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Worrying about Brandon Moss’s power, for some reason

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STOP THROWING ME CHANGEUPS
STOP THROWING ME CHANGEUPS
Scott Cunningham

Brandon Moss is in a well-publicized slump. We all know it, and, since he’s essentially one of the two or three absolute cornerstones of the offense, this is a huge problem. But the method in which he is slumping is both bizarre and maybe kind of disconcerting.

In August, he’s hitting .205/.375/.250, which is the most anti-Brandon Moss batting line, ever. Everrrrrrr. That’s the type of batting line you’d expect Billy Burns to have upon his call up. It’s almost absurd. Obviously, a .045 Isolated Slugging isn’t going to persist for a guy with a top-five ISO. He also hasn’t hit a dinger in August, and this is a guy who’s mostly expected to hit dingers.

Obviously he’ll pull out of it — he’s too good of a hitter to stay in it. But it’s fascinating to see how pitchers have started to pitch to him.

Here’s a list of the top percentages of changeups seen in baseball in August:

1. Brandon Moss: 27.4%

2. Kendrys Morales 23.2%

3. Freddie Freeman 21.4%

4. Victor Martinez 18.9%

5. Josh Donaldson 18.8%

Brandon Moss is seeing an absolutely absurd amount of changeups this month. For context, no qualified hitter in baseball has seen more than 21% changeups in any given month this year. 27.4% is ridiculous. It’s absurd. It’s unheard of.

Of course, the fact that Josh Donaldson is also in the ranking suggests that the A's have hit a run of changeup pitchers. That still doesn't explain that incredible 10% gulf between the two, however. Brandon Moss is being specifically pitched a certain way lately.

Why are pitchers doing this? Here’s a list of the worst hitters in baseball in 2014 versus the changeup:

1. Jason Kipnis: -7.4 Runs Created

2. Nick Castellanos: -6.9

3. Chase Headley: -6.3

4. Brandon Moss: -6.2

5. Casey McGehee: -6.1

Pitchers are smart — if Brandon Moss has a weakness to changeups, he’ll be fed a sustained diet of changeups. Vice versa, if a hitter absolutely crushes fastballs, he won’t get any fastballs to crush. And, lo and behold, over the past 30 days no one in baseball has seen fewer fastballs than Brandon Moss, with a whopping 43.7%.

So, pitchers have figured out that Brandon Moss has a vulnerability to the changeup, and they don’t really need to give him any fastballs at all. What does this mean for his season going forward? Well, let’s look at a similar case: Josh Donaldson’s June Swoon.

JD had serious, serious problems against the slider in June. Here are the top 5 slider percentages in baseball in June 2014:

1. Andrew McCutchen: 27.3%

2. Carlos Gomez: 25.7%

3. Alex Rios: : 25.7%

4. Josh Donaldson: 25.4%

5. Aaron Hill: 24.2%

Here were the worst two hitters in baseball versus the slider. I’m not going to include the other three of the top five because that’s really not necessary — I’m only including the second worst for context.

1. Josh Donaldson: -7.1

2. Nelson Cruz: -3.9

I feel like I should attach like, a horror movie soundtrack to that number. GIFs of people screaming and/or weeping. Those numbers were not good. Absolutely ridiculously not good. I feel like I'm using a lot of superlatives here, but I've never seen a batter quite so awful versus a pitch before.

But these are major league hitters, and  major league hitters make adjustments. He managed to rebound to 0.8 Runs Created the next month against them while still seeing an above average amount.

So, what does this all mean? Brandon Moss is absolutely hopeless against the changeup right now, swinging through them and pounding them into the ground. However, his career numbers have him as a mostly neutral hitter. Meaning, this isn’t some latent weakness or a swing flaw, this is Brandon Moss out of sync and in need of an adjustment.

The old saying goes that "Baseball is a game of adjustments". Pitchers are making an adjustment to Brandon Moss, and Brandon Moss hasn’t re-adjusted. He will, because he’s too good of a hitter not to. Josh Donaldson faced the same thing in June, and he is the most productive player on the team right now and top 5 in baseball.

Brandon Moss will be fine. But he’s also bad right now. Such is life.