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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Phillies Notebook: Is Galvis Phillies’ MVP?

Posted by Eric Fisher On July 5

While the Phillies were mired in a horrific slump at the end of May, I asked the following question to Calkins Media beat writer Kevin Cooney during a Facebook discussion: Is there any veteran(s) with the personality – and the standing in the clubhouse  – to step up in a leadership role and rally the rest of the players to put an end to this embarrassment?

Kevin responded, “In a word: no.”

After a little more thought, Kevin wrote, “I take that back – maybe Galvis.”

The obstacle to Galvis taking a vocal leadership role at the time was that he batted .188 during May. His batting average on June 2 was a season-low .223. Galvis’ struggles continued into mid-June. On June 16, he was batting .229.

But Galvis has picked up his play the past 2½ weeks. He has hits in 14 of 16 games since June 16. In eight of those games, Galvis had at least two hits, including two 3-hit performances. He has raised his average to .254.

The improved play has enabled Galvis to take more of a leadership role. He has voiced his frustration with losing and led by example. One example of Galvis leading by example came Monday when, after being with his wife as she gave birth to a girl during the early morning hours, Galvis showed up for the game that night and got the Phillies off to a fast start with a two-run home run in the first inning.

Galvis is the only Phillie to play in all 82 games this season. Another constant besides Galvis’ presence in the lineup is his outstanding defense.

The plan in many fans’ minds was for J.P. Crawford to replace Galvis at shortstop somewhere in the middle of this season. But with Crawford getting off to a horrendous start and Galvis picking up his offense – he ranks fourth on the team in home runs (8) and RBI (33) – it’s difficult to imagine Galvis being supplanted by Crawford at shortstop this season.

In fact, with Galvis’ stellar defense, improved offense and leadership, a case can be made that he has been the Phillies’ most valuable player during the first half of the season.

*****

HISTORICALLY BAD: Monday’s 4-0 victory over the Pirates left the Phillies with a 28-53 record at the midpoint of the season. If the Phillies win at the same rate the rest of the season, their 56-106 record will give them the 16th-worst winning percentage (.346) in a franchise history filled with stretches of awful baseball.

The .346 winning percentage would be the worst since 1961 (47-107, .305), even surpassing the infamous 1972 season in which Steve Carlton somehow won 27 games for a team that only won 59 games. But the 1972 team’s record (59-97, .378), the standard for bad Phillies baseball during the past half-century, is better than the Phillies’ current pace. That should provide a little perspective on how bad the first half of this season has been.

*****

NOLA BACK ON TRACK: Aaron Nola has six victories. That matches his win total in each of his first two seasons. Considering Nola has six wins before the All-Star break, with a chance to exceed that total on Saturday against the Padres, his performance is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy season.

Equally as important is that Nola seems to be getting better. He has allowed only three runs in his last three starts, including Monday’s 4-0 triumph over the Pirates.

There were major questions about Nola entering this season. The seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft, Nola was 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA after being called up in the middle of the 2015 season. But the excitement over Nola’s future dimmed due to a 6-9 record and 4.78 ERA during his sophomore campaign.

Despite a 2-0 record in his first three starts this season, the concerns over Nola weren’t alleviated in April. His ERA was 4.50 and he finished the month on the disabled list. When he returned on May 21, Nola lost his next three decisions and saw his ERA rise to 5.63 by the end of the month.

Nola’s struggles continued during the first half of June, going 1-2 to drop his record to 3-5. On June 16 his ERA was 4.76.

But Nola has found his groove during his past three starts. He has pitched seven innings in all three of those starts (7 1/3 innings in one of them). In those 21 1/3 innings, Nola has allowed 13 hits. He struck out 25 while walking seven, with his ERA dropping to 3.73, more than a full point below where it was on June 16.

The victories in his last three starts have improved Nola’s record to 6-5. It’s a remarkable accomplishment to have a winning record for a team with a 28-54 record.

Three good starts won’t erase all of the concerns, but, if Nola continues to pitch as he has since mid-June, he will have answered enough of the questions to become the least of the concerns about the Phillies’ future rotation.

*****

STARRING ROLE FOR NESHEK: Reliever Pat Neshek will be the Phillies’ lone representative in the All-Star Game next Tuesday in Miami. Neshek, acquired from the Astros during the offseason for cash considerations, has a 2-2 record and 1.39 ERA. He has allowed runs in only two of his 35 appearances this season. Three of the five runs he has allowed this season came during Saturday’s loss to the Mets.

Prior to the poor outing against the Mets, Neshek’s ERA was 0.57. He did not allow a run during 13 appearances during June.

Neshek, who also was an all-star in 2014 while with the Cardinals, was a tremendous acquisition, but he likely won’t be a Phillie for much longer. Contenders with a need for a set-up reliever will likely be lining up to acquire Neshek before the trade deadline.

*****

CUTTING TIES: The Pat Neshek acquisition was an excellent move. The signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a 1-year, $8 million contract was a mistake. The Phillies released Saunders, who batted .205 in 61 games.

The Phillies also released Jeanmar Gomez, who was their closer last season. Gomez was 3-2 with a 7.25 ERA and blew two of his three save opportunities.

*****

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: The release of Michael Saunders and Howie Kendrick’s lingering hamstring injury have created opportunities for young outfielders. Cameron Perksin, called up when Saunders was designated for assignment, is batting .172. Two of his five hits have come as a pinch-hitter.

On the other hand, Nick Williams hit safely in his first four games since being called up from Class AAA Lehigh Valley. One reason to watch the Phillies the rest of the season is to monitor the progress of outfielders Williams, Aaron Altherr and Perkins.

*****

HAMSTRUNG: Howie Kendrick’s hamstring injury is probably hurting his trade value. Limited to 33 games this season, Kendrick is batting .349. The Phillies would love to get Kendrick some extended playing time after the All-Star Game in order to showcase him for contending teams searching for an experienced bat and potential spot starter.

*****

GETTING A BREAK: The Phillies have an opportunity to end the first portion of the season on a high note, hosting the Pirates and Padres in the final two series before the All-Star break. The Pirates are 38-46 after splitting the first two games of their four-game series with the Phillies. The Padres (35-48) have fewer wins than any team in Major League Baseball except the Giants (33-52) and the Phillies.

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