Last week, I took a deep dive into Aaron Judge’s walk-off home run against Jordan Romano. In that piece, I suggested that the league’s best hitters, including Judge, can make incredible pitch-to-pitch adjustments. The hitters who do this consistently find themselves at the top of leaderboards for good reason. It’s exciting to dive into those at-bats and break down the process for both hitter and pitcher, so for the rest of the season, I’ll be highlighting what I thought was the Yankees’ best at-bat of the week.
Since the team has so many good hitters, it will be tough to choose at times, but this week there was an obvious candidate. For the last few weeks, Joey Gallo has picked up his play on both offense and defense. It’s been great to watch, especially since doubts seriously started to creep in my head as to whether he was a changed player or not. While I’m still not fully convinced we have near-peak Gallo coming, it’s undeniable that he has had some terrific at-bats, including his home run on Sunday against José Ruiz of the Chicago White Sox.
As Paul O’Neill said on the broadcast throughout the series, the White Sox were pounding the top of the zone with fastballs against Gallo with no hesitation. Given Gallo’s swing path limitations, that approach should be viable if the pitcher can consistently execute those pitches. Ruiz did a decent job in this at-bat against Gallo, but when you miss one, you get hurt.
Like I said, the Sox were hunting this part of the zone as Ruiz did here, although he missed above, leading to a 1-0 count.
Ruiz then dropped on a curveball in the upper third. Plenty of research has been done on this, but these types of curveballs are often taken in hitter advantage counts. Since Gallo was probably doing his best to lay off high fastballs in an advantage count, it’s no surprise he takes a 1-0 curve which tunnels with a high fastball. 1-1 count.
Okay. Gallo gave in on this pitch. After being disciplined on the first two, he chases a fastball at the very top of the zone and fouls it back. It looks like he was slightly late. As I said before, Gallo’s swing path is not ideal for a pitch in this location. In order to get his barrel out in front on time, he needs to be early. 1-2 count.
There you go. The discipline is there. A common cue that has been preached for years is, “nothing above the hands.” For a hitter like Gallo, that word is bond. For him to have any success against this pitching approach, he has to lay off this pitch and wait for a mistake to come. 2-2 count.
Perhaps a bit of an overcorrection here. In hopes of getting the barrel out in front of a high fastball, Gallo lets it loose too soon on a middle running changeup. That’s fine though. He fights it off to survive the 2-2 count and now he’s seen what the pitch looks like.
Even though Ruiz executed a much better changeup, Gallo easily spits on it. After seeing a mediocre changeup in the previous pitch, he processed enough information to recognize it early and let it fall under the zone.
Where to go next? You just gave Gallo your best changeup. You already threw it twice in a row. The curveball is really only a get-me-over pitch. Not the one to go to here in this count. Like Judge’s at-bat against Romano, the pitcher needed to go back to their best offering with confidence.
Plakata. Gallo made this mistake pay. This either needed to be up or away and it was neither.
Here’s the thing about Gallo. His swing limitations make him the type of hitter that needs to fight off pitches or take them. He has a zone that he can demolish, and pitchers know that, hence Chicago’s approach throughout the four games. He can’t afford to let mistakes go like Judge or Giancarlo Stanton can. When he gets something in his money zone, his attitude has to be swing swing swing.
This at-bat showcased Gallo’s ability to take pitches he knows aren’t well-suited for him, but also be geared up to do damage on one that does. We need more of this Gallo. He must continue to punish low and in and center cut fastballs like he did here. That’s the Gallo he needs to be.