The strikeout rate of Brandon Moss

Brandon Moss is currently tied for eleventh on the Fangraphs.com leaderboard for 2014. He is having a terrific season and all of his value is for his offense. While his defense and base running seem to have improved, it is his offense that has taken a dramatic step forward. And one of the things driving that success is a drastically reduced strikeout rate.

Moss is a left-handed batter who flailed against left-handed pitching in the past. He batted .200 last year against them last year with a 43% strikeout rate. This year, he is killing lefties with an OPS over 1.1 and has cut that strikeout rate down to 27.8%. That’s still high, but he has also cut down his strikeout rate against right-handed hurlers.

Last year, Moss struck out 27.8% of the time against right-handed batters. This year, that figure is down to 16.9%. The two improvements against both handed pitchers drops his overall strikeout rate from 30.4% in 2012 and 27.7% last year to just 19.6% this year.

Along with the lowering of his strikeouts have come a corresponding increase in his walk percentage from 8.8% two years ago to 9.9% last year to 10.1% this year. How is he doing it?

Brandon Moss has been around for eight years now. He is only now coming into his own. And you can see an odd progression and regression back to progression in his numbers over the years. When he first came up with Boston and then after his trade to the Pirates, he had decent plate discipline and his contact percentage was manageable.

Then he went to the Phillies in 2011 and that team nearly wrecked him. Suddenly, he was swinging at everything (over 50% of pitches outside the strike zone!) and not making contact. In that year in Philadelphia, his contact percentage fell all the way to 58.4%. That is bloody awful.

The A’s picked him up as a free agent after the 2011 season and he has seen slight improvement in his discipline but not a full recovery to his early days. Meanwhile, his power suddenly spiked and his ISO went to new levels.

It wasn’t until this year that he has gotten his swinging ways under control and his contact percentage back up and still maintain his power numbers.

Brandon Moss’ O-swing rate, or swing rate of pitches out of the strike zone is down to 28.7% according to PitchF/X, his lowest rate since his 2010 season with the Pirates and the first time under 30% since that year.

Correspondingly, his contact rate and his swing and miss rate have improved to points from earlier in his career. Did he just develop bad habits in Philadelphia or did that coaching staff do him a great disservice? It’s hard to say. What is known is that the A’s have once again picked a diamond in the rough and buffed it up until it shines.

Moss has driven in 42 runs in his 50 games, has a wOBA of .410 and a wRC+ of 166. His .971 OPS put him in elite company and makes him the ninth best offensive player in baseball at this moment. The taming of his strikeout rate has played a big part in his overall success and as we have seen, is something that he had in him since his early days in the Big Leagues.

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