This isn’t Joey Gallo’s walk year in the traditional sense. The year he can walk away and become a free agent is 2022. But 2021 has become a different kind of walk year for Gallo. It’s the year where the only way to get on base is to walk.
Sure, walking is good. In fact, if Gallo can keep up his current on-base percentage, it would be remarkable. The problem is, though, that he is the one guy in the lineup who is supposed to drive in the other guys. Right now, he is getting on base and nobody is able to drive him in.
With Gallo, it seems it’s always one thing or another.
In his first two attempts at the major leagues, in 2015 and ’16, he was basically a strikeout machine. In 153 plate appearances, he struck out 76 times. That’s about as close to 50 percent as it gets, 49.7 percent to be exact. The rap against him was he couldn’t hit major league pitching.
Then, in 2017 and ’18, he became a 40-home-run hitter. But he hit only .208. His strikeout rate dropped to 36.3 percent, but he still had a very mediocre .322 on-base percentage. Home run, walk, or strike out. In fact, nearly 50 percent of his hits were home runs, 48.5 percent to be exact. The rap against him was he was one-dimensional.
Then, in 2019, he seemed to put it all together and become the offense force the Rangers had hoped.
His on-base percentage jumped to .389. His OPS went from .838 to .986. His strikeout rate was still about the same, 38 percent, but what really improved was his walk rate. He stopped chasing and started making pitchers pitch to him. Suddenly, Gallo was a more complete, and therefore more feared, hitter. He went from walking once every 7.5 plate appearances to once every 5.7. He made the All-Star team. Then he got injured. This was the Joey Gallo everyone was waiting for and everyone was expected.
Only then, 2020 happened. He started out of the gate with COVID, getting a late start on the second Spring Training. Then when the season started and he got one look at the new Ballfield and saw even more outrageous shifts, his 2019 progress went south.
His batting average dipped to .181, his on-base to .301, and his OPS to .679. In one year Gallo went from being a complete hitter to a complete mess. The raps against him were many.
Which Joey Gallo was the real Joey Gallo? It’s an important question because the Rangers have to decide what to do with Gallo. Do they offer him a long-term contract? If so, which Joey Gallo do they pay? If so, can they build an offense around him? Or do they trade him and build without him?
This year isn’t making it easy. In the quest to discover the real Joey Gallo, a new one emerged. An on-base, walk guy. He still strikes out a lot, 33 percent of the time. In fact, he’s leading the American League in Ks. Trouble is, he has gone from being a three-outcome hitter to become a two-outcome hitter. Walk or strikeout. The power aspect of his game has disappeared. He has just one home run. And zero doubles. That’s almost hard to believe.
Power is his game. That’s his brand. That’s what you would pay Joey Gallo for.
Of course, it’s way too early to write it off and say it’s not coming back. That kind of power just doesn’t evaporate.
Or does it?
This leads to a one other question. Is it worth the constant search for the real Joey Gallo? He seems like a lot of work.
Wouldn’t it be better to let someone else take that ride shotgun inside his head?