Joey Gallo is Hitting .206, But it Doesn’t Matter

Joey Gallo is one of the strongest home run hitters in baseball. He isn’t brought up as much as Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge, but Gallo would have fit right in with the righty sluggers at the Home Run Derby in Miami last month.

From hittrackeronline.com, showing the leaders in No Doubt Home Runs, all three show up: Stanton leads the pack at 14, Gallo just behind him at 13, and then Judge tied for fourth with 10 no doubters. Overall, Stanton leads the MLB with 36 HR, Judge is second with 35 HR, and Gallo is 6th with 30 HR.

When looking at isolated slugging (ISO), a stat used to try to accurately measure a hitter’s power based off of extra base hits per at bat, Gallo sits at a monstrous .342 ISO, Stanton a bit below at .330, and Judge a tick behind at .328. Gallo, Stanton, and Judge are second, third, and fourth, behind Cody Bellinger with a .344 ISO himself. The next closest to any of this group is Justin Smoak sitting a sizeable gap back at .291.

As explained above, ISO does not generally show how good of a hitter someone is, but how much power they have hit for. It’s why you see someone like Cody Bellinger leading with a .344 ISO, despite Bryce Harper sitting at .289 ISO with a higher slugging percentage (.615 to .608). This is because Harper is a better hitter than Bellinger, but Bellinger has done better getting extra base hits.

Taking a look at the top four in ISO with Bellinger, Gallo, Stanton, and Judge, you see one major difference from Gallo to the rest: Bellinger (.264 BA), Stanton (.278 BA), and Judge (.299 BA) all have average or better batting averages. Gallo meanwhile is sitting down at a .206 batting average hovering just above the Mendoza Line.

How Bad Is A .206 Batting Average?

As mentioned above, Joey Gallo currently has a .206 batting average. How does that rank in the MLB this season?

His .206 batting average is tied for 4th worst of 160 qualified hitters with Todd Frazier, and behind only Mike Napoli (.200 BA), Alex Gordon (.199 BA), and Kyle Schwarber (.193 BA).

If you look at the MLB overall this season, excluding pitchers, everyone is hitting a combined .259 to this point.

Going back to 2002 (there is a reason I chose this season that I will explain below), Gallo’s .206 batting average is tied for 11th worst in that span.

With a batting average so poor, you have to wonder if it is worth it for the Rangers to keep sending Gallout out there with such poor results. Right?

Why Batting Average Isn’t All That Important

Despite Joey Gallo sporting the 4th lowest batting average in the MLB this season, he has hit well enough thanks to his immense power to have a 122 wRC+. This is tied with Alex Bregman, Jay Bruce, Andrelton Simmons, and Khris Davis for 45th of 160 qualified hitters this season. Below are the batting lines for each player:

Gallo – .206/.317/.548 .342 ISO

Bregman – .273/.354/.474 .201 ISO

Bruce – .260/.324/.528 .260 ISO

Simmons – .301/.355/.456 .155 ISO

Davis – .240/.325/.506 .267 ISO

Although the five batting averages are quite different from each other, thanks to a combination of on base and slugging skills, they are all doing as well as each other offensively. Even as Simmons has nearly .100 points higher in batting average, Gallo has closed the gap because of his huge power.

You even see other cases such as Jean Segura with his .311 batting average but lower 116 wRC+. Eduardo Nunez is hitting .319 this season, but has a 115 wRC+. Then maybe the best example this season of this is Ender Inciarte with a very nice .297 batting average, but just a 93 wRC+ because of a .343 OBP and .395 SLG.

Below is Gallo compared to the MLB this season excluding pitchers:

BA: .206 – .259

OBP: .317 – .329

SLG: .548 – .434

ISO: .342 – .175

Again, despite a huge gap in BA and a small gap in OBP, Gallo has a mammoth gap over the league in SLG and nearly double the ISO.

Even as he fails to get many base hits, being dead last in singles to boot, Gallo has still made the ones he does hit count enough to be around 20% better than the league average hitter in 2017.

One of the Best Low Average Hitters in Recent Memory

One of my favorite tools on any sports website is the Splits Leaderboards tool on Fangraphs. It allows you to check just about every split stat you could think of and for multiple months, years, or whatever else. The limitation of as now, however, is that it only goes back to the year 2002.

As such, I wanted to check Gallo against competition to see how he fares against other low average sluggers.

Going back to 2002, with at least 200 PA and a sub .210 batting average, Joey Gallo is not only just one of five players with at least a 100 wRC+, but Gallo leads the pack with his 122 wRC+. The other players are Adam Dunn (115 wRC+), Carlos Pena (105 wRC+), Chris Carter (104 wRC+), and Josh Willingham (101 wRC+).

The highest ISO of that bunch, outside of Gallo, is Adam Dunn with a .263 ISO. Willingham has the lowest of the bunch with just a .159 ISO.

If we go simply by OPS, Gallo leads the pack at .865, with Dunn second down at .800. No other player in that time frame hitting under .210 has higher than a .760 OPS. Of the 246 qualified with at least 200 PA, only 25 of them made it to a .700 or higher OPS.

Looking at home runs, the reason Adam Dunn was as good as he was in 2012 was due to the 41 home runs he blasted. Those 41 leads the pack by 9 over Mark Reynolds in 2010, and then 11 over Gallo currently.

What This All Means for Gallo

With nearly two months of season remaining, if Gallo can keep up the power surge he’s had, while not raising his batting average in the process, he could end up as the best low batting average hitter of this generation.

What we have seen Joey Gallo do this season has been very impressive, if not unnoticed by the majority of baseball fans. While he is not grabbing headlines like other power hitters such as Stanton, Bellinger, or Judge, his power is absolutely at their levels and deserves attention. His other offensive skills may not be as good, but he is just as powerful if not more so than the previously mentioned sluggers.

As for the rest of the season, Steamer projects Gallo to hit .219/.319/.490 with 8 HR in 33 games to finish out the season. This would give him 0.6 fWAR and bring him to about 3.0 fWAR for the season overall with 38 HR and a line of .210/.317/.533. At 3.0 fWAR or higher and a .210 batting average, Gallo would be the most valuable player in the last 16 seasons to do so.

This may be an outlier season for Gallo, as he may improve his batting average going forward. Or he could possibly hit fewer home runs. But the lesson here should be for people to look at much more than just batting average when judging hitters, because a .206 batting average can be very deceiving.