Baseball is a game all about sample sizes, and conventional wisdom says that a sample of under 100 plate appearances is not usually adequate enough to go on when it comes to player evaluation.
Well, Mike Moustakas may be one of the unusual exceptions.
There’s only been 66 PA to his 2013 season so far, and despite the small sample size, the number all say only one thing — thing are going very, very wrong for the Kansas City Royals third baseman.
In fact, even with expected offensive leader and No. 3 Billy Butler scuffling a bit with a .214/.362/.393 triple-slash so far, it’s easily Moustakas who has been the biggest disappointment on the team. No fancy number are needed here — just a nightmarish .148/.212/.180 line that would probably be otherwise acceptable … if he was a pitcher in the NL.
His miserable night in the team’s 7-5 loss against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday (0-for-4, two strikeouts) didn’t help things. Whether it’s counting numbers (two hits, one RBI) or not (-0.4 fWAR), this is a player that is hurting the Royals be being in the lineup more than he’s helping them.
That said, there’s light at the end of the tunnel yet.
See, whatever is going on and holding Moustakas down, it isn’t his plate discipline. On the contrary, his career-low 12.9 percent strikeout rate and matching career-high 8.1 percent walk rate suggests that his approach to at-bats may be better than ever as far as discipline is concerned.
So, the wonky part of his game that is leaving him with a ridiculously low .035 ISO and .193 slugging percentage is more than likely to be mechanical.
The numbers in his batted ball profile backs this up. Sure, the 24-year old hasn’t had a ton of problems getting his bat on the ball — he’s actually making better contact than he did last year (82.7 percent), and has a lower swinging strike rate (7.9 percent) — but everything he’s hitting is floating weakly into the air.
His line drive rate has plummeted from 16.4 percent in 2012 to 12.2 percent, while his fly ball rate is at a whopping 63.3 percent, up from 49.8 percent last season. Not being able to square up to the ball pretty mean Moustakas is pretty much the king of flyouts right now, with his .184 BABIP illustrating the limbo that happens to the baseball when he gets his bat on it.
Fortunately, the former top prospect is well aware of what he’s doing (or not doing, rather) with the baseball, and alluded to this to Bob Sutton of the Kansas City Star only a day ago, suggesting that he’d found the mechanical issue that was sapping all of his power — namely, that he’s “been getting out on [his] front foot way too much instead of staying back and trying to see the ball”.
It didn’t help him on Wednesday, but on the other hand … awareness of the problem is the first step to correcting it, no?
The Royals just hope the adjustment comes soon, because the team is not going to be able to keep an automatic out in their lineup regularly for too much longer.