is .816, in a tie game his OPS is .817.

      Or shoot let’s take our boy Jimmy. Career OPS .743, high leverage .761, 2 out/RISP .821, late and close .727. It’s lower, sure, but remember this is in 1600 PAs, which is to say Jimmy has had an entire Freddy Galvis career just hitting in the late innings of close games.

      Good hitters hit.

  2. Michael Schickling

    March 29, 2017 01:58 PM

    Do you think that Galvis’ apparent clutchness makes him more valuable as a bench bat? I’d think (though I don’t have the stats on hand) that the average pinch hitter’s PA has a higher leverage index than the average non-pinch hit PA. Of course, that hinges on Galvis’ ability to continue to be clutch, which may be suspect.

    • Steve

      March 29, 2017 03:06 PM

      I think if he was a bench bat his attitude could shift his ability to then be “clutch” haha… down the Freddy…. Freddy…. Freddy…. rabbit hole it could go.

  3. lorecore

    March 29, 2017 03:22 PM

    The average wRC+ of the top 25 “clutch per PA” list you created is around 86 wRC+

    Its basically a bunch of crappy hitters who seem to have ran into a couple closer’s fastballs.

  4. Romus

    March 29, 2017 04:32 PM

    What is the difference between the Fansgraph Clutch Rating from the RISP percentage?

  5. Major Malfunction

    March 29, 2017 04:39 PM

    I don’t predict a lot of future clutch situations in his future. The Phil’s lineup had changed drastically and he’s an 8 hole hitter going forward. Why pitch to him with the pitcher following?

  6. Dante

    March 30, 2017 08:42 AM

    What’s the difference between “Clutch Rating” and “High Leverage” splits? He has a career 80 wRC+ in high leverage, and an 86 last year. The league overall was at 92 last year.

    • Tim Guenther

      March 30, 2017 10:40 AM

      Keep in mind that Clutch is not a comparison to the rest of the league, but to a player’s own context neutral performance. Galvis was a context neutral 74 wRC+ last year. In low, medium, and high leverage situations, he hit a 54, 104, and 86 wRC+, respectively. At medium and high leverage, he hit better than his context neutral 74 wRC+. WAR is based on that context neutral number, so Clutch takes into account the “extra wins” you added by hitting better when it mattered more, using Win Probability Added (WPA) and the Leverage Index to find that number.

      The point is not that you’d want Freddy Galvis to hit in every high leverage situation. There are plenty of “unclutch” players that still hit better than him in those same situations. It’s that Galvis has provided more “wins” to the Phillies than his context neutral WAR would imply.

      • Dante

        March 31, 2017 08:30 AM

        Great explanation of Clutch Tim, thanks.

  7. Bob

    March 30, 2017 11:00 AM

    Galvis is a utility player who holds great value in that he can play all of the infield positions well and give some of the regulars rest. He has enough power that in late-game situations, he can come in and put some hurt on the ball better than most infield utility guys. I can live with him starting in these lost seasons while we wait for Crawford and Kingery. But he needs to be phased out of a starting role within the next year or two.

    • John

      March 30, 2017 08:15 PM

      First Crawford has to hit more than 240 in the minors, then he has to show a little power and speed.

  8. Fantasy Baseball is not Real

    March 31, 2017 11:08 AM

    Freddy is the best mlb SS we have at this very moment. Period. Full Stop. The rest of it is just theoretical hand wringing.

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