During this part of the year baseball fans are trying to figure out which struggling players are lost, and which are simply unlucky. The easiest way for people to quickly determine how lucky or unlucky a player has been is by using the BABIP (Batting Average Balls in Play) metric. While some people will maintain a higher BABIP based on line drive rate or speed, the average BABIP is right around .300 around the majors.
I wanted to see how LD% and IFF% (infield fly percentage) affected BABIP, so I took players in the top and bottom 30 players in MLB for both K% and IFF% from 2012. That left me with a list of 91 players. I found the K%, IFF%, BABIP, LD%, K%+IFF% and LD%-IFF% for each player during 2012, thus far in 2013, and for their respective careers. It was not the most shocking revelation to find a correlation between BABIP and LD%-IFF%. Of the top 20 LD%-IFF% of this sample the average BABIP was .337. Of the lowest twenty of the same stat from this sample the average BABIP was .291. It helped me understand the Chris Davis breakout a bit more, as his miniscule pop out rate helps hide his above average K rate, and at the same time his line drive rate looks better compared to how few pop outs he commits (hence his .343 career BABIP). It also provided more reason to me how players like Derek Jeter, Shin-shoo Choo and Dexter Fowler are able to maintain career BABIPS over .350.
This was a nice way to spend a few hours of my night, but how does it pertain to Mike Moustakas? Well, if there was a loser from this experiment in numbers it was Moose. Moose has the third highest IFF% of anyone since 2011 (only Brendan Ryan and Chris Young are worse). Of the players sampled in my sample, only the unquestionably disappointing Justin Smoak has a lower career BABIP of .262 compared to Moustakas’ at .267. In fact, that .267 mark is 16th worst in the majors since 2011. That is obviously quite a bit better than his .190 mark thus far this season, but still well below league average. In terms of his LD%-IFF% Moustakas was the only player sampled to have a career IFF% higher than his career FB%. He was one of only three major leaguers this season with a negative LD%-IFF% (the struggling B.J. Upton and Josh Willingham being the other two).
This is not a good sign for Moustakas, and even though his IFF% is down a percent from 2012 (17.6 to 16.7), his LD% is down about 3.5% to a puny 12.8%. Simply put, Moustakas is not making good contact right now. That being said, he is making contact. Moustakas has the 28th best K% in the league at 13.7 percent. But with his IFF% of 16.7 he is getting out on the K or pop out over 30% of the time. As far as I’m concerned a pop up is as bad as a strike out, and with this massive pop out rate he is in the top third in the league in K%+IFF%; higher than strike out guys like Jason Kipnis, Dexter Fowler, Alfonso Soriano and Austin Jackson.
These figures combined with Moustakas’ declining ISO means that there is very little that Moustakas is doing right at the plate right now. The only positive I see is his low strike out rate, but even that has a chance to regress as the year rolls on. The infield flies and coupled with not hitting the ball with any authority gives me pause that we will see much improvement in 2013. My previous two paragraphs were admittedly somewhat jumbled, but I think that these stats have painted a picture as to what is wrong with Moose. His lack of both speed and line drives, along with his career long problem of hitting pop ups in the infield is going to continue to kill his average. His power has seemed to have left him with only four long balls, while on defense Moustakas has a positive UZR, but his seven errors have add to the struggles. Mike Moustakas may well be the 2015 version of Domonic Brown, but as of right now Moustakas seems lost, and it sure looks like he is a long ways away from being the player Royal fan’s expect him to be.