3B – Mike Moustakas
Before going down with a season-ending injury in 2016, Moustakas was showing signs of correcting the over-aggressive approach that had ailed him in the early part of his career. In the first 27 games of the season, Moose had increased had increased his walk rate by nearly 25%, while maintaining an impressive 15% strikeout rate. Small sample considerations aside, the Royals third baseman was making more hard contact as a result of not chasing as many bad pitches and using the whole field.
It only took about a week before we could safely disregard whatever trends we thought we could glean from the pre-injury Moustakas of 2017. The hacking, pull-heavy Moose that Royals fans have grown to love was back in full force. The difference this time around was this extreme approach has actually worked.
With roughly a month and a half to play, Moose has already set the franchise record with 34 home runs and has surpassed his career high with a 125 wRC+. All the while, Moose has cut his walk rate in half and ranks 6th in the league in Swing% and 7th in O-Swing%. Moose is marching to the beat of his own drummer by reverting back to his old ways and he is hitting enough long balls that nobody can tell him to do anything differently.
While conventional wisdom would say that improved plate discipline is almost always a step in the right direction, let’s take a look at how Moose’s defying convention.
First off, Moose has once again grown very pull-happy. His Pull% is 45.7%, which is closer to the 46.0% mark he posted in his first four professional seasons than the 39.8% he posted across his previous two seasons. When we look at the numbers, there is no question that reverting back his former self has been a great decision.
Here are the top left-handed hitters on batted balls that were pulled (sorted by wRC+).
Moose is putting up ridiculous numbers when he hits the ball to right field, which is why he is hitting more balls there than any other place on the diamond. Just in case you didn’t have enough evidence of how dangerous Moose is when he pulls the ball, here is a spray chart of all the balls that he has “barreled” this season:
Moose has reached a point in his career where he knows who he is as a hitter. By focusing on his strengths, he has set himself up to earn a big paycheck when he hits the free agent market this offseason.