The last time Mike Moustakas was in a home run derby he hit against Roger Clemens and, well, wait a quick minute. That can’t be right. Let’s try this again.
The last time Mike Moustakas was in a home run derby he hit against Roger Clemens and, c’mon — Is that right?
“Yeah, Roger Clemens,” Moustakas said. “That was a tough one for the boys. It didn’t go well, I’ll tell you that.”
To explain, quickly: this was in Class A ball, and Clemens’ son was competing, so his old man served as everyone’s pitcher. Moustakas laughs at the memory, saying Clemens wasn’t trying to get anyone out, it’s just what must have come naturally to him.
This, you will understand, was much different.
Moustakas was in MLB’s Home Run Derby, perhaps the signature event during All-Star week, in a full Marlins Park and in front of a national television audience Monday night. He got to pick his own pitcher this time, so Moustakas chose Mike Tosar, a former college second baseman who now works with professionals and is known locally for a reliably straight four-seamer.
“That was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done,” Moustakas said. “Adrenaline was building, everything, the whole time. Lot of fun. Cool to be out there, cool to hear the fans, everything about it.”
He lost to the Twins’ Miguel Sano 11-10 in the first round, the first man eliminated in a format that gives hitters four minutes to swing with one timeout and some bonus time based on long home runs.
Sano went first, and Moustakas hit his 10th homer with about 45 seconds left. He couldn’t get the 11th, tossing his bat and catching it in a bit of frustration after the horn blew.
It looked like four or five seconds ran off after he called a timeout about halfway through his round. Nobody can know whether that would’ve made a difference, obviously.
But combined with Sano earning bonus time that Moustakas didn’t, it meant he lost to a man who had significantly more swings.
Whether he noticed or not, Moustakas didn’t appear bothered when asked about it.
“It’s all good, man,” he said. “It was fun, regardless of the outcome. I had a great time. No matter what happened, it was great.”
Moustakas had said his strategy was to “swing for the fences,” which is typical of his preference to keep things as simple as possible.
One interesting thing about his showing, though: he seemed to hit more line drives than most of the other contestants.
Moustakas has 25 homers — already a career high, the most ever by a Royals player before the All-Star break, and on pace for around 47. The explanation is complicated, and nuanced, involving as much the approach as the swing.
But the swing is different, too: more compact, quick, powerful, and built with a clear desire to get the ball in the air.
“Find the outfield grass, that’s what me and Dale (Sveum, the Royals’ hitting coach) always talk about,” Moustakas said. “For a guy like me, if it’s a grounder to the right side, that’s usually a timeout.”
This will all play out, and there is reason to believe that the idea of sluggers slumping after the derby is either a myth or logically explained by regression to the mean.
But if you’re a Royals fan and worried about that, maybe the line drives can ease your mind. Because it did not appear that Moustakas changed his swing much for the derby.
After all, what he does the rest of the season is far more important than an exhibition event.
Even if it was nice to swing off someone other than Clemens.