Fantasy Baseball: Will Mike Moustakas Ever Turn His Slump Around?

By Nick Tom
Denny Medley-USA Today Sports

Jeesh. 2013 has not been kind to Mike Moustakas. You know how George Costanza had the Summer of George? Well, this is not the Spring of Mike. It’s been a protracted, ugly, unproductive, batting average-killing slumpfest for Moose, and if you own him on your fantasy team, I sympathize.

Though many probably drafted Moustakas to be a power source from the corner infield slot, Moose has yet to hit a home run this season, has only driven in one run, has only scored two, and has a blinding .148/.212/.180 triple-slash. Like, what the bleep? Insert any of the multitudes of words that would fit there.

If you’ve stuck with the sure-handed third baseman this long, you’re either a terrible fantasy member, psychotic, or are hoping for a bounce-back from an unproven player… which might actually make you insane. I’m unfortunately both of the latter two.

Assuming you’re okay at fantasy and are sane, let’s take a look at if Moustakas’s peripheral numbers hint at recovery.

One of the scariest things, unequivocally, is what the numbers say about Moose’s approach. Compared to 2012 (a year that wasn’t overly productive), Moustakas has increased his 1st-pitch swing percentage (1stS) by 12% — 34% this year. And on top of that, he’s decreased his P/PA by .47 — from 3.93 to 3.46. He’s hitting fewer line-drives than last year, which was a number already reduced from the year prior, yet is striking out less. He’s hitting fewer groundballs, which is something that isn’t bad for a power-hitter like Moose purportedly is, but a much higher percentage of his ‘fly balls’ are landing in the infield. In other words, he’s popping everything up — even more so than usual.

Unfortunately, pop-ups have always been a problem. When he debuted in 2011, Moustakas hit 27% of his fly-balls to the infield while recording a 0.76 ground-out/air-out ratio. He was mixing up the balls he put it play, but was still hitting too many weak balls into the air. In his sophomore year, that IF/FB percentage dropped 5%, to 22%, and, in turn, Moustakas’ HR/FB percentage rose. Auspiciously, he was hitting more fly-balls harder and farther which, you guessed it, is exactly what you want out of a six-hitter.

This improvement was all great and dandy, of course, just like any improvement is, but when you compare that to Moose’s teammate Billy Butler’s 9% IF/FB, there was still room for even more.

This year, that number’s gone in the completely wrong direction. Moose’s IF/FB is up 12% to 34% while his GO/AO is down to 0.43; he’s popping more balls up weakly and is hitting those weak pop-ups at a higher rate compared to his total of balls put into play.

As I’m writing this, the Kansas City Royals are playing the Detroit Tigers, and Moustakas just hit a lazy fly to right field. Ergo, keep in mind that IF/FB don’t even account for soft flies.

When someone is hitting as many balls in the air as Moustakas, yet doesn’t even have one homer, something is terribly wrong.

Whether he’s not seeing the ball well, has something egregiously off with his mechanics, or is simply pressing too hard to fulfill Kansas City’s hopes of a successful season, it doesn’t seem like things will be turning around soon.

You can’t point to BAbip — something rash fantasy owners like to point to to predict a turnaround — because of the decline in line-drives and increase in pop-ups.

According to Rotowire, Moustakas and the Royals hitting coaches have found some sort of blip in Moose’s swing, but since that was reported Moose is 0/7 with, yes, more lazy pop-ups.

Striking out 5% less is good, I guess?

Finally, Moustakas made a costly error on Wednesday that ultimately cost the Royals the game. You can always assure yourself that a player who plays good defense will remain in the lineup until he fixes things offensively, but maybe that won’t even be the case. I’m scared.

Always remember, it’s still extremely early in the year, and things will inevitably get better given time and more at-bats, but who knows how long Kansas City will even wait? Maybe they’ll send him down temporarily to get back on track — a move that would merit a drop in all redraft formats.

Follow your favorite writer, Nick Tom, on Twitter @NickTomFB or +1 him on Google. You won’t regret it.


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