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Gallo Lack Of HRs: Rangers Concern?

Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo is known for the long ball. With a lack of home runs so far, is it time to worry?

At this point in his career, most of us know the profile on Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo. He'll typically own a low batting average, but still maintain a high OPS because of his incredible patience and slugging.

I don't need to tell you how far Gallo can hit a baseball.

However, we are seeing a different version of Joey so far this season. The Rangers have only played 16 games, so it's an incredibly small sample size, but the changes Gallo made in his approach over the winter and during spring training are producing different results for the 27-year-old slugger.

In 64 plate appearances (46 at-bats) this season, Gallo has produced just one home run — his only extra-base hit of the season. His ground ball rate has sky rocketed, but his strikeout percentage is down and his walk rate is the best in baseball. 

Heading into Monday's games, Gallo leads Major League Baseball with 15 walks, a key factor into his .453 on-base percentage (tied for 8th in MLB).

However, we are used to seeing Gallo plant baseballs in upper decks. Yet, he remains confident in his refined approach.

"I'm actually pretty happy about it," Gallo said. "In a way it shows I don't need to hit for power to still be effective. I think that's pretty cool."

"I think it's a good thing," said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. "He's gonna get homers. He's gonna get extra-base hits. I'm not worried about that. He's the guy who had more home runs than singles."

Gallo has displayed incredible patience at the plate, reaching base in all 15 games he's played this far. He's laid off a number of pitches at which we've seen him flail in years past. During those times, Gallo swung-and-missed at a lot of pitches and hit for a low average. But he always hit home runs. 

"I've hit 40 home runs before and I still got hated on for that," Gallo said with a smile. "So, I don't really care about hitting home runs. I know I'm more than a home run hitter, and I think [this] kind of proves that."

Gallo has focused on reacting to what the opposition throws at him, along with what the game situation calls for. For instance, Tampa Bay used a drastic four-man outfield, while still implementing a typical shift against him. Literally, no infielders were on the left side of second base. Gallo went 4-for-12 in the series with six walks, and beat the Rays' shift multiple times with base hits.

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Even Gallo's season spray chart is more evenly distributed throughout the field. 

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www.baseballsavant.mlb.com

So, why? Why trade out home runs for singles and walks, especially in this day and age where the home run is king? Because it's all about winning.

"At the end of the day, that's really what matters," Gallo said.

Ultimately, Gallo will get his home runs. With his size and strength, line drives from him will go over the fence more often than most other players.  That's why pitchers aren't attacking Gallo, especially with some inconsistency behind him in the lineup. The fear is still there, even without the home runs. 

"That speaks volumes of what this guy is as a hitter right now," Woodward said. "Typically, if a guy is hitting homers, you're going to walk him. But if he's not even hitting homers and they're still walking him, it just shows he's staying in the strike zone and having quality at-bats."

Yes, things will likely even out a bit. This is, after all, only a 15-game sample size. Gallo may or may not hit 40 home runs this year, but he'll likely hit enough where is OPS won't sit at its current mark of .757, especially if he continues to walk anywhere near this current rate. Ultimately, as long as Gallo continues to display the same level of patience, he'll remain among league leaders in walks and on-base percentage.

Some protection behind Gallo wouldn't hurt either.


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Chris Halicke covers the Texas Rangers for SI's InsideTheRangers.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisHalicke.
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