Look. It hasn’t exactly been the greatest start for the Yankees offense so far in 2022. There are a lot of culprits, and I am not trying to single anyone out. That said, when looking at “Bronx Bombers” who have done anything but launch bombs this young season, relatively new addition to the club Joey Gallo stands out.
Our own Esteban Rivera recently explored one factor that could be contributing to Gallo’s bad luck — topspin, and the discrepancy it is causing between what should be happening based on Gallo’s quality of contact and what is actually happening.
But how unique is this current cold spell for Gallo? The answer is that his recent performance has precedent, although this stretch ranks among his absolute worst since becoming a regular big leaguer five years ago at the outset of 2017. Let’s dive into the numbers. Brace for impact, by the way.
Above we have the 10 worst 13-game stretches of Gallo’s career by OPS that feature zero overlap (so August 21 to September 5th, 2020 is there, but August 22nd to September 6th, 2020, for example, is not). And if the first thing that jumps out at you is that a disturbing number of these stretches have happened since the beginning of the COVID-abbreviated 2020 campaign, you are not alone.
Moreover, Gallo has already suffered three of these slumps since joining the Yankees, and that doesn’t even include the slump he was in just before he got traded to New York. The club has only played a total of 71 contests since acquiring Gallo from Texas last summer. Not exactly the most comforting data point.
But what happens when he comes out of these slumps, you might ask? In 2018, despite two of these awful streaks in May and June, Gallo managed to get within striking distance of mediocrity, ending the first half with a 90 wRC+. The silver lining? Gallo tore the cover off the ball in the second half, to the tune of a .592 SLG and 140 wRC+. So there is at least one instance of Gallo recovering from these slumps to be a productive and dangerous bat.
A year later, Gallo’s July slump more or less presaged a disastrous rest of the season. After playing at the top of the game in the first half, he only managed a 20 wRC+ in the second half of that campaign. In 2020, two of his slumps occurred in the same calendar month that autumn, so it is probably unsurprising to find out that September and October of that year were an all-around awful time for Gallo, to the tune of a 60 wRC+.
In 2021... Gallo managed four of these horrific slumps. As a Yankee, he fully immersed himself in two of them. Somehow though, despite cratering twice, he managed an 83 wRC+ in the second half, which is honestly a lot better than my memory expected.
We’ve established that Gallo goes into these funks. And while the track record of him recovering from them is mixed, he has gone on to post productive campaigns despite them. So where do we stand in 2022, through an albeit incredibly short sample size? There is good news. Gallo’s 2022 walk and strikeout rates are right in line with his career averages. His max exit velocity and barrel rate are in Statcast’s deep red, at the 95th and 94th percentile, respectively.
So there is definitely hope that Gallo can come back to the land of the living, so to speak, and be a productive member of the Yankees. But at the same time, these slumps are happening with increasing frequency as Gallo’s career progresses. Only two of them happened prior to his 2019, and half of them have come since the calendar flipped to 2021.
During those most recent rough stretches, Gallo has not even run into the odd baseball and knocked it out of the park. The five worst slugging percentages compiled by Gallo during his cold spells are all since August 2020. When he goes cold now, he goes ice-cold.
Ultimately, even if Gallo snaps out of the funk he is currently mired in, it is highly likely he will go into at least one more analogous slump during the 2022 season. And there seems to be a pretty good chance that cold stretch will be as painful to watch as his other recent struggles. At this point, our best-case scenario might be a reappearance of 2018 Gallo, when he overcame a couple of ugly stretches to compile some impressive offensive numbers.