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Why Mike Moustakas keeps getting chances

The third baseman has stayed with the MLB team (like 99% of the time) since his original callup despite lackluster results. There must be reasons why.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

I own a house. Therefore, I own a variety of tools. Some of them are power tools. Some of them will never be used. I'm not sure I'll ever find a use for 25 pieces of a 36-piece set of wrenches. I don't build things. I don't repair things because I'd have to pay someone to come fix my crappy fixes anyway. I'm 75% sure I know how to use a drill. I can use a hammer to whack things. Sometimes nails. Sometimes televisions. I'm probably decent with a screwdriver--I've got plus skills with one tool. Luckily, that tool comprises 90% of the stuff I need to do.

You probably know where this is going. Mike Moustakas has tools. Maybe he has a circular saw somewhere, but the tools to which I am referring are the baseball tools. The Royals are often maligned for their apparent inattention to sabermetrics, though that seems to be in debate these days rather than outright condemnation. What can't be debated is that the Royals value tools in a baseball player. Bubba Starling is often cited as having the five tools (hit, power, running, arm, defense). That's probably why he's still swinging a bat for the Royals instead of slinging footballs for the Huskers*.

*Did the Huskers win the Spring Game?! Did over 68,000 fans find enjoyment in watching their team win and lose? Husker fans are crazy.

Moustakas plays what many consider a good third base. UZR and DRS see him as above average for his career. Inside Edge sees him as perhaps not so great at the routine plays, but he ranks well in plays considered more difficult. I'd say he passes the eye test. I think Moose has the defense tool covered. Since he plays third, it's probably a safe assumption to say he's got the arm tool covered. He can throw across the diamond just fine, especially since he's throwing to bestie Eric Hosmer. That's two tools of the five covered.

One tool Moustakas doesn't have is speed. If you mistake Moustakas as a base stealer, you'd be sorely mistaken. He doesn't have a great career value for runs through baserunning. It's negative. He doesn't have this tool. Still at two of the five tools.

You'd think if Moose had the hit tool, he'd hit better. He hasn't hit better until now, and now consists of 34 plate appearances and another handful of postseason appearances. Then again, for a power hitter, Moose has never really struck out much. His strikeout rate also happens to be decreasing. The hit tool is more complicated than just the ability to make contact, though. So complicated that it took Kiley McDaniel at FanGraphs 6 articles to explain it. So, Moustakas still has only two of the five covered, but he is maybe improving at one - two and a half of five tools.

The tool Moustakas has always possessed in spades is power. Three and a half of five tools with this guy, but he's got what they (scouts, writers, whoever) might call "plus power"*. His power tool is quite powerful--Moose hit 36 home runs across two minor league levels in 2010. 36 home runs also happens to be the single-season record for the Royals**.

*And also plus power.

**My local pizza place has trivia cards made before Steve Balboni's 36 HR season. The answer to "Who holds the Royals single-season HR record?" was Bob Oliver, if I remember correctly. Oliver had 27 HR in 1970. John Mayberry hit 34 HR in 1975, so the trivia cards were made after 1970 but before 1975.

Because of the lackluster hit tool, Moustakas' power tool is harder to access. It's like hiding your power drill behind the 17 screwdrivers and 36-piece wrench set. You can't get to the power tool unless you have control over the hit tool. This is perhaps why Moustakas hasn't matched his minor league power output. With a maybe-improving hit tool comes more opportunities to access the power tool. That tool was accessed last Saturday. That tool is polished and ready.

This was a no doubt home run acknowledged by the broadcasters. The one guy even obliged me by saying that Moustakas "hammered" the pitch. Are you tired of tools yet?

The broadcast also obliged viewers by showing a side view of Moustakas' majestidong. That side view is presented below in GIFustration. The broadcaster doodled on Moose's elbow for awhile, so that's included because they froze the shot for a bit. He was saying something about his elbow being in a great position for power. I don't doubt that, but I'm going to talk about something else.

Moustakas HR

I'm no hitting mechanics expert, but I've expended some effort to read up on the various things to do when swinging. I also have written before about Moustakas' mechanics. In the piece I linked, I noticed that Moustakas seemed to fly open early (on one swing), rotating his hips and upper body out of sync enough that his timing looked disrupted and his power sapped (on one swing). In the embedded HR above, Moose looked much more in sync. As you saw, Moustakas hit the ball a very long way over a very tall fence.

Jeff Sullivan noted Moustakas' front foot was getting quieter over time when he wrote about Moose's oppodong; indeed, in the piece I linked to above, Moose had a larger leg kick. In the embedded home run in this article, Moose has a very quiet front foot step. Better timing should theoretically lead to a better ability to make solid contact. Perhaps this new front foot activity helps Moose's timing.

One thing that's easier to see from the side view is how Moose uses his back leg. Watch his back hip. Moose is very strongly driving toward the ball with his back leg, which is a good thing to do. Power comes from the legs. He looks balanced. He did not look very balanced when I analyzed him in the article I wrote earlier.

It is this power tool that drives Moose's repeated chances at major league success. Even a mediocre hit tool would allow Moose to tap into his power at a decent-enough rate. A powerful guy who plays good defense at a (relatively) difficult position will get plenty of chances. Perhaps this season we will finally see Moustakas turn the corner to show us his prodigious collection of power tools.

Or perhaps he'll just throw a wrench into the whole thing.