Since the All Star break, Mike Moustakas has had a few multi-hit games and has steadily improved his rate stats. It’s encouraging to see Moustakas perform well, especially given how poorly he did in the first half of the season, but his turnaround hasn’t been a recent one. George Brett and Pedro Grifol we hired as hitting coaches for the Royals on May 30th, but Moustakas didn’t see his numbers immediately rebound.
In fact, the low point of the season for Moustakas came against the Houston Astros on June 9th. After that game, Moustakas was hitting .177/.247/.286. However, in the 39 games since then that Moustakas has appeared in, he has hit .286/.336/.459. Certainly these aren’t the kinds of numbers we expected from Moose when he was a top prospect, but they show that he has started to fix what’s wrong with his swing. This improved batting line results from a number of factors including improved power and contact.
The biggest jump in Moose’s rate stats has come in his slugging percentage. Now, a lot of this improvement is due to a higher batting average so it’s better to compare his isolated slugging percentages (SLG-BA) to get an idea of how Moose’s raw power has improved. His ISO in these two sample sizes is .109 vs .173. This is a pretty large difference, and it shows that Moose is hitting fewer of those weak popups and more hard hit fly balls.
Part of this power is due to better pitch selection. This year, Moose has struck out fewer times than at any point in his major league career. A large factor in this is Moose’s tendency to pop up on pitches outside of the strike zone rather than strike out. In fact, Moustakas had an infield fly ball percentage of well over 20% earlier in the season. Since then, he has brought it down to 17.8% which is still horrid but more in line with his career numbers. With fewer popups, Moustakas has experience a BABIP surge as well. During his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad beginning to the season, Moose rode a wave of pop ups and weak grounders to a .184 BABIP through June 9th. Since then, his BABIP has been a very normal .304.
This better pitch selection is a big reason that Moustakas has experienced better power and contact numbers. It’s not that Moose has had a radical change in his strikeout and walk numbers. In fact, those numbers have remained stable throughout the course of the season. However, Moustakas has been looking for “his pitch” more often than he used to. Rather than swing at everything, Moose is more focused on driving the ball to right and right center and has begun to adjust accordingly.
Overall, Moustakas has performed much better than he was earlier. It’s possible that we could see a situation that’s the reverse of last year where Moose was hot early before falling into an awful slump. If Moustakas can continue to heat up, it will be the biggest thing that could key a potential Royals stretch run.