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Why Joey Gallo homering on 3-0 is a big deal

Joey Gallo hit a home run on a 3-0 pitch yesterday. That’s more significant than you think.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Rangers third baseman/4C guy Joey Gallo hit a mammoth home run yesterday off of Nate Karns of the Royals in the second inning. Robinson Chirinos had homered earlier in the inning, and Gallo’s blast made it a 3-1 game.

It is the hardest hit home run of the year, according to Statcast, and is truly remarkable to observe. Check it out here.

Gallo hit another home run later in the game, and the Rangers won, 6-2, in no small part due to Gallo’s bombs.

However, I think there is some long-term significance of that first home run that may be getting overlooked — the fact that it was launched on a 3-0 pitch.

Batters rarely swing at 3-0 pitches. Especially not 23 year olds who haven’t established themselves in the majors yet. Gallo had never put a ball in play on 3-0 in his major league career before yesterday. It is only the third homer in the majors this season on a 3-0 pitch. Hitters are 14 for 32 on 3-0 overall in the majors this season. For the Rangers this season, Gallo’s home run is the first hit for the team — and just the second time a ball has been put in play — on 3-0.

Pitchers know that batters almost never swing on 3-0. That’s why you tend to see pitchers groove fastballs on 3-0 — they have to throw a strike, and feel safe throwing a fastball in the middle part of the plate because, hey, the batter isn’t going to swing.

Now, pitchers already are leery of challenging Joey Gallo. So far this season, just 37.6% of the pitches he has seen are in the strike zone -- the fifth lowest rate in baseball. And this isn’t a Josh Hamilton situation where pitchers know he will chase -- Gallo swings at 29.2% of pitches this season that are outside of the strike zone, right in the middle of the pack among qualified major leaguers, 97th out of 190.

No, pitchers don’t want to challenge Gallo because he can hit the ball a long, long way. There’s a reason the top 10 in fewest pitches thrown in the strike zone last year included Bryce Harper, Chris Davis and David Ortiz. Pitchers pitch more carefully to batters who can punish strikes.

And Gallo just hit one of the longest home runs of the season on a 3-0 get-me-over pitch from Nate Karns. You don’t think that’s not going to show up in advance scouting reports? I mean, its one thing for Gallo to swing at a 3-0 pitch, its another for him to destroy a 3-0 pitch with a home run that shows up on every highlight reel.

So along with all the other issues in pitching to Gallo, pitchers are going to have to think about what they’re going to do on 3-0. They’re going to know that Gallo has the green light to swing, and if they throw a 91 mph Paul Lynde right down Broadway fastball just to get to 3-1, there’s a chance it will end up in the bleachers.

Which means pitchers will pitch a little more carefully on 3-0. And maybe, just maybe, end up missing the strike zone more often as a result, giving Gallo more 3-0 walks.