2022 was set to be a big year for a big guy in the Bronx. Outfielder Joey Gallo, after a relatively disappointing Yankee debut last year, would be more comfortable and looking for a bounceback heading into his free agency. However, the season got off to a terrible start, with plenty of boos to go along with the bad performance. Luckily, Gallo has turned it on a bit more in June as the Yankees have steamrolled the competition so far this month.
In June, Gallo is hitting to a .360 wOBA, good for a 139 wRC+. This surge has brought his season wRC+ up to a respectable 94. In April (76 wRC+) and May (87 wRC+), this level of production seemed near impossible, but here it is, along with some tangible reasons for it.
One tangible reason is a lack of ground balls. After running up grounder tallies in the mid-30’s for each of the season’s first two months, Joey has dropped down to under 17% grounders in June. Considering the shifts Gallo sees, this is huge. It’s happened across the board, too:
June has seen Gallo drop his ground ball rates dramatically on breaking and offspeed pitches, as well as fall to literally zero against fastballs. Not surprisingly, this has come with a corresponding jump in launch angle, especially against said fastballs:
A rise in power has corresponded, naturally, with these competing batted ball results as his ISO has climbed every month: .115 to .161 to .326.
Speaking of pitch types, aside from crushing fastballs in June (.368 ISO), he’s made a big improvement against breaking balls. With four hits against them–including a double and a homer–he’s got more against breaking balls in June than he did in April (1) and May (0) combined. So what can he do to keep this up?
Aside from not driving the ball into the ground, one thing Gallo may want to do is swing less. His swing numbers have jumped way up this year, encapsulated by his overall percentage, which has jumped from 40.4 to 50.7. This includes jumps at or around ten points in, zone swing rate and chase rate as well as a near 20% jump (!) in first pitch swings. This is most definitely costing him runs.
Gallo’s takes are plus 10, which is good. But he’s given all that value back with -17 swing runs, especially around the shadow of the plate, ones he probably should be taking. Maybe if he gets back to swinging at those ones less, his production will ramp back up over the closing months of the season.
Joey Gallo seems like a good dude who’s easy to root for. He put himself in fan’s negative sights early on, but he’s starting to come out of it. As he does, I hope those who booed begin to cheer just as vociferously.