Mike Moustakas is our
abominable lovable cromulent third baseman. Brandon Moss is that guy who blasted two home runs in the Wild Card game (SHAKES FIST). Moss is also that guy that Eno Sarris interviewed and had a fantastic article on. Some things in that article sound rather like they could apply to Moustakas. Moss doesn't play third base. So there isn't a defensive comparison other than to say that Moustakas is better. But, here, let me show you a career statistical comparison from FanGraphs:
Oh. So...they're really not that alike, are they? Moustakas walks less. Moss strikes out more. Moss does pretty much everything better. So what am I doing here?
That's what I'm doing here. These guys have very similar batted ball profiles and have spent a lot of time in pitcher-friendly environments. Yet, their results differ dramatically. I'm here to investigate why. The first thing that should jump out at you is the IFFB% and HR/FB differences. Moustakas pops up a lot more. How about some more similarities and differences?
That's a ridiculous difference in the O-contact% and overall Contact%. Everything else here is small peanuts. You probably could have guess the Contact% difference based on their strikeout rates, but it's illustrative to see that the majority of that K% difference is manifest through the O-contact%. Moustakas should really consider missing the ball more when it's off the plate. Or, you know, not swinging at those pitches to begin with. Here's a comparison of Moss' swing zone profile to Moustakas' swing zone profile.
Of interest is the top row. Except for one box, Moustakas swings more often at each zone, especially middle-up. Moustakas universally swings more at stuff on the inside edge, both inside the zone and outside the zone. Those areas where Moustakas swings more than Moss are also popup-generating areas for Moustakas.
A lot of this is probably not new information. However, it is useful to note the differences between what should be two similar players. To complete the search for differences, I attempted to observe hitting mechanics. I'll show you a series of photos in which I attempted to capture each player during the same part of the swing. I'll try to play the "list what's different" game. You should play too! It's like being back in the waiting room of the pediatrician's office when you were 5 and had a fever.
Moustakas pre-pitch. He's got an open stance, and his hands are set about chin level.
Moss pre-pitch. He also has an open stance, but his is a little wider. His hands are near the top of the helmet. The angle of Moss' bat looks similar to Moustakas' bat angle. This is really getting out of a scientific, more analytical thought process, but Moss looks more "athletic" in his stance. I don't know what to make of that, if anything.
Moustakas leg lift. You'll notice that this is a different pitch from the previous Moustakas picture. That is an artifact of my data gathering process; I started from the end of the swing and worked backward. I found that I couldn't get a good photo on this pitch of the pre-pitch stance, so I found a different photo. The subsequent photos will be from the same pitch.
Moose's hands have drifted back. The bat angle has increased. His hands are still around the level of his chin.
Moss leg lift. The bat angle is more extreme. His hands have lowered. The leg lift is smaller. The hands are further from his body. Given the bat angle, I'd say that Moss has more loft to his swing. This could be the camera angle playing tricks on me, but it looks like Moss' front leg is going to land more in line with his back leg than Moose's will.
Moustakas post leg lift. He has begun rotating his hips, while his upper body lags behind. This is called "flying open", yes? His butt sticks out pretty far. This looks like a timing pattern that saps power. His hands are lower due to beginning the swing.
Moss post leg lift. Moss looks a bit more upright than Moose, but he is crouched more compared to his own previous picture at leg lift. His butt seemingly sticks out less. He is further behind Moose in the swing at this point. The hands are back. His hips and upper body have not begun rotating. They appear to be more in sync.
Moustakas arm extension. The hands are a little bit above the belt. The hips are open, and the upper body is rotating to catch up. The back knee is bent, and the front leg is straight.
Moss arm extension. It looks fairly similar, with the possible exception of better timing of the rotation between the hips and the upper body. I think most differences from Moose's picture there can be ascribed to differences in pitch location.
Moustakas contact. Moose's arms don't look quite fully extended. There's also the matter of his leg positions. The right leg is further to our left than his left leg.
Moss contact. Moss' arms look fully extended. Moss' legs line up more closely, but it doesn't quite look natural, does it?
Moustakas follow through. He's pretty off balance. His back leg looks like it moved.
Moss follow through. Moss' feet are where they were.
So there's the series of photos. The main differences between the two players, in my very humble and probably wrong opinion, occur before the swing really begins. They appear to have different timing patterns. Moss' timing pattern allows him to wait a slightly longer amount of time before beginning the upper body part of his swing. Moustakas appears to commit to a swing earlier. If indeed the bat angle before the swing gives Moss more loft, that would explain why Moss whiffs more frequently.
Perhaps the Royals have trained Moose to have a more "line drive" centric swing to cut down on whiffs. Unfortunately, due to a lack of plate discipline compared to Moss, that leads to weak contact. In addition, the disparate timing pattern appears to lead to weaker contact. I believe this combination of poorer pitch selection and potentially worse timing pattern are the things that leave Moose a weaker offensive contributor.
Maybe some small tweaks in timing pattern (like a J.D. Martinez style bigger leg lift) could help align his lower body and his upper body more closely while also forcing Moose to take longer to decide whether or not to swing. I don't know if Moose has the bat speed to be able to start a swing later while still keeping up with a fastball. I'm also not sure if I'd want the Royals to attempt to increase his loft; a Moose that misses more but still has a disparate timing pattern is probably worse.
If anyone thinks I'm an idiot, please berate me in the comments. I'm not a swing mechanics expert.