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Rangers’ Joey Gallo for AL MVP? It’s not as crazy as you’d think.

Photo: Klay Kuban/Dallas Sports Fanatic

Rangers’ Joey Gallo for AL MVP? It’s not as crazy as you’d think.

No, I’m not pulling your leg or yanking your tail (or whatever the kids are saying nowadays). Two months into the 2019 Rangers season and I can articulate, from my perspective, that the team has exceeded expectations. The offense is top 5 in MLB in OPS, batting average, runs, and even stolen bases. The response from Chris Woodward’s offensive philosophy is incredible. The one player whose growth shows the most is Joey Gallo. Gallo’s first two months of the 2019 campaign designate what Ranger fans were waiting for: a dangerous hitter with the bat and the eye. At this point in the season, Gallo aided himself as not only the most deadly hitter in the lineup but in the American League with MVP consideration.

What’s changed?

Remember that old and famous saying in William Langland’s poem Piers Plowman in the 1360s, “Patience is a virtue?” 2019’s version of Joey Gallo is the epitome of baseball submission. Gallo is swinging at a 16% reduction in first pitches, seeing 0.3 more pitches per at-bat, and is managing more favorable counts than he has in his career. It’s generated a ripple effect during Gallo’s at-bats. By his passive approach, he’s able to look for his pitch and connect at a 60% hard contact rate, highest in MLB (2.5% higher than Christian Walker of Arizona). On the other side, if the pitcher doesn’t give in, Joey is willing to take a walk, and not do too much. It’s a tiny adjustment to his game, but it’s an improvement that’s made him a better overall hitter.

The Offense Output

I’ll point out the shocking stats first; Joey Gallo is 21st in the American League in batting average (.293). Remember the guy that got scrutinized day in and day out a year ago because he had issues lingering above .200? If Joey goes two for his first two on Friday in Anaheim, Gallo is over the .300 mark near the end of May. Gallo’s strikeouts are still near the top of the league, but 25 of his 64 strikeouts are looking, which is a side-effect of the passive strategy. Plus, he’s still young and learning the MLB strike zone and each umpires tendencies.

Currently, Gallo is second in the AL in walks (35), second in OBP (.426), second in home runs (15), first in slugging percentage (.687), and first in OPS (1.113). Joey is fifth in the AL in runs scored (36) and hits lower in the lineup than the higher ranked players on that list. Chris Woodward talked last week about how the offensive success translated to the rest of a player’s game (specifically Joey Gallo). “Amazing how hitting good makes the rest of your game good.  Joey is having a good offensive year, and now [Joey] can go out and be the defender that [he] should be. 90% of the hitters are that way.”

The Defense

An MVP on a roster is a player that controls the game, at the dish, and in the field. It’s a description that fits Joey Gallo perfect. Everybody knew about Gallo and the power in the bat, but many did not know the defensive secret. I even called him a solid defender earlier this year. However, the move to center field showcased Joey’s real defensive talent. The power of Gallo’s arm comes from his pitching and infield background. Though what is developing as the year turns is the accuracy. Both fielding errors by Joey Gallo in 2019 are accuracy errors. It’s an aspect that is easier to tweak than if the problem is the power of the arm.

Chris Woodward recalled back to his third base coaching years to prove the weapon Joey Gallo is in the outfield. He spoke about how aggressive he would be sending runners and to challenge the outfielders. “I have no fear sending guys, the odds of executing a throw to home, tag, and out, are pretty low. If you can prevent me from doing that because of your arm strength, it’s a huge thing. The fact that people don’t run on you is probably the biggest asset because of the fear. The one thing I love about Joey is that there’s no thought of baiting the runner, he just attacks.”

The perfect example is last Friday against the Cardinals. Joey made a perfect throw to Asdrúbal Cabrera, tagging Kolten Wong. The next day, Gallo fielded a fly out to deep center. The runner on second, Matt Carpenter, bluffed but did not tag to third.

Now if the season finished today, does Joey Gallo win the AL MVP? I would want to vote with a yes, but I would just be clowning with you fine folks. The performance deserves appreciation. However, with other factors linked (high in Ks, a team around .500, and batting average below .300), I’d say consideration is the highest Gallo’s MVP talk will land. Nevertheless, it is a fun conversation to have and supplies Rangers fans excitement game in and game out. Just don’t cutoff his throw from center.

Credentialed Media Staff Writer covering the Texas Rangers for Dallas Sports Fanatic | 2014 University of North Texas graduate with a Bachelor's in Radio, Television, and Film. My baseball memory bank is dominated by the Texas Rangers with the other 29 franchises sprinkled in. In addition, I enjoy NFL Sunday afternoons and only the first NCAA tournament weekend.

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