We need a nickname for this group, this trio of rookie sluggers with Yellowstone National Park power: Joc Pederson, Kris Bryant and now the new guy, Joey Gallo. Welcome to The Show, Joey. Love that debut. Years from now, when we're old and gray and watching games on our 4-D television sets and arguing about whether clutch hitting exists, maybe we'll count up all the 450-foot home runs they hit in their careers, watch their most momentous blasts on the video screens embedded in our Google shirts and debate: Who was the best?
Pederson, the 23-year-old center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, had a nice day on Tuesday. He hit his 15th home run, a 467-foot shot, and drew a walk in the first game of a double-header in Colorado, although the Dodgers lost. In the nightcap, he went 2-for-5 with his 16th home run and fourth in four games, a mammoth, 480-foot blast that measures as the longest in the majors this season. He then watched as teammate Alex Guerrero hit a pinch-hit, two-out, two-strike grand slam in the top of the ninth to give the Dodgers a 9-8 victory.
Gallo, called up from Double-A by the Texas Rangers to fill in for the injured Adrian Beltre, had an even better day. He hit a two-run single in his first, clubbed an upper-deck moonshot in his second at-bat and doubled off the wall in deep right-center in his third at-bat. He finished 3-for-4, adding a walk. The Rangers beat the White Sox, 15-2. Not to make too dramatic of a historical reference point, but on this day in 1925, Lou Gehrig filled in at first base for Wally Pipp and a legend was born.
Joey Gallo's debut was one for the history books. pic.twitter.com/OMGY8xrBwK— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) June 3, 2015
You can call them the generation that "Moneyball" spawned. Bill James first mainstreamed the importance of on-base percentage in the 1980s and pointed out that strikeouts are essentially just another out, not really a bad thing if they come attached with home runs and walks. Sandy Alderson studied James' analytics, and Billy Beane learned from Alderson, and Michael Lewis wrote the best-selling book. Lessons were taught and learned: Work the count, wait for a pitch in your zone and swing as hard as you can, every time.
These guys grew up watching the power hitters in the 2000s -- yes, many fueled by steroids. Their idols weren't George Brett and Don Mattingly and Tony Gwynn, hitters who preached the art of hitting and putting the ball in play, but big dudes mashing. They worked with coaches and instructors who preached this new style: Base hits are pretty, but home runs are superior.
Pederson, Bryant and Gallo are very similar hitters. I'd compare them in style and approach to Jim Thome: They're going to a hit ton of home runs, the home runs are going to go far, they're going to walk a lot and they're going to drive you a little crazy with all the strikeouts. But the payoffs will be big.
What's most impressive about the starts for Pederson and Bryant in their rookie seasons is their selectivity at the plate. Pederson is sixth in the majors in walk rate; Bryant is 11th. Gallo, who walked 87 times in the minors last season and drew 24 in 34 games this year, projects likewise. Second-year outfielder George Springer of the Houston Astros is another guy in this category, as he brings 30-homer potential with the fifth-highest walk rate in the majors. You can include three other accomplished, young sluggers in this generational philosophy, as well in Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper (who leads the majors in walk rate), although Trout and Harper don't quite have the sky-high strikeout rates of Stanton, Bryant, Pederson and Springer.
Springer and Stanton, both 25, are the old men in this group.
This is how the game is played now. Maybe it's not always the most elegant way to play the game, this blunt force of power. But Pederson and Bryant and now Gallo sure make it exciting to watch.