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!

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Crash Landing: Keeping An Eye On Ryan Howard and the Big Picture

I remember at some point last winter I declared that I was done writing about Ryan Howard only to go on to write about him often this season. This won’t even be my last post about him this year as I’m certain to want to use the occasion of his final game in red pinstripes as an opportunity to look back on a legendary career. Today, though, I want to talk about his most recent… controversy? Can you even call it that? How about this… his most recent news-making quote.

Yesterday, manager Pete Mackanin had this to say about first base playing time for the rest of the season as quoted by Bob Ford of The Inquirer:

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Crash Landing: Bidding Farewell to Chooch?

The waiver trade deadline is less than a week away and the Phillies have still declined to make a single in-season trade this year. It’s been leaked that both Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz have cleared waivers, however, which is a reminder that this inactivity could change at any moment. It’s not a surprise either player cleared waivers as Howard is still owed ~$15M on his contract while Ruiz has ~$2M remaining and, although that’s not a prohibitive amount, it’s still a large investment for one to two months of a backup catcher. Now that they’ve cleared waivers, though, it’s possible to work out a trade, particularly if the Phillies are willing to provide a bit of salary relief.

I’m sticking with my unwavering predictions that Ryan Howard isn’t going anywhere. He’s been on an offensive tear lately and, while that’s great to see, he remains a one-dimensional player with extraordinarily limited value. None of the contending American League teams have a clear need for him and I just don’t see Howard ending his season anywhere but Philadelphia. Chooch, on the other hand, is rumored to have generated a bit of interest. Could we currently be in the final hours of his Phillies tenure?

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Crash Landing: Braves Celebrate the Future as Phillies Celebrate the Past

Last night, fans of the two teams at the bottom of the NL East had occasion to partake in standing ovations. In Philadelphia, fans got to their feet for the fourth time in two nights in order to welcome back an icon of the past. After all the joy he brought to the city, Chase Utley was extraordinarily deserving of the warm welcome he received, but the atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park was starkly juxtaposed against what happened in Atlanta. While Phillies fans celebrated the past, Braves fans cheered for their future by giving a standing ovation as their top prospect and new starting shortstop, Dansby Swanson, made his major league debut.

When midseason prospect lists were released last month, Swanson found himself on the lists just below Phillies’ top prospect and fellow shortstop, J.P. Crawford.

2016 Midseason Prospect Rankings
J.P. Crawford #3 #1 #4
Dansby Swanson #7 #10 #12

Swanson was drafted first overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks last June before being traded to the Braves in the Shelby Miller trade last winter; Crawford was drafted by the Phillies in the first round two years earlier. Swanson began the season in High-A and made just 372 plate appearances in Double-A after a midseason promotion; Crawford reached Double-A last summer and now has 571 plate appearances in Double-A and 306 in Triple-A. Swanson uniformly ranks lower than Crawford on prospect lists. So why are Atlanta fans cheering for him in the major leagues while Crawford remains stuck in Triple-A leaving Phillies fans to cheer for relics of past glory?

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Crash Landing: Alumni Weekend; Looking Backwards and Forwards

This weekend is one of my favorite annual events on the baseball calendar. Opening Day is a clear number one, but behind that is a cluster of events which are hard to separate. The World Series has the highest upside as an event, but can also be devastatingly disappointing due to a lack of consistency year to year. Although I can understand why this is not a universally held opinion, the Wild Card games are high on my personal list due to the guaranteed high stakes drama. There are other calendar highlights — the All-Star Game and the buildup to the July trade deadline, to name a couple more — but when new schedules are released on event eyes will inevitably gravitate to each year is Phillies Alumni Weekend.

This is already starting to feel a bit like a cheesy commercial and for that, I apologize. If you’ve been reading my work for a while, it won’t surprise you to know that I’m extraordinarily sentimental and, as someone who grew up with the Phillies and their history, an annual celebration of that history is tailor-made for someone like me. I love the fact that historical Phillies greats like Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Dick Allen, and Robin Roberts have been a part of my own baseball life even though I never watched them play. Alumni weekend and Wall of Fame induction ceremonies are a big part of that personal connection I’ve developed with Phillies history.

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Crash Landing: Watching Howard One Last Time

As I’m writing about baseball more and more, I have fewer and fewer opportunities to sit down and watch a game as a fan. I don’t mean that to sound like a complaint — writing about baseball is a joy and I’m incredibly blessed to have the gigs I have — but it is a statement of fact and it’s a big part of why I write this column each week. This column is part of my attempt to stay grounded in the emotional impact of the sport and it forces me to think about not just what I’m seeing in baseball but how I feel about it. Last night, baseball made me feel things.

I was at Citizens Bank Park sitting in the upper deck to watch the Phillies play the Giants. The crowd was sparse in comparison to the days of guaranteed sell-outs, but still sizable enough that the section I was in was packed. There were countless wonderful moments that I may or may not remember months or years from now — Odubel Herrera’s shoestring catch, the bullpen’s outstanding performance, Maikel Franco’s walk-off and Altherr’s Boner, Cameron Rupp’s mammoth home run to dead center — but there was one thing I know I’ll remember.

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Crash Landing: Trade Deadline Rumors Are The Worst

Things have been relatively quiet on the trade front over the past few days across baseball in general, but as it regards the Phillies, in particular. Jeremy Hellickson is still the only player generating much buzz and there haven’t been any particular salient rumors in the past few days. In fact, the only recent rumor to get picked up at all was generated as a result of this tweet from ESPN’s Jayson Stark:

This, in combination with a similar report about the Rays’ asking price for the various and sundry starting pitchers they may or may not trade, led to a MLB Trade Rumors headline: “Rays, Phillies Placing High Asking Prices On Starters“. Maybe it’s just me, but reading that headline instantly brought me back to the seemingly never-ending debates and controversies over the asking price for Cole Hamels spanning the offseason prior to the 2015 season all the way through his eventual trade to Texas.

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Crash Landing: Fighting Pessimism, Looking Forward to Altherr’s Return

I have this habit of defaulting to extreme pessimism for injured players. It’s a deep-seated tendency due both to the innate pessimism derived from my upbringing in the world of Philadelphia sports as well as a learned habit from the recent pain of watching catastrophic injuries dramatically derail the careers of guys like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard and, to a perhaps lesser extent, Chase Utley. With each of those injuries, there were initial hopes and recovery timelines to cling to but, in the end, the injuries deprived us from the enjoyment of watching greatness. It’s for this reason, that I’ve spent a lot of this season overlooking Aaron Altherr and I (extremely cautiously) think it’s time for me to stop.

Prior to the start of the season, the outfield was one of the more intriguing storylines for the Phillies. Altherr and Odubel Herrera were to get everyday roles while Peter Bourjos, Cody Asche, and Tyler Goeddel covered the final spot until such a time that Nick Williams could be called up. It was exciting! Altherr and Herrera both showed a great deal of promise in their rookie seasons, but there were also many questions remaining about their games and this was the year to get answers to those questions. While the great plan has certainly worked out for All-Star Odubel Herrera, it didn’t even get off the ground for Altherr.

In the first week of spring training, he made a dive that looked completely harmless.  It was a fantastic diving effort that came up just short and Altherr didn’t even flinch at the moment the injury occurred. Continue reading…

Crash Landing: All-Stars, Odubel, and A New Era

I have a trivia question for you — name all of the Phillies All-Star Game representatives who were born in the ‘80s. Take your time. I’ll even give you a hint, they’re all included on this list of All-Star representatives since 2007:

Phillies All-Stars Since 2007
2016 Odubel Herrera (OF)
2015 Jonathan Papelbon (P)
2014 Chase Utley (2B)
2013 Domonic Brown (OF), Cliff Lee (P)
2012 Cole Hamels (P), Jonathan Papelbon (P), Carlos Ruiz (C)
2011 Roy Halladay (P); Cole Hamels (P); Cliff Lee (P); Placido Polanco (3B); Shane Victorino (OF)
2010 Roy Halladay (P); Ryan Howard (DH); Chase Utley (2B)
2009 Ryan Howard (1B); Raul Ibanez (OF); Chase Utley (2B); Shane Victorino (OF); Jayson Werth (OF)
2008 Brad Lidge (P); Chase Utley (2B)
2007 Cole Hamels (P); Aaron Rowand (OF); Chase Utley (2B)


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Crash Landing: Lessons From Peter Bourjos

Baseball fans of all different sensibilities are guilty of one near universally mistake: forgetting just how much talent the worst player on a major league roster possesses. Perhaps there are enlightened fans who are able to avoid this trap, but I know I’m as guilty of it as the next person. I’ve made more jokes at Michael Martinez‘s expense than I care to count. “Replacement level” is somehow a pejorative description of a ballplayer which is also synonymous with “one of the greatest players to ever pick up a glove.” To achieve a coveted 25-man roster spot means being among the 750 greatest (active) players in the game. That’s some percentage of the baseball playing population with a zero before a decimal point and a crap ton of zeros after it. Bad major leaguers are still the elite of the elite!

In Philadelphia we’ve watched a lot of bad major leaguers in recent years — really bad major leaguers — and it can be maddening to watch. But I wonder, at times, if it clouds judgement. Philadelphia sports fans have a predisposition for pessimism. (Maybe that’s an all-sports-fan thing, I don’t know, but I do know for sure that it’s true here.) When pessimism combines with poor performance, it becomes easy to latch on to the bad to an extreme degree. We saw it happen with Ben Revere being written off as worthless every time he slumped despite evidence to the contrary. When a player struggles, it’s easy to write them off as a really bad major leaguer. Sometimes it’s valid. Sometimes it’s Michael Martinez. But sometimes it’s Ben Revere. And sometimes it’s Peter Bourjos.

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