The hubbub two years ago surrounding Joey Gallo’s 100th career home run wasn’t so much that he was the fastest player in American League history to reach 100, but that he had only 93 career singles.
He was the poster child for baseball’s three true outcomes — home run, strikeout or walk. Never mind that he is a Gold Glove-winning right fielder who runs the bases well for anybody, let alone someone who is 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds.
He might still be that poster child, depending on who’s been looking at past performance rather than paying attention to what Gallo is doing this season. And it’s entirely possible that by the end of the season he’s the same hitter he’s perceived to be.
For now, though, Gallo is getting on-base like never before. Oh, he’s drawn plenty of walks in his career, but the player who has back-to-back 40-homer seasons on his baseball-reference.com page entered Friday with 11 singles and only one home run.
Gallo has become — gasp! — a hitter who understands how teams are attacking him and how defenses are stacking up in right field to stop him. He’s not Tony Gwynn, slapping the ball to the left side, but, for now, he’s not all or nothing.
And that’s fine by him.
“Honestly, if I hit 10 home runs or 40 home runs, I’m at peace with it,” Gallo said Friday. “I hit 40 home runs two seasons in a row and got completely crapped on for it.
“For me, it’s whatever the team needs. That’s how I feel right now. Whatever our team needs, I’m completely cool with doing that. Now, what the team needs for me to do is get on base.”
Gallo entered the opener of a single-series three-game homestand against the Baltimore Orioles batting .275 with a .482 on-base percentage and just a .350 slugging percentage. His 13 walks led MLB, and his on-base percentage ranked eighth.
He had reached all 14 games this season. His fourth-inning hit-by-pitch against the San Diego Padres on April 9 was the only thing that kept Joe Musgrove’s no-hitter from becoming a perfect game.
And then there were those 11 singles. Gallo is in the process of redefining who he is as a hitter.
“It’s kind of funny, but it’s nice,” Gallo said. “It’s stuff that I’ve worked on. I see a shift and I see holes, places. I just try to shoot a ball in the hole somewhere and put the bat on the ball and let things happen.
“Tampa Bay, they had, like, seven guys in the outfield, so I’m not going to be able to hit a double. I know that because there’s nowhere to hit a ball. I either have to hit a ball through a hole somewhere, walk or hit a home run.”
But do the Rangers need Gallo to start hitting more homers? It’s not like they have a glut of proven power hitters behind him, though Nate Lowe has benefited from Gallo being on base.
The fear of Gallo’s power is contributing to his walks, and the Rangers are getting along just fine with him simply getting on base. They feel the homers will come.
“He’s the guy that had more home runs than singles,” manager Chris Woodward said. “If he’s still able to get on base at almost a 50% clip, that speaks volumes of what this guys is as a hitter right now. He’s not even hitting homers and they’re still walking him.
“If he stops hitting homers, they’re going to stop walking him. Eventually he’s going to have to hit homers, but I have full faith he will because he has a ton of power.”
Until then, the Rangers’ offense is getting along just fine with their new singles hitter who has found new ways to impact a game.
“He’s got a great eye, and a lot of times teams don’t want to pitch to him,” second baseman Nick Solak said. “When he’s taking his walks and he’s on base, it’s more opportunities for us to score.
“You see the power and you see the glove, but Joey’s a great base runner as well. So, as much as he gets on base, I think it puts a lot of pressure on the other team. That helps the offense tremendously.”