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Slow start behind him, Freddy Galvis fitting in nicely in Baltimore

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The Orioles have had success with their temporary fixes at shortstop, and this season has been another example with the veteran journeyman.

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

There was a point where the Freddy Galvis signing appeared destined to go down as a swing and a miss from the Orioles’ offseason.

If you had to pinpoint the moment, it might have been the gap between two halves of a doubleheader played April 15 against the Seattle Mariners. In the first game, Galvis went 0-for-2, and saw his average fall to .154. One of the pluses to bringing Galvis on board was his power, and he was slugging .179. Of his 12 games, three had seen him strike out three times.

It wasn’t working.

Since then? Different story.

Since then, a span of 23 games, Galvis has turned things around and made himself at home in the Baltimore lineup. He’s batting .316 since that point, with a .933 OPS. The player with two 20-homer seasons to his name has gone deep four times, a clip that over 162 games would come out to 29 long balls. He’s had five multi-hit games, including a four-hit effort, and he’s failed to get a hit on only six occasions.

Not a bad guy to have in your lineup. And this keeps alive what has been a pretty impressive trend for the Orioles in recent years.

As important as the shortstop position is to a team’s performance on the field, the O’s have had a lot of success winging it and going with a Band-Aid at that spot. J.J. Hardy was a player in decline after time with the Brewers and Twins when he arrived at Camden Yards. He became a wonderful find, someone who played seven years in Baltimore, was named an All-Star and won three Gold Gloves. He became a fixture, but who saw that coming in 2011?

Jonathan Villar was no star when he came over from Milwaukee in the Jonathan Schoop trade in 2018. One year later, his only full season with the Orioles, he had perhaps the best all-around season of his career, and along with Trey Mancini was one of the team’s two best offensive players. Jose Iglesias was a late signing in 2020. A former Red Sox prospect whose inability to learn how to hit wore out his welcome at Fenway, Iglesias batted .373 in his one season in Baltimore.

And now it’s Galvis, the latest “he’ll do for now” option at shortstop. And the latest such player who seems to be working out just fine.

Even with the slow start, his .261 average is the second-highest of his career. The .443 slugging percentage and .761 OPS, were they to hold, would be the best of his career. Even if the hot hitting since mid April were to cool — and perhaps it’s started, given that he’s 1-for his last-13 — the overall stats he’s at now would be plenty of production considering the Orioles gave him only $1.5 million to come on board in late January.

Despite the Orioles’ ability to keep hitting on these temporary fixes, which would seem to speak to the benefits of having Camden Yards as a home park, Galvis has hardly felt at home in his new office. He’s batting .211 in 57 at-bats at home, and .310 on the road (Something about playing at OPACY, I suppose. If you’re an Oriole this season, you really don’t like to do it).

One area that has been in his favor, though, has been his exposure to, and handling of, fastballs. In 2019, Galvis saw four-seamers 38 percent of the time, hit them hard (according to MLB) on 32.6 percent of those pitches, and batted .260 for the year. Last year, seeing fastballs at a 25.7 percent rate, he had hard hits on 32 percent of those pitches, pretty much the same rate as the year before. In part due to his seeing those pitches more infrequently, however, his average fell to .220.

This season, he’s getting fastballs on 31.8 percent of pitches, which is still below the 2019 rate. He’s offsetting that, however, by posting a 41.7 hard-hit percentage. That would seemingly have to play out in a higher batting average, and sure enough, he’s hitting .306 off fastballs this year, compared to .247 last year. His expected average (.292 this year, .196 last year, .239 in 2019) shows this disparity as well.

As long as the fastballs keep coming — due obviously to a variety of factors, such as lineup protection, game situation, the pitchers’ feel for their pitches, etc. — it’s a safe bet that Galvis should keep his numbers at the respectable level they’re at now.

And for someone who was signed late, and who was batting .154 two weeks into the season, that should be plenty good enough.