Opinion

Ask Andy: What happened to Mike Moustakas’ power?

Kansas City Royals Mike Moustakas runs to first base after hitting an RBI-single off Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber in the seventh inning of a baseball game, Monday, April 27, 2015, in Cleveland. Jarrod Dyson scored on the play. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Kansas City Royals Mike Moustakas runs to first base after hitting an RBI-single off Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber in the seventh inning of a baseball game, Monday, April 27, 2015, in Cleveland. Jarrod Dyson scored on the play. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) AP

The Royals have stumbled into June, but the readers of The Kansas City Star have not. Welcome back to our weekly question-and-answer session, where we discuss all things Royals and all things besides the Royals. Let’s get to it.

Power is useless if you can’t access it. The approach Mike Moustakas had as a hitter — hunt for mistakes, try to pull home runs — was not successful in the major leagues. He entered 2015 with a .668 on-base plus slugging percentage and a .379 slugging percentage. So while he still possessed power, it was clear he was unable to use it against big-league pitchers.

So he altered his strategy. He is trying to hit the baseball to left field, rather than right, in hopes of disabling the infield shift.

His new approach does appear to net more singles than extra-base hits. He also is having, by far, the best season of his career. He has an .840 OPS, well above his .684 career mark. And he’s already hit five home runs, which puts him on pace for 16. With his new philosophy, Moustakas may never hit 35 homers in a season, as the Royals once hoped he could. But he can still be an excellent player – if, of course, he can maintain this production.

A better question is if Moustakas’ hitting is sustainable. He has a .344 batting average on balls in play, 76 points above his career average. He is hitting line drives at a 21.3 percent rate, which is around his career average. He is hitting .210 over his last 11 games with only two extra-base hits.

Based on his projections, plus the opinions of Royals officials and rival talent evaluators, I figured Kendrys Morales would post somewhere around a .750 on-base plus slugging percentage in 2015. He would be an above-average hitter and a clear upgrade over the version of Billy Butler who played for the Royals from last season.

Morales has been better than that. Entering Friday he is hitting .303/.363/.482, good for an .845 OPS. So he has outpaced his career slash of .273/.327/.461 (.788 OPS). He may regress back to his average as the summer continues. But so far he looks like a good value for a player on a two-year, $17 million contract.

During the spring I talked to Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik about Morales. Morales was a productive hitter for the Mariners in 2013, and they made him a long-term offer after that season. Morales rejected the offer, rejected a qualifying offer and entered the purgatory of free agency. After Morales signed with Minnesota last summer, the Mariners traded for him again, only to see Morales continue to struggle.

Even after all that, Zduriencik had good things to say about Morales. He expected a revival from Morales in 2015.

“I wouldn’t put a lot of stock into last year,” Zduriencik said. “I would have no idea what it’s like to sit out like he did and try to come back without spring training, and try to accelerate everything like he did. When we got him, we thought that having had his break-in in Minnesota, he would be ready to hit the ground running with us.

“But it was just one of those years where he didn’t really get his feet on the ground. And there’s a lot of reasons for it: The mental stress of sitting out. The changes, again, his third team in a year. That’s not easy to do. But more than anything else it’s just not having the preparation of knowing where you’re going to be in the winter, having your spring training, hitting the ground running with everybody. I thought he was at a disadvantage.”

Dyson played a good amount when Alex Rios was on the disabled list. He did not produce.

He has a .551 OPS, 100 points below his OPS in 2014 and 99 points below his career average. His inability to bunt continues to vexes team officials, as Dyson is unable to access his speed at the plate. After swiping 100 bases from 2012 to 2014, Dyson has stolen only five this season. Given the team’s faith in Rios’ outfield defense, Dyson is not even playing as a defensive replacement like he did last year.

Dyson was a vital, valuable contributor to the Royals in 2014. FanGraphs even deemed him worth 3.1 wins above replacement, tied with catcher Salvador Perez in fourth place among the position players. But he has been an afterthought this season. Dyson is making $1.23 million in arbitration. If he continues to warm the bench all summer, it will be interesting to see if the club tenders him a contract for 2016.

Your options look like:

1. Road trip to Kansas City.

2. eBay.

One involves driving/flying many miles. The other involves bidding against random people in exchange for the rights to an item you may some day receive.

Good luck.

I answered these questions in a story earlier this week. I enjoyed your usage of “reportedly.”

Snapple is better than Lipton. Arizona just feels unhealthy (this is an unscientific argument). The best choice, of course, would be Wawa ice tea. That stuff is delicious. I miss Wawa so much.

For me, Joe is a better worker and a better promo. Owens can talk, and he’s proven that throughout his career, but he looks slightly over his skis trying to handle the massive crowds on Raw. Joe has more polish in front of the audiences that aren’t bingo halls.

That said, Owens is already up and in the WWE system. He already beat John Cena. He is already somewhat over. So he’s more likely to succeed, only because Joe hasn’t done those things yet. It is unclear if WWE knows what they have in Joe, which is essentially a monster heel better than everyone on their main roster except for Seth Rollins.

These are not my seven favorite things, but these are definitely seven things I enjoy:

1. “The Fight” by Norman Mailer.

2. The bridge in “A Letter To Elise.”

3. The photography of John Sleezer.

4. Outtakes from Orson Welles’ champagne commercials.

5. The dueling guitars in “Lay Low.”

6. Marcel Luske singing Supertramp at the poker table.

7. The Tonkatsu Curry Ramen at Masu Robata in Minneapolis.

Sometimes the “deconstructed” motif does yield a better song. A few examples: The Wonder Years’ “Logan Circle — A New Hope” or the repurposed tracks off the last Dangerous Summer record, like “Catholic Girls (Revisited).” The last Manchester Orchestra record was a faceless melange of alt-rock riffs, but the acoustic version actually revealed some nuances that I enjoyed.

But, ah, “Deconstructed.” I actually like Bush! They played the first concert I ever went to, the Y100 holiday show in 2001, with Blink-182 and, I think, Lit. Nickelback was there, too. They were not that good.

Anyway, I like Bush, despite all the reasons people hate Bush, because they actually wrote some good songs. This album, though, is beyond irredeemable, and it makes me wonder about the 1990s. Rolling Stone gave this record three stars, and it’s worthwhile to point out that Rolling Stone gave “Thriller” four stars.

The remixes 86 all the likable things about Bush, mostly jagged, massive guitar work, and replace them with either synths or silence. The focus shifts onto Gavin Rossdale’s lyricism, which is regrettable (both his lyrics and the artistic decision to focus on them wherein).

My hope is that at some point in 1997, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons threw out a hard drive that featured all the breakbeats that didn’t make the cut for “Dig Your Own Hole.” Rossdale must have found this computer lying somewhere in an alley in Manchester. Thinking “matter cannot be created or destroyed,” he decided to inspect the hard drive, found all this garbage music and opted to arrange the tracks with Bush singles. Any other explanation for this record is insufficient.

I cannot believe I spent about two hours of my life listening to this record, researching it and writing about my impressions of it. The Internet is weird and terrifying. But it’s much better than “Deconstructed.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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