It's difficult to hear Brandon Moss' 2013 season discussed without the dreaded "r" word creeping in. That word, fortunately, is not "rheumatoid arthritis," nor is it "run over by Colon". It is, however, "regression," which is what happens when you irresponsibly come out of nowhere to post a line of .291/.358/.596, HR once every 12.6 ABs, and refuse even to play terrible defense. I, at least, have the good sense to come out of somewhere, but we're not here to talk about me, we're here to talk about Brandon Moss.
First of all, Moss has one glaring flaw and it's that he really should have been named Pete. But for this we must blame his parents -- plus with the free agency of McCarthy, the likely non-signing of Inge, and the trade of Hicks, the A's are suddenly dangerously low on Brandons, something I would like to think Moss' parents anticipated when they chose their son's name.
In any event, fans and skeptics alike are probably in full agreement that Godot will knock on the door before Moss hits .291 again or posts an OPS of .954. The question, really, is whether a player coming off an extreme career year must necessarily plummet rather than just regress, or whether he might be able to put up a "worse line" that would make many non-Brandons jealous, e.g., "only put up an OPS of .870".
One can dream and say the secret of Moss' success lies in his open stance, and then surmise that unless he forgets how to position his feet he might pick up roughly where he left off in 2012. But for every analyst who predicts comparable success, probably three will predict epic crash. Let's face it: baseball-reference.com isn't littered with players who figured it out at age 28 and never looked back, but it is replete with players who had a magical season on their way to another "r" word: "relative obscurity"."Replete, you say? What are you, hard of hearing??"
Understanding that "analysis" is a code word for "wild guess by someone who gets to write on the internet," here's my analysis of what we should expect from Moss in 2013...
- I think one of the most reliable areas where we can expect some serious regression is in Moss' batting average. I actually do see Moss as somewhat of a "high BABIP guy" in that when he hits the ball he really tends to smoke it, but overall he is just not your prototypical "high average hitter" -- he's always going to strike out a lot, he's a fly ball hitter, and really it should not surprise us if he bats .230-.250 even if he sustains success in other areas of his game.
- In contrast, I tend to think to think that the power is real. If given 500 ABs, Moss is going to run into a lot of balls and a lot of OFers are "just gonna watch..." Just as you can expect perhaps a low BA even in a good year, I think you can expect a high HR total even in a bad year. It's hard for me to imagine Moss getting 500 ABs and not hitting 25+ HRs, and I don't see 30+ HRs as any sort of a stretch. The guy has a beautiful swing and he is strong. He just needs to maintain the "actually hit the ball thingy" part enough and if nothing else, he'll run into a couple dozen mistakes.
- In the ever-evolving and ever-crucial cat and mouse game of "adjust and adjust back" between pitchers and hitters, Moss got the best of it in 2012, and as pitchers find and exploit his weaknesses in 2013 I suspect Moss will strike out an awful lot -- enough to keep the "r" word alive and well in the keyboards of his critics, and enough to suppress his BA substantially.
- What I'm least sure about (as if I'm sure about any of the above) is Moss' BB-rate. Some of it may depend on how big a power threat he is and how carefully he is subsequently worked, and some may depend on how often he finds himself hitting 2-1 or 1-2. I don't think he's ever going to walk a ton, but I also saw enough plate discipline and skill last season to think he can keep his OBP above water.
So what is a likely 2013 line for Moss, to go with probably slightly improving defense at a relatively unfamiliar position? Perhaps it's a line of around .240/.320/.500 with 28 HRs and 200 Ks? That's substantial regression, yet it is also a really solid piece of the lineup. Which is to say that Moss could, and probably will, regress a lot next year -- but he might also be a strength of the 2013 team. He has that much wiggle room thanks to a truly phenomenal 2012 1/2 season. Your thoughts?