Rangers: dispelling the notion regarding Gallo’s so-called improvement

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Joey Gallo /

Throughout his tenure here, the argument–usually from Rangers’ operatives–is that Joey Gallo is improving at the plate. It’s wrong.

If you follow the Texas Rangers, you know that this season is a laugher, and not in a good way. They currently sit at 18-30, which puts them dead last in an otherwise very competitive American League West. Furthermore, their road record is beginning to slip into negative territory. It was the one thing that clung to any shred of respectability.

But that’s not really why we’re here. We are here to discuss the status of one Joey Gallo. In my time, I can recall few–if any–players that engender such a sense of exasperation than he. And look, I don’t question the kid’s heart or his hustle. The guy shows these brilliant flashes of a transcendent five-tool player. What I do question, however, is his approach at the plate.

Now I understand that today’s game and the game I grew up watching don’t exactly resemble each other. In fact, this was put into beautiful perspective by Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci just prior to the start of this season. It certainly isn’t en vogue to shorten one’s swing and put the ball in play anymore. No, today’s game employs a high risk, high reward strategy that, in truth, drives old timers like me a bit insane.

Specifically, when it comes to Joey Gallo, I guess I just need to accept the fact that he’ll never morph into an all-around hitter. Much like a thoroughbred horse is conditioned to run really fast and turn left, Gallo seems expressly manufactured to hit tape-measure, awe-inducing clouts. When he connects, it’s a Roy Hobbs-ian sight to see.

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The problem here is that those occurrences don’t offset the usual and all-too-frequent alternative: strikeouts. It is here where I take issue with this narrative that Gallo is an “improving” player. I tune into local sports talk radio, and the prevailing theory among Ranger personnel and radio personalities is his so-called evolution at the dish. Well, a cursory glance at his raw numbers suggests otherwise. In fact, I think that what we see is what we’ll continue to get so long as he wears a Rangers’ uniform. I’m not sure if this is an indictment of the player or the coaches, but the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.

But if we’re just look at his statistics, you can see that any improvement was temporary. His regression to the mean has been rapid. To wit, his .202 batting average is seven points lower than where he finished last season. His on base percentage (.277) is down sharply from last year’s .333 mark. The slugging percentage is down as well (.537 to .462), as his OPS (.869 to .740). In fact, the only place he’s improved slightly is his strikeout rate, and even then, he’s whiffing on almost 40% of his at-bats, which is astonishingly bad.

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The good news is that the Rangers really don’t have to do anything with him if they don’t want to. This season is a lost cause, and most everyone won’t notice as Joey Gallo continues to air condition the first few rows of a mostly empty Globe Life Park. It is simply frustrating to see a big league talent continue to be so rigid in his approach to the fine art of hitting. It’s enough to make one wonder about the real direction of this franchise.