Mike Moustakas – Where Did the Power Go?

Fantasy owners hoped Mike Moustakas would breakout in 2012 after a disappointing rookie season in 2011. For a few months it looked like the breakout would happen as he hit .268 AVG with 15 home runs in the first half of the season. In the second half, the production dropped as he barely hit over .200 with only 5 HRs. In 2013, his talent level will be tough to predict due to his up and down production.

In Mike’s short career, he looks to have three distinct “seasons” — 2011 and the first and the second halves of 2012.

2011 5 6.0% 14.0% 0.263 0.309 0.367 0.296
1st Half 15 7.0% 19.3% 0.268 0.327 0.490 0.293
2nd Half 5 5.6% 21.3% 0.211 0.261 0.325 0.252

He seemed to have made some great strides in the first half of 2012. His home run numbers were great with 15. His numbers just dropped off in the second half of the season.

Month: HR/FB%
Mar/Apr: 11.5%
May: 11.9%
Jun: 12.5%
Jul: 7.9%
Aug: 8.8%
Sept/Oct: 2.4%

It wasn’t just his HRs, his entire power profile was down in the 2nd half.

ISO HR&FB Dist (ft)
2011 0.104 265
1st Half 0.222 288
2nd Half 0.114 271

His ISO was cut in half and his home run and fly ball distances were closer to his 2011 levels than the first half of 2012.

One possible explanation for the lack of power would be that one of Moustakas’ 2012 injuries lingered and caused the drop. He had some soreness in his thigh in mid-May, but he was still able to produce decently after that point. Also, he did have a knee sprain at the end of July where he missed one game.

His July stats (.247/.265/.412) suggest that his production dropped before that point, but by digging a little deeper suggests that his talent didn’t drop off as much as it seemed. His ISO only dropped to .165 in July and his HR&FB batted ball distance for the month was a robust 384 ft. No 100% guarantee exists that the injury was the cause for the drop in power, but it is a definite possibility.

While the drop in power may be explained by a knee injury, Moustakas experienced a significant increase in his strikeouts going from 14% in 2011 to 20% in 2012. The increase didn’t happen mid-season, but started at the beginning of the season. The increase helped push his AVG from .263 down to .242. The increase in K’s was not from swinging at more pitches in or out of the strike zone, but from make less contact with pitches (85% Contact % in 2011 to 78% in 2012).

From watching him play everyday, I believe he was willing to strikeout a bit more in order to gain some power in his swing as seen in the increase in HR and K%. The problem I have with the increase power stroke, his BABIP and xBABIP declined.

2011: 0.289, 0.296
2012: 0.263, 0.274

Most power hitters have a relatively high BABIP because when they do hit the ball (see Chris Davis), it is hit hard enough to have a good chance of going for a hit. Moustakas may have too much of an upper cut in his swing and is trying to hit too many high fly ball HRs. The flyball tendencies can be seen with his FB% jumping from 41% to 50% while maintaining a high IFFB% (21% to 18%).

Mike Moustakas looked to have a breakout season going in 2012 and then it fell apart in the 2nd half of the season. A knee injury may have been a cause for the drop in power. Besides the 2nd half power outage, he looks to have increased his strikeouts in order to try to get some extra power. Without some improvement in his batted ball profile (drop in the IFFB%) and/or contact skills, I see his maximum production near 0.275 AVG and 30 HRs, but more likely he is to have a .250 AVG and 18 HRs.

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Jeff writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first season in Tout Wars, he won the H2H league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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The team said he would be nagged by the knee injury for the rest of the season after it occurred, so I think that had quite a bit to do with his second half production.