Yankees: Diagnosing Joey Gallo’s monumental struggles at the plate

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 16: Joey Gallo #13 of the New York Yankees (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 16: Joey Gallo #13 of the New York Yankees (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

Since joining the Yankees on July 30, Joey Gallo’s arrival has coincided with the best baseball New York has played all season. Their record is a blistering 21-4 since the trade deadline — and they’ve gotten very little from one of their prized acqusitions.

Gallo’s statistics at the plate as a Yankee are disappointing, to say the least. He’s batting .143 with a .653 OPS and an 84 wRC+, all of which are significantly below the league average.

Going through Gallo’s underlying statistics during his recent swoon show a player with a largely unchanged approach from his time in Texas earlier this season. One issue has worsened, however, and it’s his strikeouts.

It’s no secret Gallo strikes out well above league average, but his strikeout rate has ballooned from 11% to an outrageous 43.3% during his time in New York. A lot of strikeouts is one thing, but in nearly half of your plate appearances? That simply cannot happen.

Looking at heat maps provided by FanGraphs, Gallo is not expanding the zone in ways typical of high-strikeout players. Most of his swings have been on pitches that would be called strikes. Instead, the argument can be made that Gallo has been too passive while also missing these pitches in the zone that he usually does damage with. His road to improvement may lie in ambushing these good pitches to hit early in the count.

When he makes contact, Gallo has actually managed to increase the rate at which he makes hard contact. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Gallo, which leaves a slightly altered approach the most likely culprit for his general ineffectiveness at the plate.

While this sounds like a gloomy report, the opposite may in fact be true. The Yankees have not just survived Gallo’s slump — they’ve thrived. The timing of his poor performance has been tremendous. His teammates have been able to pick up the slack at the plate. He’s actually been helping out by balancing the lineup with his left-handed bat.

Simply being a menacing lefty in the middle of the order has no doubt helped the lineup as a whole. Most notably, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge have thrived recently and you’d be hard-pressed to believe it’s a coincidence their hot streaks have dated back to Gallo’s introduction.

The bat is only one part of the game. Gallo has been a colossal improvement in the field and has shown himself to be a smart player on the base paths. He’s even shown a willingness to bunt against the shift for a few easy singles. If you had Gallo tied for the league lead in bunt singles at any point this season, you deserve national recognition.

Best-case scenario? Gallo begins to heat up just in time for a push at the division while some of his Yankee teammates come back down to earth. Gallo doesn’t need to reinvent himself — some small adjustments will pay off in a big way.

Besides, it seems Gallo merely existing in this lineup has been enough to help push the Yankees from frustratingly mediocre to nearly impossible to beat.