Texas Rangers

A .300 batting average nearing reality for Gallo, but which stats are his main focus?

Batting average doesn’t pack the same punch it once did in many baseball circles, and to some it is following wins and RBIs into the dust bin of traditional statistics.

A better measure of a hitter’s worth these days is on-base percentage, or slugging percentage, or adding the two to come up with his OPS. Some look deeper at Adjusted OPS+, Weighted Runs Created+, Weighted On-Base Average and Base Outs Run Added, also known as RE24.

The stat that means the most to Joey Gallo is on-base percentage, but he doesn’t like to follow his numbers too closely as a matter of maintaining his sanity. They can swing the right or wrong way in only a few games, and he doesn’t want to become obsessed with chasing one category.

But considering where he was at the end of last season, and all of his seasons with the Texas Rangers before that, he is within reach of a statistics milestone that almost no one thought was a remote possibility.

Gallo’s average is nearing .300.

“I know I’m in the .290 area,” Gallo said Wednesday. “I don’t see .300 as a goal. I don’t really chase batting average, and I know that’s that new-era thinking. At the same time, it pissed people off because they want to see people hitting .300. But it’s a different game now.

“I chase more on-base percentage and OPS because that’s more the player I am. If I hit .300, that’s fantastic, but it’s not something I’m chasing or staying up at night thinking about.”

He was batting .293, to be exact, as the Rangers enjoyed an off day in California ahead of a three-game weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels. Gallo, who was also off Wednesday, leads the Rangers in home runs, RBIs, runs, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.

Those team-leading stats rated no worse than a tie for sixth in the American League, and Gallo was leading in slugging percentage (.687), OPS (1.113), wRC+ (179) and wOBA (.450).

The .293 average ranked 19th, just below Shin-Soo Choo at .297.

Gallo is an early MVP candidate.

“I have an idea of what I’m doing, but I don’t like to religiously follow it because it gets too up and down,” Gallo said. “If you only follow your numbers when you’re doing good, you should do it while you’re doing bad. It’s a two-way street. I just go out and play.”

Not everyone thought the idea of Gallo batting .300 was a long shot. And what follows isn’t just the ramblings of any old man.

But old, yes.

“I think his swing is better than he shows,” former third baseman Adrian Beltre said late in the 2017 season. “I believe he can be a better hitter because his swing looks like he can be a .300 hitter.

“When he’s got more experience, he’ll have an idea of how they’re pitching him. All of those things will come together and make him a better player. I can see it.”

The Rangers’ new hitting coaches saw it, too, or at least they saw the chance for Gallo to easily vault past his .203 career average entering the season.

Gallo has made adjustments in his swing but also in his approach, a fusion of technical baseball stuff and fresh data that was presented to him for the first time over the off-season. The important thing is he’s sticking to them.

He has unflinchingly endured two 0-for-15 slides this season and is in the midst of one of the best stretches of his career.

He entered Thursday riding a six-game hitting streak in which he was batting .522 (12 for 22). He had as many singles (six) as home runs (three) and doubles (three).

Gallo had also walked four times for a .615 on-base percentage, was slugging 1.136, and had an OPS of 1.752.

All of the came while he has been manning center field, one of the most demanding positions, more than adequately.

“I have an idea of what I’m doing, but I don’t like to religiously follow it because it gets too up and down,” Gallo said. “If you only follow your numbers when you’re doing good, you should do it while you’re doing bad. It’s a two-way street. I just go out and play.”

While he doesn’t want to do anything to his swing now, he is still being presented with things he can do better and wants to do better. He is also trying to find the happy spot of the right amount of cage work needed to make sure he still has enough energy to man center.

Manager Chris Woodward said that Gallo might be only scratching the surface of how good he can be if he can iron out the flaws that hitting coach Luis Ortiz and assistant hitting coach Callix Crabbe say still exist.

That might be a frightening thought for opposing pitchers.

“He still has some of the same flaws he had in the past,” Woodward said. “There are still things that he can get better at, and you’re like, ‘Really? He can get better?’ He can get a lot better.

“But his foundation is built. He knows he can trust this process no matter what the circumstances are. He just feels calm. That’s a cool feeling to see a player in. But he’s so talented he can still be flawed and still be one of the best players in the game.”

A .300 average might not be the long shot most thought it was at the beginning of the season.

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After 12 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.
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