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.