Over eight seasons, the best batting average Joey Gallo has ever recorded was .253 back in 2019, with the Texas Rangers over 70 games. However, that was during the age of juiced baseballs, and since then, his average has never cracked .200 over an entire season. The New York Yankees don’t care about batting average, though, they care about home runs and how hard you hit the baseball in the strike zone.
Their primary mantra at the minor and major league level: “hit strikes hard.”
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Gallo does that specific task incredibly well, making contact with the baseball at 74.4% when the pitches are in the strike zone. Interestingly, pitchers have danced around Gallo, forcing him to chase balls dipping out of the zone. Gallo has seen 38% of his pitches inside the strike zone, one of the lowest numbers of his career. In fact, there has been an interesting difference in pitches to Joey this year, seeing an increase in breaking balls instead of fastballs. 55.5% of pitches thrown to him in 2021 were fastball variations, but that number has dipped to 49%. Now, pitchers throw their breaking balls 31.8% of the time and offspeed at 19.2%, which is a hefty increase.
Gallo recently spoke about his struggles hitting the baseball, indicating that he is incapable of being a contact hitter and must rely on the long-ball to produce at the MLB level.
“This is what happens all the time when you’re slumping,” Gallo said, via Randy Miller of NJ.com. “I wish I was DJ LeMahieu. I don’t get how he hits the ball so much. A lot of times, I wish I was a contact hitter, but I [am playing] the hand that I was dealt.”
Joey Gallo's rankings among the MLB this year:
Making great contact on the ball, but is still reliant on home runs, obviously. He will never be a balanced hitter and that's okay.
When the contact starts = homers, concerns alleviate. pic.twitter.com/Ef4suHdLOT
— Fireside Yankees (@FiresideYankees) May 17, 2022
One ways for sluggers to provide more value is to walk, which Gallo is doing 13.8% of the time this year. However, that number is considerably down from 18% in 2021.
“I have to find value because I’m not able to get more hits,” Gallo said. “I had to work on my walk rate and take more pitches. Defensively, I knew I had to improve, too, because I don’t want to be just a slugger.”
The story is slightly different from the ones fans detail on social media by most advanced metrics. Gallo’s making phenomenal contact with the baseball, he’s just simply getting unlucky. Gallo’s barrel percentage, hard-hit percentage, and walk percentage are all in the 90th or better percentile, indicating he’s making solid contact but failing to get it over the fence.
Interestingly, his launch angle has decreased tremendously to 16.8°, down from 22.7° last year. That would indicate he needs to get more leverage underneath the baseball, but that could be a result of pitchers changing their sequence against him.
“It sucks to hear, but I was like, ‘I know I’m hitting the ball well,’” Gallo said. “There are different ways to look at it. Sometimes it might look on paper like you’re struggling and the advanced metrics will tell you that you’re hitting the ball really well and you should be getting rewarded.”
Against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night, Joey struck out four times but has been performing a bit better in the month of May, hitting .212 with three homers and four RBIs. He would like to be getting on base a bit more often, but he’s getting on base on 35% of his at-bats this month compared to 27.5% in April.