Apr 16, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) hits a home run during the eleventh inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Moustakas: Too Early Yet To Worry

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Mike Moustakas hit a home run in extra innings on Wednesday, propelling the Kansas City Royals to a 6-4 win over the Houston Astros.  If your looking for an article saying that his go-ahead homer will suddenly inspire him to hit better, this isn’t it.

In fact, last night’s two plate appearances are largely irrelevant.  Despite last night’s home run, Moose still has been abysmal at the plate this year.  Here’s reason to believe that he will get better.

Improved Patience

Moustakas has never been a particularly patient batter.  During is first three years in the majors, Moose walked between 6-6.4% of the time.  Last year, Moose ranked 109 out of 140 qualified batters in walk rate.

This year, through 13 games at least, Moustakas has reversed the trend, walking in 10.6% of his plate appearances.  This isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it’s still above average.  This improvement seems like less of a fluke due to small sample size when you consider that Moustakas is seeing 4.13 pitches per plate appearance, good for 39th in the majors.

Compare this to 3.8 pitches last year (76th) and 3.93 pitches in 2012 (56th) and it seems that Moustakas is better at identifying which pitches to lay off this year.

Statistical Regression

Line drives aren’t typically associated with Moose for good reason.  He doesn’t hit a lot of them.  In fact, according to Fangraphs.com, Mike Moustakas has hit exactly 0 line drives this year.

Now this is certainly something that is going to change, but it’s easy to accept that Moose isn’t the type of hitter to spray liners into the outfield.  Even with the lack of line drives, however, it’s easy to say that Moose has gotten unlucky.

His current batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .121, which is .148 points below his career average.  It doesn’t take a stat head to know that this is a fluke.  It’s only a matter of time before more balls find the outfield for Moustakas.  Expect more than just batting average to spike for Moose as the season goes on.

Most people who follow the Royals are aware that Moose is a prodigious fly ball hitter.  His current FB% of 58.8% leads all major leaguers by a whopping 5 percentage points.  While this is likely to come down, his home runs are likely to go up.

With Moose’s homer last night, he has now homered on 5% of the balls that he’s put in the air.  This number should go up as the season progresses.  For one, Moustakas has hit around 7.1% of his fly balls for home runs over the course of his career.

Perhaps more importantly, Mike Moustakas has been hitting balls farther than he ever has.  For the year, his average fly ball+home run distance is 290.54 feet, which is 20 feet farther than last year and over eleven feet farther than when he hit a career high 20 home runs in 2012.

For comparison’s sake, Evan Longoria had a similar number last year for the Rays when he hit 32 home runs.  This doesn’t mean that Moose will suddenly develop Longoriaesque power, but, if I may shamelessly plug myself, you needn’t look farther than Moose’s teammate Eric Hosmer to see how fly ball+home run distance can predict an uptick in power.

Hosmer struggled in the early parts of the 2013 season, hitting .270/.337/.342 through May 23.  Everyone was losing their minds over Hosmer’s lack of power, especially given his dismal 2012 campaign. In the 117 game from May 24th on, Hosmer hit .312/.359/.482.

Of course, it would be irresponsible to leave out the fact that George Brett was hired as the Royals’ hitting coach on May 30th, but Hosmer’s peripheral stats stayed remarkably similar after Brett was hired. He walked a little less and hit the ball a little farther, but he was otherwise an identical batter aside from the results.

Expect Moose to rebound in a similar fashion.

It’s April 17th!

 

Batting Average On Base% Slugging%
Mike Moustakas .119 .213 .238
Player A .172 .262 .276
Player B .160 .208 .260
Player C .149 .222 .149

The point here is that we should probably wait a month or two.  If Moose is still hitting this poorly by then, he’ll probably be in Omaha.  It’s a good bet that he won’t be.

 

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Tags: Kansas City Royals Mike Moustakas

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