Mike Moustakas jacked a flyball that was about three feet shy of a home run on Tuesday. He’s had three doubles in the last week. If you can believe it, he’s been lining balls to center field and even hitting a few decent fly balls to left. If he keeps that up, he could be a legitimately dangerous hitter. Teams will no longer be able to assume that he will pull the ball with every contact. He’s hitting .356/.383/.422 since June 10 and his line drive percentage is 26.2%.
His approach doesn’t look much different than it did at the beginning of June, but he suddenly started making hard contact on the pitches he popped up just a few weeks ago. He looks to have shrunk the hole on the upper inside of the zone. It can still be exploited, but if pitchers miss that inside corner, he has been either letting it drift inside for a ball or, if it catches too much of the plate, crushes it.
This doesn’t mean he’s escaped his troubles. Teams haven’t been pitching to his weaknesses lately: changeups on the outside corner (although, when they have, he’s wisely ignored them). Instead, pitchers have been trying to get him to pull outside fastballs, probably hoping that he won’t have a chance to catch up to them. Instead, he has mostly just laid off lately. He had an even better blistering hot streak, from April 25 to May 10, during which he hit .341/.431/.707, with a line drive rate of 27.7%. He also hit all four of his home runs during that streak. Right after that, he went through a four game hitless streak and hit less than .150 for a month. Moose’s improvement isn’t the same as Hosmer’s turnaround, where you can more easily see the difference in his swing and pitch identification. Moose’s adjustments are more fragile and rely more on how he is being pitched. He’s getting some help from some grounders that are finally punching through the infield. But, all in all, he’s doing everything just a little bit better, missing pitches a little bit less, swing a little less at bad pitches, getting back into hitters counts, fouling off pitches to stay alive. He could never make enough contact to have a two strike approach before.
He looks better. And, really, his approach has looked better for about a month, though he wasn’t making much needed contact. Now he is. At some point, we knew he had to improve. Top five draft picks flame out all the time, but it’s rarer after they displayed solid hitting skills all through the minors like Moose.
Even though the Royals still aren’t knocking many extra base hits, this is the first time since the beginning of the year that the offense looks the least bit formidable. Moose is driving the ball. Eric Hosmer is driving the ball. Salvador Perez has been driving the ball hard all season (unluckily right into defenders’ gloves). Frenchy is benched against righties. The Royals are getting average offensive production from David Lough, who is now, more or less, the starting right fielder. Billy Butler is still getting on base and Chris Getz‘s noodle bat is in AAA. Even though Lorenzo Cain is in a slump, he’s hitting fine for a center fielder. As long as Elliot Johnson and the streaky Alcides Escobar stay in the bottom of the lineup (ha! Yost and his practical joke lineups. Comedy gold.), this team looks a little less like a limp threat.