April 14, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals third basemen Mike Moustakas (8) doubles in a run against the Cleveland Indians during the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE
I woke up this morning wondering if Moose had passed Hosmer as a hitter. Obviously, his performance (or perhaps his results) have been better in 2012, but what I was mainly thinking of was some notion of polish or approach at the plate, some idea akin to craftsmanship.
The season numbers are certainly divergent. In 76 PAs Moose is hitting .315/.375/.534 (raising his career line in the Majors to .273/.321/.397) while Hosmer has become late career Mark McGuire, without all the walks, hitting .188/.274/.388 in 91 PAs (career line, now .278/.325/.454).
Here is what the two super-prospects have done in 2012 in terms of plate discipline and controlling the pitcher-hitter battle:
This is what we might have expected heading into the season, save for the one glaring shift in pitches seen. Hosmer is still drawing walks more readily and striking out less. Moose still strikes out more than the league average and draws fewer walks. And thus far, Moose isn't even really improving. His BB% was 6% last season and his K% just 14%.
The difference is that Moustakas has 13 singles in about ten fewer PAs, while Hosmer has just 9. Hosmer's BABIP (batting average on balls in play) -- a comically low .164-- is murdering his game right now. To be sure, he's making a lot of weak contact: his line drive number is just 12% and he's about at the league average for infield flies as well (12%). Nevertheless, it does look like the fundamentals are there, at least in terms of plate approach. Hosmer's swinging strike percentage, at 18%, isn't even particularly troubling. (Which may actually be part of the problem, if he's going for weak contact rather than a full swing with all the risks that come.)
Again, I'm not making exclusively a luck argument, but I don't think he's performed like a true .180 something hitter either. Bump Hosmer up to .240 and we're having a different conversation.
Moose on the other hand is hitting .364 on balls in play, which is elevating the rest of his game. That being said, we shouldn't discount his seven doubles and three homers either. It's not all singles. However, a big part of his triple slash is simply singles.
So perhaps not surprisingly, I'm not sure that anything has changed. Moose is Moose with a little more singles, Hosmer is Hosmer with quite a lot fewer singles. I'm not worried about Hosmer as Hosmer. I am worried about him changing his approach (or being told to change his approach) because it is now April 30 and his batting average starts with a "1".