Feb 24, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals infielder Mike Moustakas poses for a portrait during photo day at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Moose Crossing

Sep 17, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) drives in a run with a double in the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

I really want to believe in Mike Moustakas going into this year.  His monster spring could carry over into April, and all of a sudden the Royals have a huge upgrade at third.  But last spring he was awesome, we have seen this before, right?  Wrong, this spring is way different than last, and here is why.

Moose has been much better this spring training, just look at the slash line in 2013 (.394/.429/.718) and 2014 spring training (.429/.525/.769).  That is a lot better, but the most important part is the middle, OBP.  Mike is walking this spring at an unprecedented rate, and swinging at better pitches which is helping him hit for a higher average and get on base much more often.  You would love to argue with this with the simple, “This is a small sample size anomaly.” but if you say that, you are missing something.

In 61 plate appearances this spring, Moustakas has walked 10 times, that is a 16.4% walk rate.  For a guy with a career rate of 6.2% that is shockingly high.  Again, this is over only 61 plate appearances though, so it could just be a couple of erroneous walks inflating the rate in the short term.  According to Moose’s history though, I don’t believe that to be true.

I went to Fangraphs and pulled Moustakas’ game log starting in 2007 rookie ball and going all the way through 2013, a total of 813 games.  Then using rolling averages I looked for any 20 game period where he walked at a rate at or above his spring rate this year.  It has never happened in a sample size of 793 including rolling across seasons or playing against minor league talent he has never walked this much before.  Spring training is different though, so the plate appearances in 20 games is different from regular season.  To make a sample with more similar plate appearances I did the rolling average again with every 15 regular season games.  Again, he has never, in seven years of minor and major league play, had a 15 game run with a walk rate this high.  I lowered the bar again and finally at 10 games I hit pay dirt.  Once in his career, Mike Moustakas in 2008 at A-ball, managed a walk rate above 16.4% for 10 games over 44 plate appearances.

This is not the same guy.  The approach is obviously different, and a more selective Mike Moustakas is coming to KC in 2014.  He walked twice as much this spring as last, and walked at an unprecedented rate compared to his historic performance majors or minors.  I am expecting a large improvement now from Moose, and that could make a huge difference for this team.

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Tags: Kansas City Royals Mike Moustakas

  • jimfetterolf

    Numbers are fine, but eyeballs tell us he has a different, more balanced swing, staying back on pitches, and not getting fooled as much. Couple that with a changed approach and he may well be for real this time. With talent and health it all gets down to mechanics. Here’s hoping it sticks.

    • Brian Henry

      Eyeballs are fine, if the new mechanics don’t turn into better stats Moose will fail again.

      • jimfetterolf

        With talent and health it’s all mechanics. Stats are history, mechanics are the present. I weight prediction on the most recent evidence, which is hard-hit balls to the center of the diamond, not trying to pull outside pitches, and better pitch recognition. In Surprise the eyeballs and stats are agreeing with each other, unlike previous times when he was all hands and the eyeballs would see spring training, not projection.

        We went through this with Hosmer last year, totally discombubulated swing and bad approach and he stunk for over a season ’til Brett and Pedro came along, then the swing got fixed along with the approach and he blossomed. Moose had the same problem and they’re doing the same fix on him. The question will be when he has an inevitable slump, does he revert to old habits or does he stay disciplined and “bought in”.

        Escobar is another one who got away from correct mechanics, got homer happy, slumped, pressed, and went into a painful spiral down to nearly historical futility. They’re working on him to do the same things as Hosmer and Moose are being programmed to do.

        • Brian Henry

          Hosmer seemed to be mostly timing though, and I think a much larger change has happened for Moustakas which is why it has taken more work.

          • jimfetterolf

            Hosmer’s swing was totally out of whack, from the A-Rod type tap to getting everything out of balance. Bad Hosmer and bad Moose looked a great deal alike to me. In Hosmer’s case he had abandoned what made him good after spending a winter with A-Rod in Miami. He went back to what made him a prospect, so yeah, he had the good stuff in the vault. Moose has always been a handsy pull hitter, no balance, no flow, just brute strength and a quick fire, which made him so vulnerable to off-speed stuff away and the up and away heaters he tried to pull. Agree it will be more work and agree with Jess that the worry is his first slump will get him pressing and reverting.

            BTW, I like your work, don’t intend to pick on you, just adding a different perspective and getting conversations going.

          • Brian Henry

            You’ll have to work a lot harder to offend me, don’t worry about it.

          • jimfetterolf

            I’m sensitive about that since I made a moderator at another site cry and he had the boss moderator ban me.

  • Redblack564

    You are correct Jim, it’s all about mechanics,some players just take longer for the switch go go on. What I’m impressed with is that moose has not popped out weakly to CF or to 3b by pulling off the ball yet this spring. That’s progress

  • jessanders

    I’m not convinced, but I’m hopeful.

    I’m not convinced that Moose is fixed, because I believe so much of his problem was mental. I’m afraid that if he struggles in the first half-dozen games, he’ll push and start being the Moose we all know (and don’t necessarily love).

    That said, I’m hopeful he’s finally gotten it in his head he has to produce to keep his job.

    We’ll see. Opening day is just a handful of days away (thank FSM!), and I’m looking forward to it.