One morning, this past spring, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and I stood around the Royals’ clubhouse in Surprise, Ariz., talking about pitchers’ release points and seeing the ball out of a pitcher’s hand — which should give you some idea of just how exciting spring training can be.
Even though they’re both left-handed hitters, Mike pointed out that he’s 6 feet tall and Eric’s 6-4. Because they have different points of view, Mike might find a pitcher’s release point easy to see and Eric might have trouble picking up the ball out of the same pitcher’s hand.
The same thing happens with ballparks.
Because hitters’ height, stance or position in the box differ, some players see the ball well when playing in a certain park and other players might struggle in the same stadium. And if a player is looking at multiple offers, he might want to play his home games in a park where he sees the ball well.
Take Brandon Moss, for instance.
Brandon says he sees the ball really well in Kauffman Stadium and his numbers bear that out. When playing in Kauffman, Moss has hit .272 and slugged .533. It’s one of the reasons Brandon wanted to come here, he knew he saw the ball well and played well in Kauffman Stadium.
Moustakas at home
Certain players like to play in certain parks, so we’re taking a look at the Royals four free-agent position players and the parks that favor their style of play. Today, we’ll talk about Mike Moustakas.
Mike’s overall career numbers are: .251 batting average, .305 on-base percentage and .425 slugging percentage. When playing in Kauffman Stadium those numbers are: .253/.311/.419.
Moustakas on the road
Assuming I transcribed the numbers off Baseball Reference correctly, here are some of the parks where Mike has had at least 50 plate appearances and performed well:
▪ Busch Stadium (St. Louis): .385/.448/.481
▪ Progressive Field (Cleveland): .283/.338/.466
▪ Rogers Centre (Toronto): .302/.324/.508
▪ Target Field (Minnesota): .283/.332/.473
Depending on how you define playing well or how many plate appearances you think constitutes a good sample size, other parks might have made the list, but these are the ones I went with.
Parks with short right-field porches
Think left-handed power hitter and you’d probably assume that guy would perform well in a park with a short right-field porch. But here are three parks with relatively short right-field porches — at least compared to Kauffman — and the numbers Moustakas has put up there:
▪ Camden Yards (Baltimore): .217/.250/.464
▪ Minute Maid Park (Houston): .194/.239/.358
▪ Yankee Stadium (New York): .175/.200/.404
Hitters will tell you when they come to the plate with a short porch to aim for, it’s hard to get that short porch out of their minds and pitchers can take advantage of that. If a pitcher knows a left-handed hitter is trying to pull the ball, it can simplify the pitcher’s job.
Pitch the left-handed hitter on the outside part of the plate, let him try to jerk the ball to the right side of the field and he’s likely to hit a rollover grounder. It’s the same principle behind all the left-handed shifts we see.
Playing in your own backyard
Mike’s from Southern California and there’s been speculation that, should he get an offer, he might choose to play for a Southern California team.
Some players enjoy playing in their hometown; others find it a distraction.
Every time a third cousin or former high school classmate wants to go to a ballgame, they call up wanting to know if they can get tickets. And sometimes playing in front of his family and friends can put extra pressure on a player and if a player responds to that pressure by trying harder, the results are rarely good.
Here are Mike’s numbers when playing in Angel Stadium: .224/.313/.400.
Once again: the ballpark is just one factor
If Mike Moustakas faced Clayton Kershaw in Dodger Stadium and me in a Walmart parking lot, I’m guessing it would look like Moustakas liked hitting in Walmart parking lots.
Just as we did with the piece on Eric Hosmer, we’ve focused on ballparks and ignored almost every other factor that affects a player’s performance. Ballparks aren’t the only thing that matters, but they do matter, so we’ll do the same thing later this week when I write about Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain.
Until then, enjoy the playoff games.