Mike Moustakas: Analyzing His Strengths And Weaknesses

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Tuesday March 5th, 2013

Moustakas will need to improve on his 20 HRs and 73 RBI year in 2012.  He is only 24 Years of Age heading into 2013

Moustakas will need to improve on his 20 HRs and 73 RBI year in 2012. He is only 24 Years of Age heading into 2013.

Jake Dal Porto (Baseball Writer) 

The Kansas City Royals might have something special in Mike Moustakas. He’s a cornerstone-type piece, and he plays a position that starting to run low on quality young talent.

Of course, he has his good attributes and bad attributes. In a nutshell, he’s a work in progress offensively, but far from a work in progress on defense.

Players typically start to bloom in their third year in the major leagues, and it just so happens that 2013 will be Moustakas’ third year in the majors.

Mike Moustakas Highlights – Mature Lyrics – So Parental Guidance is advised:

Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas represent the corner infield for the KC Royals.  If they both flourish for the club - then they will be perennial contenders in the AL Central

Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas represent the corner infield for the KC Royals. If they both flourish for the club – then they will be perennial contenders in the AL Central.

So, let’s take a look at some of Moustakas’ weaknesses and strengths.

Positive – Defense:

You’d be hard pressed to find a Third Basemen that’s a better defender than Mike Moustakas.

FanGraphs would agree. By their reckoning, Moustakas was the best defender at the hot corner. He led all third basemen with a 16.8 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in 2012, and finished third in Defense Runs Saved (DRS) with a plus-14 mark.

Moustakas’ numbers aren’t misrepresent by a lack of action either. Per FanGraphs, he had 263 plays and 346 balls in his zone, both of which led baseball.

So statistically, he should’ve won the American League Gold Glove. But, offense always finds a way to sneak into the conversation, which is where the guidelines are totally skewed, at least in some areas. Moustakas wasn’t a huge offensive threat, but as the numbers reveal, he is Gold Glove-worthy. That should be all that’s examined.

It’s only a matter of time before Moustakas wins a Gold Glove.

Negative – He Can’t Hit Sliders:

All hitters have a hole in their swing that opposing pitchers exploit. For Moustakas, the slider happens to be his worst enemy, and will continue to hinder his offensive production until he mends this flaw. It’s a game of adjustments.

However, Moustakas is far from unique. Most young hitters struggle to hit off-speed pitches, but what separates the good ones from the ones is how well they adjust from year to year. Moustakas dramatically improved his approach against fastballs in 2012, which counts for something. The downside is that he won’t see many fastballs in 2013 if he continues to struggle with off-speed pitches.

According to FanGraphs Pitch Value, Moustakas had a -5.9 wSL. With zero being average, he clearly had a handful of problems against the slider. Opposing pitchers found most of their success when jamming him on the hands with the pitch, setting up a comeback pitch on the outside half of the plate.

Can Moustakas’ troubles with sliders be any worse? Actually, not really. He’s the 11th worst slider-hitter in baseball, behind the likes of strikeout prone hitters such as Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs and Ike Davis. Obviously, not the group of hitters one wants to be a part of.

Still, he has time to adjust. Let’s leave it at that.

Positive – Potential:

This one is obvious, and it’s been fairly obvious since Moustakas was taken with the second overall pick in the 2007 draft.

All he has to do now is live up to his potential tag, which will be easier said than done. But Moustakas, if anyone, has the tools to mold himself into an All-Star Third Baseman.

Moustakas exchanged some more pop for consistency in 2012. In 563 At-bats, he hit 20 Home Runs with an On Base Percentage of .296. In 2011, meanwhile, he hit five Home Runs – and had a .309 OBP in 338 At-Bats. I’d call that a fair exchange, but Moustakas does need to improve his OBP, as that’s what will make him a capable middle of the order hitter.

Negative: Plate Discipline

Ah yes, another common knock against young hitters: plate discipline. Moustakas’ aggressiveness is different, though.

We know that he’s a bit aggressive, particularly on pitches outside of the strike zone. In 2012, he had an oSwing percentage of 37.6, which measures the percentage of pitches a batter swings at that are outside of the strike zone.

However, Moustakas is submissive towards pitches to pitches in the strike zone, as evidenced by his Z-Swing percentage of 66.7. You would presume that if he swings at pitches outside of the strike zone, he would follow a similar trend on pitches over the plate. Don’t think so fast.

So, we turn to his walk and strikeout percentages to finish the painting. There are no surprises; his walk percentage was pretty low at 6.4 percent, while his strikeout percentage surpassed 20.

As Moustakas gets a few more at-bats under his belt, we’ll likely begin to see a more patient and smart approach. For now, though, it’s definitely an area to to keep an eye on.

Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com

Moustakas had a great 1st half in 2012 – with a 3 Slash Line of .288/.327/.817 with 15 HRs and 47 RBI before the ALL – Star Break.  He didn’t fare so well in the 2nd half –  .211/.261/.586 with 5 HRs and 26 RBI.  He also hit way better at home (.279/.333/.794) then on the road  (.205/.260.624).  He had similar power numbers for both home and away.  Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com or their partners.***

A big thank-you goes out to our Baseball Writer Jake Dal Porto for preparing today’s featured article.   Jake is a student from the Bay Area. Jake’s favorite sports moment was when the Giants won the World Series back in 2010. He loves to use sabermetrics in his work. He thinks they are the best way to show a player’s real success compared to the basic stats such as ERA, RBIs, and Wins. Jake also enjoys interacting and debating with his readers. Follow him on Twitter:  

Jake Dal Porto

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About Jake Dal Porto

Jake Dal Porto is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score

Posted on March 5, 2013, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. In my view, Mike Moustakas is a fine defensive player at second base. More likely next to Robert Cano – he is perhaps the best at second base in the American League.I feel he is young and his offensive numbers should get better.I believe he is underestimated in regard to how good ball player he is because of where he plays. I only see a bright future for this Ballplayer

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