By: Jack Kennedy
Ever since the analytical era of baseball began, the way we view baseball stats has significantly evolved. Emphasis has been continually taken away from standard stats such as batting average and has been redistributed to the increasingly important on-base percentage. This shift has occurred for obvious reasons: it doesn’t matter if someone gets on base via lining one into right, taking 4 pitches outside the zone, or just taking one hard in the ribs. The end result is the same: runner on first. Hits only become valuable when they involve the baseball going over the wall.
Thus, we enter the current era of true outcome hitters. These hitters ignore the fielders playing. They don’t care because they don’t plan on giving them a chance to get the ball, anyway. A true outcome hitter is someone who specializes in one of three “true outcomes:” walks, strikeouts, and home runs. These sort of players are becoming more and more valuable in the eyes of managers as they shift towards acquiring players that ignore the defense and go toe to toe with the pitcher and the pitcher alone. There is no player in baseball who emulates this thought process than Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo.
Joey Gallo has a decent on-base percentage of roughly .316, right around league average. Unfortunately for Gallo, his batting average is, to put it kindly, below league average. As of right now, he is putting the ball in play 21% of the time he goes up to bat, making his batting average of .210. Gallo has walked 70 times this year so far and is on pace to beat his career high of 75, which he set in last year’s season. Gallo has already beaten his career best in hits at 99 compared to the 94 he put up last year. This means that of all the times Gallo gets on base, 41.4% of them are walks. On top of this, the ones he does happen to hit in play are usually home runs, and I’m not exaggerating. As of now, Gallo has clubbed 37 dingers, meaning that just over 37% of all his base hits are home runs. In addition, he has 24 doubles and 1 triple. Adding those numbers up, we find that he has 62 base hits that are not singles. Subtracting that from his total of 99, we see that the amount of singles he hits is… 37. This means he has the same amount of home runs as he does singles this year. So we’ve established that Gallo is very good at walking and hitting home runs, now let’s look at his strikeout numbers. Gallo is third in the MLB at 195 strikeouts, only 6 behind the leader, Yoan Moncada at 201. But this number is a little skewed as Yoan has had 596 plate appearances as opposed to Gallo’s 542. Moncada has had 54 more plate appearances, and therefore more strikeout opportunities than Gallo. If Gallo had the same amount of plate appearances as Moncada he would total a whopping 215 strikeouts. He is a true outcomes player who hits dingers, walks, and if he doesn’t do either of those things, he strikes out, so you don’t need to worry about the double play Gallo has only grounded into a double play 3 times in the last 2 seasons.
Joey Gallo is not a typical new age hitter, however. As I said, he does walk a lot, but still doesn’t have the huge on-base percentage that most managers look for. He’s an even newer age of thinking, not about getting on base, but about only hitting home runs. Joey Gallo actually isn’t supposed to get on base at all. After a game with the Astros earlier this year in which Bregman was playing all the way in left field and no one occupied the wrong side of the infield as Gallo came to bat, we were all thinking the same thing: “Just bunt it!” But he didn’t, and there’s a reason for this. A bunt moves Gallo one base, a home run, however, moves Gallo four. The Rangers are not exactly Murderers Row this year, as they have a lot of guys that struggle at the plate, and if Gallo was to get on first every time he batted he might not be able to reach home because of the lack of support behind him. Gallo, instead of waiting to be knocked in, decided to knock himself in. This strategy seems to make a lot of sense, but how effective is it? We could tell how good of a player Joey Gallo is if only there was a way to isolate Gallo from the rest of his team so we can see how successful he is as in individual… Oh wait, we can.
Using the hitting statistics I outlined earlier, I was able to simulate every single at-bat for Joey Gallo as if every player on the team was Big Number 13. Every plate appearance was a set of random probability generators that would first determine if he would get on base in that plate appearance. If it was determined that Gallo got on base, I would then randomly generate the outcome of Gallo getting a base hit or taking the free pass to first. Finally, if the probability generator decided that Gallo was getting a knock, I would use the generator to determine what kind of hit he got. I didn’t need to worry about double plays because as I said, Gallo doesn’t hit into double plays. To determine the opponents score for every game was easy: I simply took the score that the Rangers’ actual opponent put up, and continued to do this for the first 35 games of the season.
SO HOW DID GALLO DO?
Gallo started off incredibly strong. He scored 10 runs in his first game with 2 grand slams. Cole Hamels got the win easily for the Texas Gallos as they defeated the Astros 10-4. The next game was completed in a similar fashion, as Gallo has another grand slam and they clubbed in 12 runs, again defeating the Astros in a 12-1 slugfest. The following game was an interesting one as well, as the Gallos put up a very respectable 7 runs, but the returning World Series champions were able to notch 9 themselves. This went back and forth as I simulated every single game, and in the end, the Texas Gallos finished with a record of 17-18, just under .500. If you extrapolate this, the Texas Gallos would finish with a 79-83, having about 8 more wins than the Rangers are on pace to have this year. This means that as bad as Gallo’s .210 batting average seems, he is actually an exceedingly effective batter. And remember, this record is simulated with the Rangers’ rotation, that throughout their first 30 games had a whopping ERA of 5.7. If Gallo substituted every spot in the lineup on a team with a better rotation, it can be speculated that he would have an even better season and could possibly finish well over .500.
While when I was simulating the games there were many instances that Gallo would get out or walk with the bases loaded, which didn’t produce many runs, he hit more than enough home runs to make up for it. This high octane offense was done purely with someone who could hit with power. His batting average was awful, and his OBP was nothing impressive either, however, Gallo turned into a very productive hitter because while he wasn’t always getting on base, he was constantly putting up a lot of total bases for his team.
Could this mean that baseball will go through another statistical reform where managers look for players who can take more than first? Was Joey Gallo just a fluke? Who knows, but time will tell if Joey Gallo’s strategy of just swinging for the fences every pitch will become a trend. After all, you can only shift players so far and unfortunately can’t put them in bleachers which is where Gallo is aiming. For now, we’ll just have to sit back and enjoy the fireworks.