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Moustakas rediscovering enjoyment along with swing

After demotion, mechanical tweaks, KC slugger growing comfortable, seeing results

Moustakas rediscovering enjoyment along with swing play video for Moustakas rediscovering enjoyment along with swing

It took nearly four months, and 100 games, but the "Mooooose" chant finally got its legs back on Friday.

When Mike Moustakas tattooed a home run off the back of the visiting bullpen versus the Indians, the Kauffman Stadium faithful responded with its patented elongated "Moose" chant.

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The prolonged adulation seemed forced at junctures this year -- less revering of Moustakas, and more desperate encouragement for the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft to end his season-long funk.

It felt different this time -- rejuvenated -- similar to the prospectus on Moustakas' year.

The home run bumped Moustakas' average to .202, the first time he had crept above the Mendoza Line this season (he's since fallen back to .195 as of Sunday).

While that's hardly a celebratory achievement, it means something considering Moustakas' low points in 2014. 

A May 22 demotion served as rock bottom for Kansas City's third baseman. Four years into his much-anticipated MLB career, Moustakas -- along with his .152 batting average -- was sent packing for Triple-A Omaha. He spent a humbling week there.

"I took away a lot," said Moustakas of his time at Triple-A. "A lot that I won't tell you, and a lot that people wouldn't understand unless they've been through the Minor Leagues. ... Just enjoying the fact that I get to play Major League Baseball every day."

Moustakas' trip to Omaha amounted to more than a renewed joy of the game. He worked with Storm Chasers hitting coach Tommy Gregg and made tangible adjustments at the plate, adjustments that correlated to improvement upon his June 1 recall.

When the Royals shipped Moustakas to Triple-A, he held a .152/.223/.320 slash line. Since June 1, he's made incremental improvements to his batting average (.231) and on-base percentage (.292), but the recent power surge has been most encouraging. Moustakas has cracked nine of his 13 home runs and has slugged .449 since returning from Triple-A.

 "I feel more comfortable because the results are coming now, but other than that, I feel like I'm pretty much in the same place when I started this season," Moustakas said.

The main adjustment for Moustakas pertains to an emphasis on simplicity in his swing mechanics.

First, Moustakas closed off what was becoming an obtrusively wide stance, as evidenced in the screen captures below.

(Disclaimer: These images were chosen because the center-field camera angles at these particular stadiums presented the best view of the change).

The first image shows Moustakas on April 13 against the Twins' Glen Perkins, when his batting average was .111. 

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Now note the change a day after his recall on June 2, against St. Louis' Shelby Miller.

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Additionally, Moustakas reduced the height of his leg kick. Here he is against Perkins again on April 13, with a pronounced leg kick.

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Then, against Miller on June 2, the motion reduced to a slight raise.

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Moustakas acknowledged the changes. 

"I started open in spring, and I was hitting really good in spring with a good leg kick," Moustakas said. "And [I] got to the season, and it wasn't really working so well. So I just tried to change some things up."

The new look at the plate has contributed to an improvement in one of Moustakas' weakest areas prior to the demotion: catching up to the fastball.

Before his demotion, Moustakas swung and missed at 9.05 percent of the 221 fastballs he faced, and batted .132 with a .237 slugging percentage on pitches Brooksbaseball.com categorizes as "hard" (fastballs, cutters, sinkers). 

Those figures rose to respectability after June 1. Moustakas' whiff rate decreased to 7.46 on fastballs, and his batting average (.221) and slugging percentage (.488) both rose dramatically on hard stuff as of Saturday. 

It must be noted that simple regression to the mean also likely contributed to Moustakas' improved numbers. His .152 batting average pre-demotion was unsustainable, considering only 15.5 percent of the balls he put in play resulted in hits. 

"I try to tinker with everything," Moustakas said. "When you're not going good, there's always some sort of reason, and most of the time it's not mechanical. But when you're not feeling good at the plate, you try to switch some things up."

In addition to the mechanical adjustments made at Triple-A, Moustakas credits a rediscovering of his good fortune as a factor in his renaissance. 

"I get to step on the field and be a Major League Baseball player, and I might have lost sight of that a little bit early in the season," Moustakas said. "But now I've just got to go out, have fun and play with my boys."

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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