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The new look Mike Moustakas

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Examining some of the early changes and returns.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

This is a fun Mike Moustakas. After Monday nights game (13 total) Moustakas has been worth 0.6 fWAR. In 2014, Moustakas was worth 0.7 fWAR the entire season (140 games). his 150 wRC+ puts him in the top quartile of qualified hitters, while that 0.6 fWAR is good for being tied at 17th overall in the league. Moustakas is in or near the sweet spot of the classic aging curve so maybe this the break out we've all been told is coming for years. We can't just accept that answer, but we can look and see what has changed.

The first thing I look for for what's fueling a hitters new results is the plate discipline profile. Moustakas never had any crazy plate discipline oddities (like say Sal Perez's O-Swing/O-Contact%), but things have changed for him in 2015.

Season O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
2011 35.2% 68.2% 49.4% 76.8% 91.4% 85.5% 43.0% 59.7% 7.1%
2012 37.6% 66.7% 49.7% 66.2% 87.1% 77.9% 41.6% 54.1% 10.8%
2013 35.0% 69.8% 49.3% 73.4% 88.3% 82.1% 41.2% 58.2% 8.7%
2014 33.8% 69.2% 48.8% 79.7% 87.5% 84.3% 42.4% 52.6% 7.5%
11-'14 Avg 35.5% 68.4% 49.3% 73.2% 88.3% 82.0% 41.9% 55.8% 8.8%
2015 30.7% 64.7% 46.2% 74.2% 96.4% 88.4% 45.7% 55.0% 4.2%

Moustakas early on has seen a big difference in some of his plate discipline numbers. Maybe it's better viewed this way (even though it's a little more complex)

O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
Std Dev 1.6% 1.4% .04% 5.8% 1.9% 3.3% 0.8% 3.3% 1.7%
11-'14 Avg 35.5% 68.4% 49.3% 73.2% 88.3% 82.0% 41.9% 55.8% 8.8%
2015 30.7% 64.7% 46.2% 74.2% 96.4% 88.4% 45.7% 55.0% 4.2%
Difference 4.8% 3.7% 3.1% -1.0% -8.1% -6.4% -3.8% 0.8% 4.6%
Z-Score -3.000 -2.643 -7.75 -0.172 4.263 1.939 4.750 -0.242 -2.706

The top row is the standard deviation (or volatility) of each metric from 2011-2014 (generally all results in a normal distribution lay within 3 standard deviations else it is an outlier). Follow is the 2011-2014 average of the metrics, then his 2015 metrics, and of course the fourth row is the difference between the two. The final row is the number of standard deviations that 2015 is different from '11-'14 (otherwise known as a Z-Score).

As you can tell by the Z-Scores, there are a lot of big changes. First, he's swinging at 5% less outside pitches (pushing the boundary of an outlier) and he's swinging at 3.7% less pitches in the zone (still 2.6 standard deviations from the average). The big change is in his swing percentage overall as the difference is nearly 8 standard deviations from what he had previously done. Even though it isn't as drastic of a change as his overall swing%, the most important two seem to be the Z-Contact% in tandem with the Zone%. Pitchers are throwing Moustakas a lot more pitches in the zone than previously, and he's making a ton more contact on those opportunities.

Tough to see any noticeable change there, especially since 2015 is too scattered, but it kind of looks like they've been pitching him inside more each year. The numbers also back this up:

Year Inside Pitch%
2011 29.47%
2012 29.91%
2013 28.9%
2014 33.39%
2015 39.63%

Pitchers have been pitching him inside slightly more than 10% this year over his rookie year and the results have been better too.

Year Inside Pitch% Batting Avg K%
2011 29.47 0.233 19.4%
2012 29.91 0.152 26.2%
2013 28.9 0.167 21.8%
2014 33.39 0.146 22.8%
2015 39.63 0.214 10.0%

One glaring flaw though is Moustakas' continuing to hit a large amount of infield fly balls.

Season IFFB%
2011 21.00%
2012 17.60%
2013 16.60%
2014 15.10%
2015 38.10%

Like all the other numbers, it's still early in the season, and some regression is likely to come here, but Moose has more than doubled his IFFB% this year so far. Moustakas has generally fallen into the top 5 highest IFFB% leaders every year. This in turn has hurt his BABIP (IFFB are basically always outs).

His BABIP isn't necessarily insane right now. It currently stands at .302 (which is almost exactly league average), but it is 41 points above his career BABIP of .261. His new more high contact approach would certainly lead to a higher BABIP so if contact sticks then the BABIP injection should stay too as he's putting more balls in play (unless they are home runs of course, which we'll still take).

Of course the big change with Moustakas that's been talked about this year is his attempt to go the other way with pitches.

Moustakas has almost twice as many hits in 2015 to the left side of the field than the right, which is spot on with the narrative.

There's no guarantee that Moustakas will continue to hit the way he has. Actually, history shows that it's certainly unlikely that he will continue to hit this way given his previous track record unless there is a true change and not just a small sample size.