2022 has been a whirlwind of a campaign for Joey Gallo. The last few weeks have been much, much better, but before then, he had been performing as poorly as he had since his abbreviated second season in the league by a considerable margin. Since Gallo’s semi-permanent move back his natural position, right field, he has been visually more comfortable on defense and is without question taking better swings in each and every at-bat.
A few weeks ago, as it seemed Gallo was strategically being put back in right field on a more consistent basis, I wrote about the potential positive effects it may have on his ability to make adjustments on offense. The quick story is that when you have the confidence to contribute on one side of the ball, your headspace to make adjustments and improve on the other side suddenly opens up. For some quick context, Gallo has -4 OAA in left field this season and +1 in right field despite having half the chances. His defense is drastically improved and by now, he has had a few weeks to make some offensive adjustments.
I watch Joey Gallo hit a lot. He is the one player on the Yankees who constantly fascinates me. Why? Because he always feels like he is so close. He is incredibly athletic and powerful. There are times when his feel for the strike zone is incredible. It seems as if he knows the difference of whether a pitch is a centimeter inside or outside the strike zone. Yet, his swing limitations have made those skills seem obsolete. I’m always wondering, “Will he ever figure it out?”
I think that Galloe, and probably hitting coach Dillon Lawson, are trying. I pointed out in my piece a few weeks back that I want to see Gallo operate with a more closed stance, but for now, his main adjustment has been in the hand position in his setup. Since Gallo’s main focus should be to work on his swing path, it makes sense that he is starting where the swing starts. See for yourself:
In the mid-May series against Texas, you can clearly see that Gallo is getting his rhythm in his wrists from a lower entry point. On the other hand, his hand preset against Toronto just this past weekend is considerably higher and his bat has flattened out. For a hitter who struggles to hit fastballs at the top of the strike zone, this is a logical adjustment.
You have to look at Gallo’s loopy bat path as a product of the movements that come before the entry into the hitting zone. Hitters must create reciprocal movements all throughout the swing to balance their body and rotation. The first reciprocal movement in the swing comes from the bat. It’s extremely rare that a hitter can make an extremely vertical entry into the zone and be able to cover the entire plate.
Other than Ronald Acuña Jr., I can’t think of many hitters who enter the zone well with that type of setup. Yes, Gallo’s entry wasn’t as extreme as that of Acuña, but with the extreme angle he creates with his shoulders, he had to try and counter it as much as possible. By starting his bat almost exactly parallel to the ground, he is starting off in a better position to keep his barrel flat as it enters the upper part of the hitting zone — y’know, the zone where pitchers pound against him to get a swing-and-miss or popup.
Gallo is the king of this swing. A foul ball back on a high fastball that is inside the zone. It feels like he does it every game. When the pitch is as high as it was against Norris, it’s not a big issue. It’s the fastballs in the middle-upper tier that are concerning. Power hitters are supposed to crush those pitches. As the post-Dunn three-true-outcomes king, Gallo cannot afford to miss these offerings.
My goodness. This is a mistake. I know that the TV strike zone says that it’s almost at the very top of the zone, but Statcast tells us as this pitch enters the zone that it is basically center cut. Gallo needs to crush this pitch, no matter the induced vertical break.
This is what I want to see from Gallo. With a steep entry into the zone, this pitch is usually inaccessible for him. However, with a flatter entry and patience with pulling the trigger, this can still be pulled for an absolute laser into right center. This is a very good sign.
The thing about No. 13 is that he needs to stick to this adjustment for a little bit before trying something else out. If you’ve read anything I’ve written about Gallo’s swing, you know that I believe his unlock will come from a consistently flatter bat path. I’m not asking him to be David Fletcher, but my goodness, if he can keep his vertical bat angle closer to neutral with any sort of consistency, you will begin to see purely backspinned lasers fly over the wall in Yankee Stadium. It’s only been a few weeks, but his wRC+ in June is 143 despite a .205 batting average. With more contact will come more success. Fingers crossed, he keeps this bat path where it is and begins to develop better feel for it.