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Effectively Using Young, Galvis & Howard

Posted by Eric Seidman, Thu, December 20, 2012 11:56 AM | Comments: 51
Analysis, Commentary, Statistical Analysis

Last week, Bill Baer wrote up a terrific idea he had at Crashburn Alley: the Phillies should play Freddy Galvis at third base whenever John Lannan starts. The thought makes perfect sense and represents the type of minor adjustment that could benefit the team and maximize the utilities of different rostered players.

As Baer outlined, about 78% Lannan’s batters faced put the ball in play, 53% of those balls in play are grounders, and over half of those grounders are pulled. Having shaky defense at shortstop and third base would hurt the Phillies run prevention with Lannan on the mound. Jimmy Rollins remains an elite defensive shortstop but the Phils are set to start Michael Young at the hot corner. Young hasn’t played third base regularly since 2010 and was a poor defender even then.

Young’s acquisition also leaves Galvis without a clear role. The Phillies could insert him at second base to give Chase Utley a rest and play him alongside Ryan Howard. They could also move Utley to first and play both he and Galvis on the right side of the infield. Rollins might need a day off every now and then as well. Where Galvis could really help the team in a more consistent manner is, as Baer suggested, by playing third base whenever Lannan starts.

I want to take that idea one step further. Not only should Galvis start at third base whenever Lannan pitches, but when Lannan is opposed by a fellow southpaw starter, the Phillies should sit Ryan Howard and play Young at first base. This alignment improves the offense by using Young against the lefties he crushes instead of Howard, who is quite poor against same-handed pitching, and clearly improves the infield defense.

No, Ryan Howard is not going to be used in a platoon, but the Phillies will look to rest him every now and then. Why not provide structure to those rests in a manner that removes him from the lineup when his impact wouldn’t be felt anyway?

It’s not like Lannan is going to face another lefty in all 30+ of his projected starts. We’re talking about maximizing roster productivity over 10-15 games by resting Howard in games where he has a greater chance of struggling. He gets a deserved and needed day off and the Phillies experience a net gain on both offense and defense.

The major reason for the improvement is the difference between Young and Howard facing lefties. Consider their numbers against southpaws from 2009-12 shown below.

Howard vs. LHP:
2009: .290 wOBA, 71 wRC+
2010: .359 wOBA, 121 wRC+
2011: .283 wOBA, 75 wRC+
2012: .261 wOBA, 60 wRC+

Young vs. LHP:
2009: .372 wOBA, 119 wRC+
2010: .379 wOBA, 130 wRC+
2011: .389 wOBA, 139 wRC+
2012: .346 wOBA, 112 wRC+

Even last season, when Young had his worst year, he was still 12% above average against lefties and substantially better than Howard in this split. Granted, Howard wasn’t on solid footing last year — pun completely, completely intended — but at this point it’s safe to say that he is markedly below average against same-handed pitching.

Young, meanwhile, is not only much better against lefties relative to Howard but relative to the entire league. The impact of the difference is far less over just the 10-15 starts in question here, but it’s still material. And while it was a small sample size of 63 PAs last year, Galvis did perform much better against lefties than righties, with a 98 wRC+. His minor league splits weren’t as favorable in this regard, but even so and as strange as it may sound, Galvis and Howard might actually be equal hitters against lefties.

By playing Young at first base against lefties when Lannan starts, the Phillies put themselves in a much better position on offense. By replacing Young with Galvis at third base in these games the Phillies improve their infield defense in an important manner given Lannan’s modus operandi. Adding in the chances that Young improves first base defense in these games while Galvis hits lefties at a rate similar to or better than Howard, this seems like a very easy and logical way to improve the team.

The Phillies have a number of question marks heading into the season and, as such, should look to maximize productivity through minor adjustments whenever possible.

These adjustments might not seem like much in isolation but could add up to an extra couple of wins when taken together. Playing Galvis at third base when Lannan starts is an example. Resting Howard in Lannan’s starts against lefties and moving Young to first base to facilitate Galvis’s start will prove even more beneficial, as the Phils get to rest their slugger while actually improving.

Avatar of Eric Seidman

About Eric Seidman

Eric Seidman has written 64 articles on Phillies Nation.

Eric offers his unique analytical perspective to Phillies Nation and is a regular contributor on FanGraphs.com.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 Frank

    Very very smart!
    That’s why Charlie will never listen.

     
    • Posts: 0 hk

      While Charlie usually employs sub-optimal strategies and seems to fail to understand the potential benefits of platooning at certain positions, we should be fair and point out that Charlie did employ a strategy similar to this in 2007 with Abraham Nunez starting at 3B during most of Jamie Moyer’s starts.

       
      • Posts: 4888 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        2007 or 1977? Was he sitting Mike Schmidt on the bench to employ this strategy? I have to agree with Frank on this one. If Howard can play, Charlie’s going to play him. They hardly gave him a break last season after he came gimping back. He played 27 games in August and 25 in September. (including both ends of a doubleheader)

        But I like the idea and support it if somehow, some way, you could convince Charlie and Ruben. I just don’t see it.

         
      • Posts: 0 hk

        Lefty,

        My 2007 comparison was more about the primary idea of the article, playing Galvis at 3B whenever Lannan pitches than it was about sitting Howard in the ~10 games in which Lannan faces a LHP.

         
      • Posts: 4888 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        Oh, oops, I see what you meant now hk,
        I assumed since the posting was called “Effectively using Young, Galvis and Howard” that you meant the whole ball of wax, I get it now.

         
    • Posts: 0 Ozzie

      You are correct sir. Outside the box thinking. Charlie will not do it.

       
  • Posts: 0 JMills

    How about they let Sandberg manage games that Lannon starts and really stir the pot.

     
    • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

      Avatar of Eric Seidman

      I laughed out loud at this. Well done.

       
    • Posts: 1 verbz

      Avatar of verbz

      Ha….nice.

       
  • Posts: 4888 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    I like it. My original thinking was that they could play Mayberry at first during these situations, but if we go into the season without making a move for another outfielder, he’ll be needed out there against lefties.

    So, here are the problems with your good idea, the paradigm shifts that would have to take place.

    A. Organizations don’t usually sit their big slugger unless absolutely necessary.
    B. They don’t sit their highest paid position player.
    C. The word platoon is not even a consideration for problems A or B.
    D. Charlie Manuel would have to be “an old dog learning a new trick”, and you know what they say about that.

    P.S. @hk- I saw that you posted this the other day too, good stuff.

     
    • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

      Avatar of Eric Seidman

      Lefty,

      I think there is an intervening factor here that is really what made it more palatable to me — in terms of being realistic and feasible — in the first place. Given Howard’s injury, they may look to rest him for a total of 10-15 games this season. All I’m suggesting is that the team structure those 10-15 games to be when Lannan squares off with another lefty. It’s not a platoon. It’s doing what you were already going to do, but in a structured and routine format.

      As for Mayberry, I agree, though my assumption is the Phils are done with the OF and he’ll be playing OF when lefties start. He would already be in the lineup in my example.

       
      • Posts: 4888 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        If Howard is fully healed, and he should be after 18 months, (typically 6-12 months) then there is no injury to protect. I seriously doubt they would do this.

        I would do it, but for reasons above I just don’t see it. In years past, I’ve mentioned pinch hitting for him situationally against the best LH relief pitchers too- but that will never happen either. I just believe that A, and B. will always win out over logic when dealing with ownership signing that big paycheck (if everyone else wants to keep their job), and managers like Uncle Cholly who wouldn’t consider it a valid strategy anyway.

         
      • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

        Avatar of Eric Seidman

        Lefty, your points are certainly valid. Either way, we shouldn’t ignore valid ideas just because a team may stubbornly oppose them.

         
      • Posts: 4888 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        I agree totally Eric. Thanks for another great read.

         
    • Posts: 0 hk

      Thanks Lefty. As far as sitting Howard is concerned, if Lannan gets 30 starts, we can estimate that ~1/3 of them will be with LHP’s starting for the other team, so we are really only talking about resting Howard ~10 times during the season.

       
  • Posts: 0 Bob D

    Ruf can spell Howard a few times too. Also we will see the DH a bit more this year, so that will play into the whole thing too.

    Frandsen can give Utley a day off when needed as the Righty option for 2nd base. We also at least to start spring if not the season to the question of if there will be platoons in the OF.

    My hope for the OF in these platoon situations is that Ruf, Brown, Mayberry, Nix, or someone will eventually step up and prove themselves. I’m ok to start the season that way, and if no one does – thats when Ruben needs to work a trade for an OF to replace someone. Ruf and Brown have the most upside of them all. But those left on the market (OF’ers) are OK, but none of them including Swisher (at the price of the 1st round draft pick) really impress me enough to add to current team. A trade would be different….time will tell. Hopefully we will have a season next year despite the World ending tomorrow.

     
  • Posts: 2 BigCity

    Avatar of BigCity

    Why isn’t Amaro pulling out all of the stops to compete this season. The Phillies have arguably the best rotation in all of baseball but a huge ? in LF. Why not trade Biddle for Willingham? Willingham has 2-years and $14mil left on his deal which fits perfectly underneath the luxuary tax limit. Does this make sense or would the Twins even consider this trade?

     
    • Posts: 0 Bob in Bucks

      I don’t think Biddle is even considered in the Top 100 prospects in the minors. Why would the Twins give up so much for an unproven prospect? We may have big hopes for him but why would the Twins?

       
      • Posts: 2 BigCity

        Avatar of BigCity

        The Twins would consider it because they’ve got one of the worst rotations in MLB and their farm system has only recently improved in this area. Biddle would fit perfectly into their apparent plan to build for 2014-2015. If Biddle wouldn’t be enough to get it done, I gurantee Biddle and Ruf would seal the deal. Would that be too much to give though?

         
  • Posts: 0 CS

    Young needs and was told he is going to play one steady posistion. Drop the sabermetrics for a day and look at the heart, soul and human element. Also, you forget Ruf should be our first choice to backup Howard.

     
    • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

      Avatar of Eric Seidman

      CS,

      I view all elements of the game. Yes, maybe there is value inherent in Young knowing he’s going to play one position, but I’m talking about 10 games this season, which shouldn’t be a big deal for him at all. And the assumption here is Ruf is in the outfield somewhere. It’s not about backing up Howard as much as it is maximizing the effectiveness of the roster. Ruf hasn’t proven himself to be a legitimate major league starter yet, whereas Young, even in a bad year, still crushed left-handed pitching. Moving forward, Ruf could establish himself as Howard’s backup, but with Young on the roster I’m more comfortable with him in this role.

       
    • Posts: 0 hk

      Is it sabermetrics or basic logic that is behind Eric’s suggestions that they should put their best defensive 3B behind Lannan and use Young over Howard vs. LHP’s?

       
      • Posts: 0 TID

        I don’t think CS knows what sabermetrics are…

         
  • Posts: 0 Psujoe

    Bob, Biddle will be a top 50 player according to BA in chat.

    I like the idea, but leaving Young at 3b as agreed a d using Frandsen at 1b. Frandsen crushes lefties as well and always has.

     
  • Posts: 120 Dave P

    Avatar of Dave P

    Very intelligent idea, good “outside the box” thinking. So using this idea against a southpaw, we’d likely see…

    SS Rollins
    CF Revere
    2B Utley
    LF Ruf
    1B Young
    C Chooch
    RF Mayberry
    3B Galvis
    SP Lannan

    That is, of course, if Ruf shows he can handle left field and still has pop at the major league level, and if Brown doesn’t have a stranglehold on an everyday job in right.

     
    • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

      Avatar of Eric Seidman

      To clarify it’s only against a lefty when Lannan starts, not against all lefties.

       
      • Posts: 120 Dave P

        Avatar of Dave P

        Of course. I wouldn’t want the phillies to have a $25 million platoon player.

         
      • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

        Avatar of Eric Seidman

        Right — even though he legitimately is terrible against lefties. But for 10-12 games I see no reason why that lineup wouldn’t outproduce one with Howard in it.

         
      • Posts: 1135 EricL

        Avatar of EricL

        Dave, why not?

        If Ryan Howard is legitimately a very bad player against LHP at some point in his career (one might argue that point is now, but think of this more as a hypothetical) and there are other players on the roster who are much better at hitting LHP and can play first base competently, why would it not be in the team’s best interests to platoon him against LHP?

        The contracts shouldn’t play a role in the decision – it should, in an ideal world, be based solely upon who provides the team with the most production in that individual situation, right?

         
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr

    I see Young just at 3rd. I see Frandsden occasionally relieving Young. Howard and Utley Cholly will likely trout out 95% of the time. Though with a former All-Star that can presumably still hit, Cholly may platoon Young.

     
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr

    Galvis presumably be there to fill in for Utley and Rollins. Essentially been a limited Utility dude. I dont think there is anyone else on the squad that can play SS if J-Roll was to go down.

     
  • Posts: 0 George

    First, I’d like to see how well Galvis can handle 3rd base. It’d be a new position for him, and while he’s proven he can play SS and 2nd, 3rd is a different animal. It requires quick reflexes and a different throwing angle. There wouldn’t be much point in using him at 3rd if his defense there isn’t above average.

     
    • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

      Avatar of Eric Seidman

      Absolutely — everything discussed on this topic operates on the assumption that Galvis will play well defensively at 3B. In my baseball-educated opinion, he will, and he will certainly be better than Michael Young defensively. But if for some reason he is disastrous there, then you’re obviously right.

       
  • Posts: 0 gmopro

    I am all for Howard sitting vs Lefties. He hit like .187 against them last yr and usually around .225 vs them. He is ineffective vs lefties.

     
  • Posts: 903 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    IMO with the age and injury concerns more for Utley then Howard, I think you will see different line ups depending on match ups to get these guys some rest, especially in April and May.

     
  • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

    It’s a little short sioghted to think in terms of Galvis automatically playing 3rd when Lannan pitches solely becaue he fields grounders better, and Lannan supposedly throws a lot of grounders hit toward 3rd. No offense on the word supposedly, just more comfortable using it.

    While I’m s believer in good defense, and this club might have several defensive questions, one factor that deserves weight is Young V the opposing pitcher and if there’s any history.
    So its a credible idea, but I don’t favor jumping into it automatically.

     
    • Posts: 0 George

      I don’t think even Mr. Seidman thinks this should be automatic (see his answer to my comment earlier).

       
      • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

        Avatar of Eric Seidman

        Yeah, nothing is automatic, but this is an idea. There are obviously other factors that go into the decision, but I view M Young as a quite poor defender, and it’s dumb to sign Lannan if you plan on sacrificing defense with him on the mound.

         
  • Posts: 0 wbramh

    More than the coach in other major sports, a baseball manager has to match the talent he’s handed in the field and on the bench against changing competition, yet, I’m not convinced baseball managers do enough platooning to accomplish that task. Instead, platooning has always been considered a dirty word suggesting that neither one of the platooned players is worthy of a full-time job or that one of the two is being given too much or too little consideration.
    I suppose that’s often the case, but when you have a star who also happens to have an achilles heel called lefties (literally and figuratively), then it makes sense to platoon him with a player of average talent who happens to play the position as well and hits 50 points higher against the same competition.
    As complex and unstable as these multiple platoon possibilities may sound, in the hands of a smart manager they may produce surprising results. If nothing else, the moves may allow an otherwise third place team to squeak out enough additional victories to move up a notch and have a shot at a wild card – and we know all too well that it’s the hot team that wins it all whether they had 105 wins or 88 wins during the regular season.

     
  • Avatar of "Big Ed" Delahanty

    Eric,
    I love the idea and think it would be quite beneficial. I think Galvis would be fine at third, considering his great reflexes at second, which wasn’t his natural position either. In the end, as Lefty pointed out, Cholly won’t do it. Oh well…the best laid plans of mice and men…

     
  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Don’t be surprised of Charlie goes for a hybrid of this idea, but with Frandsen or Ruf instead of Galvis to get a better hitting lineup as well as fielding.

    Phils have 10 games with a DH. This roster, at least on paper, should be a decent DH type lineup. There’s some games the Big Dog and Chase can sit some.

     
  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    What a line-up! It would cost though. No more Cliff Lee, Vance Worley, Brown and others. Imagine the lineup you could have!

    LF Trumbo $01.0
    CF Bourne $15.0
    3B Heatley $07.0
    P Loshe $13.0
    P Baker $06.0
    RP Uehaja $04.5

     
  • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

    good read eric and a good idea. i’m with lefty and a few others who think cholly won’t do it. he is gonna play these guys til they drop! i also think he’ll end up platooning ruf, which i think is a bad idea. he’s got good splits against both R&L pitchers. he should just let him go and see what he does. and i don’t mean just for april. he should be given at least apr. and may.

     
  • Posts: 0 Betasigmadeltashag

    One point all this platooning misses is that a starting pitcher may only pitch 5/6 innings and say a RH comes in do you immediately dub Ryan back in and then you lose a bench bat. Or do you keep a guy in that can not RH

     
    • Posts: 0 George

      That new right hander may only go 1-2 innings, anyway, and your guy who can’t hit him may never even have to face him before another pitching change is made.

       
    • Posts: 0 hk

      What Charlie should do in the 6th or 7th inning would depend upon the game situation at the time. There are too many questions (what’s the score?, what bases are occupied?, how many outs?, does the other team have a LHP ready in the pen if you PH Howard for Galvis?, would the other team be able to pitch around Howard if you PH him for Galvis?) to make a blanket as to what Charlie should do. However, the uncertainty over what might happen in the 6th or 7th inning should not deter the team from optimally utilizing their personnel for the first 5 or 6 innings.

       
    • Posts: 0 hk

      Further to George’s point, having Howard as a threat on the bench may force the other team to use their bullpen earlier in the game and sub-optimally, especially if they only have one really good LHP in the pen. If you PH Howard for Galvis with men on base in the 6th inning of a close game, you may force the opposing manager to use his best LHP early in the game, leaving a lesser reliever to face Howard later in the game. Again, the point being that the manager should optimize his line-up at the beginning of the game to try to put his team in the best position by the 5th or 6th inning.

       
    • Posts: 4888 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      If 6 innings is a quality start then I would guess that would happen pretty frequently though I don’t have the numbers. (Help Schmenkman!) I would guess, as mentioned by hk, that in a game like that, the opposing manager would have his LHR ready and be willing to sacrifice him early. It may set up one bad AB for Howard, but if it’s their only LHR it may set up a good match up next AB if there is one.

      Yes, you might lose a bench bat or two earlier than anticipated, but I think it’s still a worthwhile strategy. I mean, if they are going to go with corner outfield platoons anyway, it will be something that has to be managed closely in every game. I hope Charlie is up to the task.

       
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        Average innings per start were 5.9 this past year, so just based on that, it’s probably fair to say that half the starts didn’t go past 6 innings.

        In fact, I would guess that that average might be skewed high, which would mean that in reality more than half don’t make it past 6 full innings.

         
      • Posts: 4888 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        Thanks man, that’s about what I thought.

         
  • Posts: 0 Double Trouble Del

    I just had a chance to read this nice piece. The platoon system reminded me of the Orioles of the early 80s when Earl Weaver effectively platooned Lowenstein, Roenicke, Ford, Dwyer, Shelby and Bumbry to exact the most from his OF positions ie. in 1983 a combo of those players averaged 83 RBIs and 104 Runs. If only….

     
 
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