You could see this coming a couple of weeks ago… When Mike Moustakas began making “loud” outs. He was hitting the ball with authority, but hitting them right at fielders. In the last week, those “loud” outs have (finally) turned into base hits. With another multi-hit game Tuesday night, Moose is batting above .500 with an on base percentage north of .600 over his last six games. That’s raised his cumulative line from .182/.237/.227 to .212/.270/.267.
It’s only a good week, but it’s a positive sign from a player who’s been struggling mightily over the last couple of months. Looking at the Pitchf/x data applied to hitters, we can see how Moose has transformed his approach at the plate over the last week. Take this with a grain of salt because we’re dealing with obviously small sample sizes.
First let’s look at the pitches Moose offered at from his debut to just before he started mashing the ball.
There are a couple of soft spots here that (most) pitchers are able to exploit. First, is the high cheese – the fastball up around the letters. According to FanGraphs, Moustakas has a -1.4 wFB/c (that’s fastball runs above average per 100 fastballs) meaning he is a currently below average fastball hitter. (This isn’t a predictive stat, it’s just a way of looking at a hitter and finding out which pitches he has the most difficulty with throughout the course of the season.) No doubt because he’s chasing that fastball up and out of the zone.
Second, note the number of low change-ups the Moustakas swings at in the course of a plate appearance. Also, while we have our eyes below the knees, notice the slider that is down and in that Moose has a difficult time avoiding. He owns a -2.78 wCH/c and -4.86 wSL/c, making those his two worst pitch types when it comes to finding success. From the chart, it’s not difficult to see why he’s having trouble with those pitches. He’s swinging and missing at 17% of all sliders he sees and only puts 12% of all change ups in play.
Basically, over his first two months in the big leagues, there’s been more than one way to kill a Moose, but this is how you get him out… Start him with a high fastball and finish him with a low off speed pitch. We all know that’s been an effective approach.
Now, onto our really small sample size… Here are the pitches Moustakas has swung at since he’s gone on his mini hot streak.
He’s laying off the high cheddar and isn’t offering at the low off speed pitches like he did over the first couple of months. Again, this is an extremely small sample size, but this is how hot streaks are conceived. Moose has shortened his strike zone, has become more disciplined and is refusing to chase pitches that had previously been his Kryptonite. Overall, he’s swinging at over 36% of all pitches he sees out of the zone, compared to the league average of 30%. I don’t know how he’s done in the last week, percentage wise, but we can see from the chart, it appears he’s offering at out of the zone pitches less frequently than the league average.
Again, take this for what it is: The smallest of small sample sizes. We’re dealing with a week’s worth of data here… Always dangerous when drawing conclusions.
This ignores what has become an alarming lack of power. Moustakas has a Getzian 10 extra base hits in 239 plate appearances. Maybe he’s turning the corner here… Three of them have come in the last week. Still, he hasn’t gone yard since his home run against Joel Piniero in his sixth career plate appearance. That was over 57 games ago.
However, this follows the Moustakas M.O. in that he starts slowly at each level, adjusts, then begins to rake. That’s why the Royals have largely left him alone since he was recalled in June. September will be a crucial month in his development as a major league hitter. He needs to turn this mini hot streak into something that continues to the end of the season to give everyone – himself, the organization and fans – the belief that he can be a major league hitter. It’s possible we’re witnessing the turning point of his early career. Mark this post down and revisit it at the end of the season. We’ll see if his new approach holds over the course of the season’s final six weeks.