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.