Mike Moustakas Is Hitting Everything

ryanheff
Apr 26, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) follows through on a solo home run in the first inning during a MLB game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 26, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) follows through on a solo home run in the first inning during a MLB game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mike Moustakas Is Hurting Baseballs

Mike Moustakas‘ evolution as a hitter has been a long time coming.

He spent the first three seasons of his career meddling in failure before he came into 2015 with a new approach, seeking to hit the ball the other way more.

Although the results were initially encouraging (.312 BA through three months), it had seemingly come at the cost of his power (seven home runs in the first half).

However, after a rough July in which he hit just .188, Moustakas hit 12 of his 22 in August and September, while hitting .286.

That power has carried over into 2016 in a big way, with Moustakas’ two best career month by home run total coming in back-to-back months (September 2015-April 2016).

During that span, Moustakas has become one of the better power hitters in the American League.

If we track back to August 11 of 2015, it gets even better.

In his last 65 games, spanning 246 at-bats, Moustakas has slashed .297/.364/.614, good for a .978 OPS, with 19 home runs and 21 doubles.

That is, roughly, a 47 HR, 52 double pace over a 162 game schedule.

As hot as his August and September were, his April has arguably been more encouraging because he isn’t just hitting home runs. He is tattooing almost every pitch he sees.

His average exit velocity against fastballs and breaking balls, according to Brooks Baseball,  has been 95.1. To describe his success against breaking balls so far in 2016, Brooks used the phrase “thunderous power,” which is justified by his 95.8 average exit velocity against breaking balls.

We are also seeing Moustakas hitting to all fields, similar to 2015, evidenced by his spray chart for 2016.

Royals
Mike Moustakas is hitting 26.9% of his batted balls to left field in 2016, on par with his 27.4% mark from 2015. /

Let’s compare this to his spray chart from 2015, April 27.

The biggest difference between April 2015 Moustakas and April 2016 Moustakas is his pull power.
The biggest difference between April 2015 Moustakas and April 2016 Moustakas is his pull power. /

The first thing I noticed about the two charts was that Moustakas hit more early opposite field line drives in 2015 than 2016.

The bigger thing I noticed, however, is the distance of his batted balls were further and more importantly, that Moustakas was also pulling the ball with power.

We talked earlier about how Moustakas 2015 adjustment lead to a decrease in power. The opposite has happened in 2016. He has adjusted to the point that he is not selling out to pull the ball as he did early in his career, but he is also not selling out to hit the ball the other way, as he did early in 2015.

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Long story short, he is hitting the ball the other way when he should and hammering the ball to right field when he should.

We see this most evident in his exit velocity charts.

In 2015, he surrendered power for approach. He made a conscious effort to hit the ball the other way. And while he was successful, he didn’t hit the ball very hard.

Brooksbaseball-Chart (2)
2015 Mike Moustakas sacrificed power for placement. /

In 2016, however, he has maintained the ability to hit the ball the other way, but has also been smashing every pitch thrown his way.

Brooksbaseball-Chart (3)
2016 Mike Moustakas is hitting the ball where he wants, and he’s hitting them harder. /

If you don’t like charts or just have an intolerance for graphs from your high school math classes, I’ll explain.

It’s really not very complicated. In April of 2015, Moustakas’ exit velocity against all three categories of pitches was under 90 MPH. In 2016, two of those three are hovering at 95-96 MPH.

To put that into context, his average exit velocity of 94.3 is good for the fifth highest among all AL hitters.

To go back to the introduction, Moustakas’ evolution as a hitter was a long time coming.

However, his evolution from a good hitter to a great hitter is happening rapidly. Yes, the sample size is still under 70 games, but the sheer volume of his success is worth noting.

Next: Royals Fall To Angels 9-4

As the season progresses, we will begin to see if this is just an extended hot streak or if he is becoming one of the better power hitters in baseball.

With guys like Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon not hitting, the Royals could certainly use a legitimate bat in their lineup.

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