clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Joey Gallo’s production is being dragged down by topspin

The right fielder needs to slightly adjust his point of contact.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Joey Gallo hits the ball very hard. When it comes to the big bashers of Major League Baseball, he is in the upper echelon of pure athleticism. He can run well, throw well, and generate a lot of power. When he gets a hold of one, it is exciting to see. When he is in the midst of a hot streak, he flashes incredible potential.

Gallo is very easy to get excited about from a batted-ball profile point of view. Everything pops off the page. Obviously, the elephant in the room is his he doesn’t excel at making contact that often, though that hole in his game has never outweighed the rest of his skillset. Personally, I had high expectations because I believe in the breadth of his abilities. However, after watching him hit on an everyday basis, I have cooled from extremely excited to moderately excited.

This is what I’m saying. Gallo’s Statcast page is jaw dropping. Everything about his batted-ball profile is ideal. He hits the ball as hard a human can, his chase rate is above league average (and usually better), and his xwOBA indicates he hits the ball at an ideal launch angle as often as he makes contact. How can you not get excited after seeing this?

Not to be the fun police, but this profile does not tell the entire story. A few years back, the FanGraphs community blog ran this this article written by Shane Weisburg, in which he breaks down the types of spin batters put on batted balls, and how it could possibly be disadvantageous to impart topspin on the ball. I didn’t think too much of it at the time. One fundamental skill that coaches try to develop is hitting the ball with backspin. It’s a very traditional way of thinking. When watching a ball fly into the gap, it’s always beautiful to be the ball soar and keep its flight for longer than expected.

When this flew off the bat at 112.5 mph, I thought for sure that it would be a three-run home run to give the Yankees the lead. Gallo hit the hell out of it. The expected batting average (xBA) was .990! In almost every reality, this is a hit and probably a home run. Yet in this one, it was a lineout that didn’t even reach the warning track. As a hitter, this is wildly frustrating.

The thing is, Gallo does this pretty often, making me think there could be a trend.

This looks exactly the same as the last one, but I promise it’s a different batted ball.

This one is one is very different! It’s a super long fly ball that was hit 104.4 mph. This one is to display how much loft Gallo’s swing has. His bat is more than capable of hitting the ball flush on the bottom. Just think about. You can only hit a ball this high and hard by your barrel coming almost exactly under the ball.

You get the point by now. Gallo hits a lot of balls very hard that surprisingly don’t go over the fence. A big reason for this is the topspin he produces. Because of the way his bat path comes through the hitting zone, he sometimes doesn’t make optimal impact. In other words, the direction of impact that he makes when his barrel strikes the ball does not always produce the backspin it needs to continue carrying in the air and not be dragged down by the forces of gravity.

It has and always will be a reason why we are genuinely shocked sometimes when balls that come from Gallo’s bat don’t fly over the wall like you expect them to! This doesn’t mean that he is doomed, but perhaps it could be a reason why his BABIP is always lower than league average, and why his expected stats are often a bit more impressive than his actual ones. If your ball doesn’t carry with true backspin, you may get cheated on some balls that you rocket because gravity brought them down quickly. I think there is a lot more to think about here, and perhaps I’ll revisit the subject again if I find some more concrete statistical evidence. Until then, pay attention to the way those batted balls travel off of Gallo’s bat.