Moustakas Clawing Way Out of Irrelevancy

This season was going to be different. Not only was Mike Moustakas entering the 2014 season as a best-shaper, but if you read through that link, he put in an inordinate amount of time to fix a swing which at one point in his career was thought to be a sure thing. Spring training arrived and all Moustakas did was hit .429/.522/.768 with four home runs, seven doubles, and 18 RBI through 24 games. He even stole a base. No, this season would be different.

And then by the latter part of April, I was arguing on Twitter whether Moustakas had zero line drives or if he actually, indeed, had one of them. In over 60 plate appearances. One line drive. Zero line drives. Either way, yeeks.

By the middle part of May, Moustakas was dropped to the ass-end of the batting order, and on May 20th he was hitting .152/.223/.320, and the Royals finally shipped him back to Omaha. There, during the proverbial take-a-breath, simplify-the-game, back-to-basics “break time”, Moose slashed .355/.412/.548 over 34 plate appearances. He credited the ability to work again with Tommy Gregg, the hitting coach that helped him produce some of the gaudy numbers back when he was just barely able to hit the bar after the game.

Fantasy ballers weren’t buying any of it, of course — and rightly so. Because you don’t have to go too far up taking a birds eye view to see that as a major leaguer, Mike Moustakas stinks. Over 1700+ plate appearances, Moustakas has hit .235/.289/.381. In the last four years, among all third basemen with at least 1500 plate appearances, he has the worst wRC+ and wOBA and it’s not even close. So why am I talking to you about Mike Moustakas then, you ask. Because since his return, it’s not like he’s hitting much better — slashing .214/.276/.429.

For a 25 year old blue chipper, I suppose I allow for a longer leash. Maybe it’s the Chris Davis effect. No, I’m not going out and throwing Moustakas on any of my fantasy teams, but over the month of June, it might be fair to say that Moustakas has hit differently, if you will.

Since returning on June 1, Moustakas has cut his strikeout rate to 11.7% and despite the small sample, the eyeball test seems to suggest he’s attempting to be more patient at the plate. Looking at his swing rate, since his return, he’s pretty clearly been trying to lay off of pitches down in the zone and to a lesser extent, pitches away. The trade off is he’s offering far more on pitches in although with such a ridiculously small sample size, that could change in a day.


This of course isn’t a recipe for success, but it’s different. And frankly, it seems like some sort of progress.

Using the Brooks Baseball results and averages by category tool where they break down the pitches in “Hard, Breaking, Offspeed” categories, there has been a change in results since his recall as well.

This is before:

Hard 0.172 0.263 0.091
Breaking 0.25 0.531 0.281
Offspeed 0.188 0.438 0.25

And after recall:

Hard 0.143 0.31 0.167
Breaking 0.294 0.588 0.294
Offspeed 0.364 0.636 0.273

The good news is Moustakas is hitting for better average and power on breaking and offspeed pitches. The bad news is he still really can’t hit a fastball. But again, it’s different, and lends itself towards the notion that he’s trying to make a change in his approach.

This doesn’t add up to a recommendation of any kind beyond “keep an eye on him”. Moustakas still has all sorts of trouble hitting with consistency, but he’s young and has a long history of success in the minor leagues so it’s hard to completely write him off from a prospect perspective. He’s not likely to hit for average and he’s probably always going to be susceptible to the dreaded shift. But most of his value, from a fantasy perspective, is wrapped up in his ability to hit home runs and I’m not entirely sure that book is closed.

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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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So are you saying that he sucks slightly less now? and that it is over such a small sample that he may really suck just as much as before?