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Fantasy Roundup: Brandon Moss’ Decline

After the Jon Lester-Yoenis Cespedes I said I liked the deal for the A’s because Jason Hammel forgot how to get outs and the A’s offense would be able to replace Cespedes’ offensive output in the aggregate. Since the trade the A’s offense has not been very good; they are 22nd in wOBA and 24th in OPS, which is steep decline considering how good the offense was prior. The A’s have struggled to score runs and I’m not pinning this on one player because a lot of players have struggled too, but I’m singling Brandon Moss out because he was the A’s first half MVP and largely responsible for the great numbers the offense put up.

Simply put, Moss has been really bad since July began (numbers below).

Time AVG WHAV BABIP K% BB% Chase% WHIFF% GB% FB%
April-June .268 .277 .302 23.1% 10.2% 32.9 27.6 31.1 49.0
July-August .212 .169 .282 30.2% 11.9% 30.5 29.2 33.5 38.5

Moss has seen his production decline greatly since the start of July

Note: Small sample size caveat applies to all subsequent analysis.

The first number that stands out is the well-hit average (WHAV), which is down more than 100 points. If you’ve never seen WHAV before it’s basically a numerical representation of how much hard contact a hitter makes. Any time I see a dramatic decrease (especially from a power hitter) I’m always concerned.

The second number that stands out is the strikeout rate spike; it’s seven percentage points higher. Whats odd is the chase and whiff (swing and miss) rates are almost identical. This suggests he’s being pitched to differently and is striking out looking (on pitches in the strike zone), which indicates he’s not picking up the pitch out of the pitcher’s hand. The table below provides a breakdown of the types of pitches he’s seeing (data source: BrooksBaseball.net).

Time Hard Breaking Offspeed
April-June 58.4% 20.4% 20.5%
July-August 51.5% 25.5% 22.4%

Since the start of July he’s been seeing far fewer fastballs, which makes sense considering he’s striking out looking more. The next question is how well has he performed against non-fastballs?

Time AVG WHAV BABIP K% BB% Chase% WHIFF% GB% FB%
2012 .269 .224 .351 37.8 2.0 38.2 39.0 32.3 44.6
2013 .271 .254 .336 30.9 7.2 41.5 36.8 32.2 45.3
April-June .256 .213 .290 23.6 4.9 39.7 35.2 34.3 47.2
July-August .146 .163 .220 35.6 6.7 32.1 35.8 43.4 31.0

Before pulling the data I thought Moss would have extremely poor historical numbers against non-fastballs, but he’s actually performed fairly well considering his approach at the plate. The .220 BABIP suggests there is room for improvement, but the strikeout spike and the lowered chase rate suggests he’s taking breaking balls in the strike zone. Also, the ground ball rate suggests when he does make contact he’s rolling over on a lot of balls. It’s also possible he’s making hard contact, but he’s hitting into the shift.

There are two ways to interpret the data. You could be optimistic and believe if he changes his approach to look for more breaking pitches in two strike counts he could easily rebound. On the other side of the coin you could believe pitchers are finally exploiting a big hole in his approach and it’s going to take longer for him to make adjustments. Since the A’s are a very smart organization I’m sure someone in their front office and/or coaching staff has given Moss this information, which gives me hope he can climb out of this six week slump.

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About the author: I write a daily column for Baseball Professor called the Fantasy Roundup. You can also find my writing at Through the Fence Baseball and MattCommins.com.

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