The Yankees didn’t get the Joey Gallo they had hoped for when the swap with Texas was made official before the trade deadline. The team badly needed an offensive infusion, particularly from the left side of the dish, and Gallo looked like an optimal fit. Instead, he delivered a below-average batting line.
Patience with Gallo wore thin by season’s end. This was understandable given his disappointing performance and heaps of strikeouts. And as such, his fit in New York came into question. It’s a tale as old as time in the Big Apple: player falls short of expectations, so obviously said player can’t handle the market. Frankly, it’s an unfair sentiment, especially given our lack of insight from the outside and the fact that he played just two-plus months for the Yankees. With that, let’s break down his brief period in pinstripes.
Trouble with the fastball
Gallo is the epitome of the Three True Outcome hitter. That type of approach can be really fun to watch when locked in, but for the most part, the outfielder struggled while with the Yankees. He walked plenty (16.2 percent) and hit his fair share of homers (13 in 228 PA), but his strikeout rate (38.6 percent), BABIP (.193), and batting average (.160) during his stint in the Bronx made things miserable a lot of the time. As much as he reached via base on balls, a .303 OBP just isn’t going to cut it, even with his power. As such, Gallo finished with a 95 wRC+ for the Yankees. He was much better for the Rangers prior to the trade (139 wRC+).
I wrote about Gallo’s problems at the end of August. At the time, pitchers were eating Gallo alive with fastballs. While his propensity swing-and-miss is always going to be a flaw, Gallo was whiffing at fastballs way more often than he usual does. And even when he was connecting, his typically good contact quality was nonexistent. There were a lot of middle-middle fastballs that the lefty popped up or even passed up.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get significantly better for Gallo against fastballs after I wrote that piece.
|Exit Velocity (MPH)||97.9||87.3|
Basically, opponents challenged Gallo with more fastballs over the heart of the plate in the final month of the regular season. While Gallo posted objectively better results, it sure looks like he benefited from some luck based on his wOBA – xwOBA and exit velocity. Plus, his in-zone whiff rates against heaters didn’t dip all that much considering how many more fastballs he saw over the heart of the plate.
Even with continued not-so-great inputs against heaters in the final stretch of the season, the overall results were better. From his acquisition to the end of August, he posted a .144/.310/.346 (85 wRC+) with a 39.5 percent K-rate. From September on, he hit .179/.293/.476 (107 wRC+) with a 37.4 percent K-rate. Granted, much of his post-August line is condensed into one particularly hot run in mid-September. From the 13th through 17th, Gallo swatted 5 homers in 16 plate appearances and struck out just four times.
Gold Glove defense
Gallo won his second straight Gold Glove award, which was announced just a few days ago. Remember, he beat out Clint Frazier in 2020.
By all accounts, Gallo has been a plus-glove and plus-arm in the outfield corners for years now, so this award was well deserved. By the numbers, though, Gallo earned this year’s award more for his play while with Texas. Now, defensive metrics are a bit of a black box, and even more so in small samples, but there are some stark differences:
- OAA: +6 w/ TEX, 0 w/ NYY
- DRS: +12 w/ TEX, +2 w/ NYY
- UZR: +3.0 w/ TEX, -2.3 w/ NYY
- FRAA: +7.2 w/ TEX, +4.2 w/ NYY
Clearly, he wasn’t bad defensively in New York. He just performed better (and had more time to accumulate these numbers) while with the Rangers, at least per these stats.
As good as Gallo’s defensive reputation is, there are a couple of mistakes he made in the field with the Yankees. One, in particular, sticks out like a sore thumb. That’s the dropped pop up at Fenway, part of the videos of his errors below:
I don’t know what happened there, but in fairness to Gallo: there were plenty of excellent plays in the outfield for the Yanks, too:
Is he a fit in New York?
Some folks want to attribute Gallo’s ability to handle the New York market based on how he gets dressed. I’m not going to rehash what I’ve already written on this. Instead, let’s rewind:
Do I really need to say that Gallo isn’t the only major leaguer with a quirky routine? So what if he wants his uniform to fit just right? Jason Giambi used to wear a golden thong while slumping. Roger Clemens put icy hot on his nether regions. Wade Boggs ate chicken before every game.
Now, to that quote from a scout. Let me again re-emphasize that this is one scout saying this. I feel like we see this sort of reporting far too often in MLB nowadays. This very well could be opinion shopping. Is it too much to check with multiple scouts on this? Various scouts have varying opinions, but if you publish one with a juicy quote, it must be true, right? Ugh.
Before this came out, concerns about Gallo’s fit in the Bronx solely related to his performance. Did he play well for the Yankees? God, no. Gallo batted .160/.303/.404 (95 wRC+) with 13 homers and 88 strikeouts (38.6%) in 228 plate appearances. There were also some shaky moments defensively. None of this was pretty, and now, his name has come up in trade speculation since the season ended.
Whether he gets dealt or not, judging his fit in New York based on stats alone reeks of confirmation bias. It could be true that Gallo isn’t a good fit for this market, but it’s not because of how he hit in a 58 game sample. Sorry, it just isn’t.
Now, maybe Gallo isn’t a great fit on this roster after all, especially if one of the team’s goals is to become more contact-oriented. That’s a different argument that I’m not necessarily opposed to. I still think Gallo is a really good player on the whole, but miss me with the “he can’t handle New York” talk.
Gallo is one season away from free agency and has a $10.2 million arbitration projection for 2022. There’s a chance the Yankees trade him away this winter — Brian Cashman said he’s open to just about anything, and industry speculation already exists on Gallo’s availability — but for now, he’s penciled in as the team’s starting left fielder.
Gallo’s brief stint in the Bronx this summer was no fun, but there’s still a world of talent in there that could still make him very valuable to the 2022 Yankees. One of the early projections available, via Steamer, estimates that Gallo will hit .208/.342/.480 (123 wRC+) in 2022. That comes with 40 dingers, but also a 34.3 percent strikeout rate. I think we’d all sign up for that right now, no? Especially if the Yankees work on adding more contact-oriented hitters elsewhere in the lineup.