Walks More Important Than Homers For Joey Gallo

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While Texas Rangers’ fans have fallen in love with the majestic home runs off the bat of Joey Gallo, a more subtle aspect of his game is more important to track. The 21-year-old rookie has displayed power at every level of his professional career but the key to his career may ultimately be his walk percentage.

Long gone are the days when big league players feared the embarrassment of a 100 strike out season. A 2014 article from Marty Gitlin of CBSsports.com details the astonishing increase in strikeouts over the past decade.

"“As recently as 2003, Jason Giambi led the American League with 140 strikeouts. Twenty-five players matched or exceeded that total last season and more are on that pace this year. In 1976, Red Sox slugger Jim Rice paced the AL with 123 strikeouts. More than 50 major league hitters shattered that mark a year ago.”"

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Gallo has drawn comparisons to Giambi (in part because Giambi has been an off-season coach and mentor to the young slugger) and Adam Dunn who in his 14-year career struck out 28.6% of his plate appearances but who also hit 462 long balls. As Gallo has moved through the Rangers’ farm system, he has consistently been one of the youngest players in baseball at each level and the only flaw in his game has been his unusually high rate of strikeouts.

Gallo spent seven seasons in the minor leagues prior to his recent call-up to the majors. Over those seven years, his average K% was 33.6.

His worst year in terms of percentage was 2014 when he made the jump to AA Frisco and his K% was 39.5. That percentage dropped to 33.6% in 34 AA games this season.

Impressively, the jump to the majors has seen Gallo’s K% drop to 34.8% in 12 games. This rate is too high but it is similar to that of five-year-veteran, Chris Carter of the Houston Astros (33.8%).

Gallo has been a slugger his entire baseball life and he will always swing for the fences making it likely that his strikeout percentage will be in the high 20% range at best.   Therefore, Gallo’s walk rate must be better than average.

“The home run is more fun but the walks are more important,”

Sluggers who have a high K% can offset the harm done to the team by drawing walks. Thus far, Gallo (though in a very small sample size) has a higher base on balls percentage (13.0%) than teammates Prince Fielder (7.3%), Mitch Moreland (6.8%) and Shin-Soo Choo (9.5%).

Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News reported that Rangers’ manager Jeff Banister was more excited about Gallo’s three walks than his 471-foot moon shot during Saturday’s victory over the Minnesota Twins.

"“Yesterday, with the walks, it really impresses me,” [Banister] said. What that tells me is he’s locked in and has a thought process, and he’s seeing the ball much better.” Link"

"Gallo also discussed the importance of drawing walks. “The home run is more fun but the walks are more important,” he said. “I’m trying to show my patience up there and let them (the pitcher) make an adjustment. The walks are pretty big to me.”"

Again, anything that Gallo does in his first stint in the majors will be magnified and over-analyzed. However, his plate discipline has been impressive for a 21-year-old who jumped from AA to the majors.

While we root for Gallo to get a hit (especially a 450 foot homer) every time he bats, any at-bat that does not end with strike three is a success. Furthermore, each time Gallo draws a walk Rangers’ fans should see that plate appearance as being even more important to the young player’s progression as a home run, no matter how far it may travel.

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