Yankees: Why Joey Gallo’s shift argument is more layered than you think


New York Yankees slugger Joey Gallo faced more shifts than anybody in Major League Baseball in 2021 when you take into account the percentage he saw (95%) and his total number plate appearances (606). The only players ahead of him in the percentage department were Seth Beer (100% in 10 PAs), Carlos Santana (97.6% in 467 PAs), Jose Ramirez (96.4% in 418 PAs), Kole Calhoun (96.2% in 182 PAs) and Mike Ford (95.8% in 71 PAs). Thanks for the info, Baseball Savant.

So when Gallo made his very reasonable comments on the shift that were taken out of context largely by blockheaded Red Sox fans who responded, “Try putting the ball in place first, idiot!,” it sparked debate and research.

There are some intriguing findings, too. Per Pinstripe Alley, Gallo only pulled eight line drives into the shift, three of which were outs delivered by infielders on the outfield grass (which was his chief complaint when talking about the subject) and another that was caught by the outfielder. Add in 17 (with just three outs!) during his first 95 games with Texas, and we’re looking at a total of 25 line drive pulls into the shift with seven outs and 18 hits.

Ok … then he’s right! Line drives to the outfield should be hits … and they’re still pretty much hits even if the shift exists!

So how is the shift affecting Gallo, really? If he’s not hitting into it, then what gives? Why does he even have anything to say about it?

The fact of the matter is that Gallo is a pull hitter. He hardly ever hits the ball to the opposite field. For his career, here’s the breakdown:

  • 39% pull (league average is 28.6%)
  • 47.7% center (league average is 52.8%)
  • 13.4% opposite field (league average is 18.6%)

Here’s why the shift is a multi-faceted argument for Yankees’ Joey Gallo.

In addition to his propensity to pull the ball, Gallo strikes out a ton and doesn’t make a lot of contact. It’s just who he is as a player. The world must accept it.

So throw in the mental aspect of having to face the shift 95% of the time you step into the batter’s box, and you can understand why this was more of a struggle for him this past season. Here are the shift percentages he’s faced in previous seasons, too, all of which were among the most in the league:

  • 2020: 96.4%
  • 2019: 95.9%
  • 2018: 84.3%
  • 2017: 82%

Additionally, on top of going to the opposite field fewer than one out of five times, Gallo’s stats when doing so are bad. 

Those are mostly outs, just in case you were wondering. In this case, the shift is pretty much handicapping Gallo further (being that he’s already a one-dimensional player in a sense) and is perhaps forcing him to incorporate or elevate an aspect of his game that he’s clearly unable to do (outside of bunts. down the third-base line).

It’s hard enough to hit a baseball. Even fewer can hit to all fields. And only the most elite can willingly place the ball where they please. In a sense, the shift could drive players of Gallo’s kind into extinction, which is why it’s not totally out of the question that he hopes for an AMENDMENT (not a ban!) to the current defensive alignments that have overtaken baseball.

But yes, for all the haters out there, you’re certainly validated in a sense by telling Gallo to put the ball in play more … because if he managed to pull the ball more frequently at the velocity that he does, he’d probably see more success.