Mike Gallego spent eight years playing for second, third and shortstop for the Oakland Athletics. His defensive WAR (wins above replacement) ranked in the top ten three times and his career dWar (12) ranks 161st of all time. Despite his 5’8″ stature, Mike Gallego had excellent range and ranks 37th among second basemen in range factor per 9 innings. Gags spent 13 years playing in the majors, with stats remarkably similar to Oakland’s current second baseman Eric Sogard, and is now the third base coach for our beloved Oakland Athletics.
Since 2008, Mike Gallego has been a constant fixture on the Oakland infield and a fan favorite known for his “windmill” bringing runners home but too many fans undervalue what Mike Gallego, or any third base coach for that matter, brings to the game.
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Much like a catcher, the third base coach has to be well versed on the scouting report for every opponent on the field. He has to know how good the arm is in left field, he has to know how good the catcher is at picking off runners to third, he has to know how fast the team can move with a cutoff man, he needs to know how often the catcher can tag an out on a sliding runner when the ball is coming from right field and he needs to have all of these factors running through his brain at the same time he analyzes a play that is happening in a matter of seconds right in front of him.
While he analyzes how deep the ball is going to go into right field, if the fielder will be able to catch it, and if the fielder can get a ball to the plate with dead shot accuracy he’s also calculating how much of a lead off his runner got, how long it takes them to round third, how good at sliding into home they are and if he thinks they’ll beat the throw from right.
The third base coach is truly an undervalued component of the team, at least from the fans perspective, but if you really look at the game in the way he’s looking at the game, it’s actually quite an amazing job he does on the field. If he’s to aggressive, he’ll cost the team runs and if he’s not aggressive enough the team leaves men stranded on base. To my knowledge, there are no metrics for analyzing coaching WAR but it would be an interesting stat to quantify the importance of these coaches on a team. If Mike Gallego has a 5 WAR and Gary DiSarcina (Angels) has a 3 WAR, it would be worth factoring in these coaches into your game strategy and, possibly, teams already do and I’m just not aware of it.
So, next time you’re sitting on the third base side and you see Mike Gallego mindlessly windmilling players into home, consider how mindful that windmill actually is and give him his props from time to time.