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Notes: Rockies' Hawkins credits cold-weather upbringing for ageless arm
JonPaul Morosi FoxSports.com
As baseball officials at all levels react to the sad drumbeat of Tommy John surgery news, they also should take time to learn from the success stories.
Like LaTroy Hawkins.
At 41, Hawkins is closing for the Colorado Rockies. He’s pitched in nearly 1,000 major-league games (961 through Thursday to be exact). And he’s never had Tommy John surgery.
Hawkins has had several stints on the disabled list since breaking into the majors as a 22-year-old in 1995. He even has had shoulder surgery. But he’s never torn an elbow ligament — the injury that precipitates Tommy John surgery.
When I asked Hawkins this week to explain how he’s been able to remain healthy, he cited genetics and a clean delivery. He also mentioned another factor that should catch the attention of the baseball and medical communities: Growing up in Gary, Ind., he was limited in the number of innings he threw by playing two other sports (basketball and track) and living in a northern climate.
Hawkins figures that he never threw more than 25 innings in a high school season — or 50 innings in an entire calendar year.eter 'Farewell Tour' in pictures
“I didn’t play nearly as much baseball as players from warmer parts of the country,” he told me. “I think that’s why I’ve gotten more mileage out of my arm ... I didn’t use a lot of bullets growing up.”
Perhaps that cold-weather benefit is something team scouting directors should keep in mind ahead of next month’s amateur draft. After all, only three starting pitchers started at least 30 games per season every year from 2006-13 without landing on the disabled list:Justin Verlander, Mark Buehrle and Bronson Arroyo. Two of them — Verlander (Virginia) and Buehrle (Missouri) — grew up in states where they didn’t necessarily pitch year-round.
Demographic breakdown of recent Tommy John surgeries
Ken Rosenthal FoxSports.com
Epidemics often lead to hysteria.
Baseball’s wave of Tommy John surgeries might not qualify as an epidemic. The reaction might not qualify as hysteria. But Stan Conte, theDodgers head athletic trainer and part of MLB’s effort to research arm injuries, wants to correct some growing misconceptions.
The latest misconception, Conte told Fox Sports on Wednesday, is that pitchers born in the United States undergo Tommy John surgery at a higher rate than pitchers from the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries.
While some contend that the rigors of youth baseball in the US place American-born pitchers at higher risk for torn elbow ligaments, Conte was part of a research team that found no difference in the prevalence of Tommy John surgery based upon where pitchers were born.
Conte said that the research team included Dr. Glen Fleisig, research director of the American Sports Medicine Institute; Dr. Kevin Wilk, a noted physical therapist, and Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a sports medicine surgeon and member of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic Board of Directors.
The team’s survey of 40-man roster players in 2013 and non-40-man roster players in 2012 was intended to provide a snapshot of how many players had undergone Tommy John surgery, not in a given year, but over their careers.
A total of 5,088 players responded, an estimated 89 percent of the possible total. Of the respondents, 14.2 percent were major leaguers. Pitchers represented 53 percent of the total, major-league pitchers 7.5 percent.
And what did the researchers find?
That 16 percent of pitchers from the US had undergone Tommy John surgery – as had 16 percent of pitchers from the Dominican, and 16 percent from all Latin American countries.
“We saw no difference,” Conte said. “At the end of the day, when you look at who has had Tommy John surgeries, country doesn’t seem to have a significant importance.
“Whether they come from the Dominican or the United States, it looks like they’re all kind of getting it at some point – overall, major and minor leagues, about 16 percent.”
Conte said that he did not necessarily disagree that the intensity of youth baseball in the US contributes to a large number of elbow injuries for pitchers. But international pitchers also face pressure at young ages to land contracts from major-league clubs, perhaps leading them to place greater strain on their arms.
An international player can sign when he is 16 during the signing period that extends from July 2 through June 15 of the following year if the prospect turns 17 before Sept. 1 or by the completion of his first minor-league season.
The researchers, in trying to pinpoint when pitchers underwent Tommy John surgery, found that a much larger percentage of Dominican and Latin American pitchers had their first TJ at the professional level than US pitchers.
For all groups, however, the average age of the first surgery was 21. About half of the American pro pitchers were still in school near the age of their surgery. Almost all of the Latin American pitchers already were professional.
Conte and his team are working as part of a larger group headed by Dr. Gary Green, MLB’s medical director. The group is trying to determine the causes of elbow and other arm injuries. Green told Fox Sports last week that he did not expect to find “a magic bullet,” an overriding solution to a multi-faceted problem.
“People say we should do something,” Conte said. “We are doing something. This research is two years old. We’ve been doing these things. And we’ve been trying to answer these questions. But we can’t have a knee-jerk reaction (when we) find something, run out and tell everybody and then maybe find out, ‘Oh, that wasn’t true.’”
Conte said another misconception stems from media reports citing research from Dr. James Andrews that pegged the average recovery time from Tommy John surgery at 11.6 months.
Andrews’ research included high school, college and professional pitchers, Conte said. The average major leaguer, trying to return to the highest level of the sport, faces a longer recovery.
“How easier is it to get a college freshman back to playing college baseball after a Tommy John?” Conte asked. “Probably a little easier than getting one of these (major leaguers) out to perform at this level. If a college guy degrades by 5 or 6 percent, it’s not as big a deal. Five or 6 percent here? He goes home.”
Conte said he researched 212 Tommy John surgeries performed on major leaguers from 2000 to ’12 in an effort to determine the success rate of the procedure and how long it took the pitchers to recover.
Of the 212, he said, 161 returned to throw at least one major-league inning – a success rate of 75.9 percent. Determining the average rate of return was tricky, however; pitchers who undergo the surgery after June do not always make it back the following year, and then must wait an entire offseason to resume their careers.
Including those pitchers, the average rate of return was 18 months, and the median was 14.8 months, Conte said.
“Part of this myth is that this is 100 percent successful and you come back in 12 months on the dot and you perform better, at better velocity than you did before,” Conte said. “Some of that is true. There are guys who do that. But what about the average guy? That’s what we’re looking at.”
Conte said he wants baseball to use objective methodology in its medical research, something the sport routinely does now in player evaluation.
The subject, he said, is too important to base conclusions on subjectivity and supposition.
“We have to get our facts together,” Conte said. “We have to look at it from an objective standpoint. It can’t be anecdotal. It can’t be that Tim Hudson came back in 11 months. It’s got to be the numbers.
“We’re in a society where you want an answer right away, you want a knee-jerk reaction and you want to fix something within the next 20 seconds. That’s a formula for disaster and going down the wrong path.
“We need to go through some scientific exploration to get those answers. And then we need people in baseball to be smart enough to take those answers and transfer them into what is happening on a day-to-day basis.”
The Duncan Way: How Cardinals Pitchers Continue to Dominate by Exploiting Hitter Tendencies
MAY 21, 2014
by JONAH KERI
Dan Brooks, an experimental psychologist and the proprietor of the excellent baseball analysis site Brooks Baseball, contributed charts, data, and research for this article. Follow Dan on Twitter@brooksbaseball and visit Brooks Baseball for more advanced pitch-tracking data.
A baseball team can spark imitators by winning one World Series. It can spark true reverence, however, by delivering sustained success. That’s how The Dodger Way and The Oriole Way became blueprints decades ago for building winning franchises and fostering the kind of organizational culture that every other team wanted to emulate.
And that’s how The Cardinal Way has become a part of the present-day baseball lexicon. Like its predecessors, The Cardinal Way largely refers to successful player development technique, serving as shorthand for St. Louis’s ability to bring so many young players up through the minors and turn them into big league contributors — even if they were low draftpicks. The label has also come to take on a broader meaning, encompassing everything from the team’s recent playoff success (two World Series trips in the past three seasons!) to its self-awarded honors (Best Fans in Baseball!).
But there’s also a less visible component, one that’s helped lead the Cardinals to postseason glory in the past and is now enabling them to remain in contention even as their prior clutch-hitting powers turn to dust: With every ball they throw, Cardinals pitchers seek to mentally beat hitters into submission.
It’s still working. After getting off to a slow start this year, the reigning NL champions have hit their stride by winning six of their last eight. Unsurprisingly, they’re creeping up on the NL Central–leading Brewers thanks to dominant pitching from the likes of Adam Wainwright, who faced just one batter more than the minimum last night in a one-hit, nine-strikeout masterpiece against the Diamondbacks. Though Wainwright and his rotation mates now play under pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, they practice a philosophy hatched under Lilliquist’s predecessor, Dave Duncan.
While the Cardinals may not have the same reputation the A’s have for winning games with analytics, Duncan quietly built an advance-scouting powerhouse based on exploiting hitter tendencies. Unlike the announcers, managers, and stat-tracking websites that spit out reams of hitter-versus-pitcher data, Duncan knew that getting caught up in small sample sizes like a batter’s 2-for-13 track record against a certain pitcher could lead to misguided decisions. So, Duncan instead focused on the tendencies of entire teams or even entire leagues. “We made a point of recognizing the tendencies of opposing hitters, their strengths, their weaknesses,” Duncan said.
One of his main missions was to change the way Cardinals pitchers attacked hitters with runners in scoring position. Major league hitters, like all human beings, are motivated by incentives, so when they come to the plate with runners in scoring position, they’re flooded with team incentives (a chance to put runs on the board and help produce a win), individual incentives (a chance to feel the rush of driving in a run), and financial incentives (even amid the advanced stats movement, RBIs still = $$$). Logically, then, the natural tendency in this case is for a hitter to swing the bat. The numbers confirm it: According to ESPN’s TruMedia system, hitters have swung away on the first pitch with runners in scoring position 31.6 percent of the time this year, compared to swinging at 26.8 percent of first pitches in non-RISP situations. If the first pitch is a fastball, that gap becomes even more pronounced, at 34.6 percent versus 27.9 percent. And that aggressive approach bears fruit; when hitters swing at first pitches with RISP, they have produced a .391 average and .620 slugging mark this season.
Duncan recognized those aggressive tendencies early and sought to exploit them. Working with talented and sharp All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, Duncan urged his pitchers to throw soft stuff on first pitches with runners in scoring position. Dan Brooks, proprietor of Brooks Baseball, first noticed this trend. The below chart, provided by Brooks specifically for this story, underscores just how dramatically different St. Louis’s approach is on first pitches with runners in scoring position compared to other teams:
While Brooks’s chart shows that the rest of the league also tends to throw fewer first-pitch fastballs with runners in scoring position, the bigger takeaway is that St. Louis’s totals dwarf those MLB-wide figures. In 2008, the first year for which Brooks has data, qualified Cardinals pitchers (starters plus high-usage relievers) threw first-pitch fastballs 21 percent more often in non-RISP situations than with runners in scoring position. That figure jumped to 26 percent in 2009 and 29 percent in 2010. Counting the early returns in 2014, St. Louis pitchers have produced a bigger gap (and usually a much bigger gap) than league average six times in the past seven seasons.
“I don’t think it was something we established where we said, ‘No fastballs in those situations,’” Duncan said. “We talked a lot about runners in scoring position, and whether the hitter takes on a different approach. It was really part of our broader philosophy, to pitch to situations more than anything else.”
Wainwright, the Cardinals’ ace, has been one of the team’s most devoted practitioners. In 2008, he threw first-pitch fastballs with runners in scoring position 42 percent of the time; in every other situation, he threw first-pitch fastballs 73 percent of the time. That gap widened in 2009 (22.9 percent versus 70 percent), and though it dipped slightly in 2010 (20 percent versus 62.9 percent), Wainwright has generally maintained that chasm over the years.
On a recent trip to St. Louis, I asked Wainwright about this striking tendency.
“You’re writing an article about this?” Wainwright asked, deadpan. “Then I would never tell you.”
Pressed for details, Wainwright said the Cardinals have been borderline maniacal about advance scouting since Duncan’s heyday.
“We spend a good deal of time and a great deal of effort preparing for each and every hitter,” Wainwright said. “That goes from the starting lineup all the way to the guys coming in off the bench. We know exactly what their approach is, what they’re trying to do, what they’re trying to accomplish. There are times where we’ll just stay with our strengths. But the numbers in certain situations don’t lie, and it’d be silly not to pitch to them.”
Deploying pitchers who actually have the arsenal to effectively execute those plans certainly helps.
“It definitely helps when you have more than one off-speed pitch you can throw for strikes,” Wainwright said. “If you have more than one off-speed pitch that people can swing and miss on, that’s also great. That was a big thing for me coming over here. I had a slider but I wasn’t allowed to throw it; here, I was. Throwing the slider and the breaking ball along with the fastball, it’s just too many speed variables and break variables to cover for a hitter. That’s why it’s so important to work ahead in the count, to put them on the defensive. That’s what we’ve tried to do.”
Duncan also worked to limit extra-base hits. Ground balls rarely go for extra-base hits, he likes to say, unless they’re mashed down the first- or third-base line. So if balls hit in the air are far more likely to end up as doubles, triples, and homers than balls hit on the ground, it makes sense to encourage pitches with downward movement.
Kyle Lohse figured this out in a hurry. Lohse had spent seven seasons in the big leagues before signing a one-year deal with St. Louis after the 2007 season, and had produced a 4.82 career ERA to that point. In his first season with the Cardinals, the right-hander sliced that number by more than a full run, to 3.78. Some of that improvement probably stemmed from Lohse’s switch to the lower-offense National League, and 2008 was also a slightly lighter year for offense than what Lohse experienced from 2001 to 2007 at the tail end of the PED era. But even after stripping out those factors, Lohse still looked like a different pitcher, slashing his home run rate to career-low levels and pitching deeper into games than in any other season except 2003.
The biggest change? At Duncan’s urging, Lohse threw a ton more two-seam fastballs (also known as sinkers) in that first year in St. Louis. Via Brooks:
“That was one of the first things Dave Duncan told me when I came over,” Lohse said. “‘You’re gonna learn to command your two-seamer.’ That was something that I had been steered away from when I was in Minnesota. I started throwing almost exclusively four-seamers there. It’s one of those things where you kind of shake your head at now, like, ‘What was I doing?’ But I was just listening to the instruction I was getting. Then I got to St. Louis, and I realized, ‘How many guys can hit a sinker down and away?’ Not a whole lot. If you can locate a sinker down and away, the results you’re getting are usually pretty good.”
After that strong 2008 season, Lohse re-signed with the Cards for four years and $41 million. In 2011, he established then-career-best marks in ERA (3.39) and FIP (3.67), and he topped himself in 2012 (2.86 ERA, 3.51 FIP). Those performances earned him a new three-year, $33 million deal with the Brewers, and at age 35, Lohse currently ranks among the league leaders in ERA. While Lohse certainly earned that $74 million with talent and hard work, let’s hope Duncan still gets the occasional Christmas card.
Lohse isn’t the only one continuing to benefit from Duncan’s former tutelage, as the Cardinals still employ many of Duncan’s hitter-attacking strategies today. Duncan, who’s now a pitching consultant with the Diamondbacks, left the Cardinals after their World Series–winning 2011 season in order to spend more time with his wife, Jeanine, who was battling cancer at the time. Lilliquist, who pitched for eight years in the majors and joined the Cardinals in 2010 as the bullpen coach, absorbed Duncan’s lessons during their brief time together.
“If you’ve got a reliever out in the bullpen getting ready to come in the game, he’s going to have questions,” Duncan said. “Is this guy going to swing at the first pitch? Can he hit the inside fastball? The breaking ball? The bullpen coach needs to know all of these things. He has to be as prepared as I am, as the starting pitcher is, as the catcher is. He has to be as aware of the opposition as all of us are when it comes to giving information to pitchers. I think that’s something that a lot of teams miss out on, that they don’t do. It’s a big advantage, when you use the bullpen coach that way.”
Now in his third year as Cardinals pitching coach, Lilliquist has helped the team’s current crop of pitchers carry on many of the same Duncan-inspired techniques. Lilliquist also has a new generation of electric arms at his disposal. The team’s focus on arm strength and athleticism might sound simplistic when it comes to building a pitching staff, but that approach has enabled St. Louis to reel in top talents like Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, and Lance Lynn, and even to spot top-flight potential in converted position players like Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez. A sound game plan coupled with 96 mph capabilities will lead to a pretty good chance of succeeding.
As Brooks notes, Wacha illustrated this well last fall. On September 8, Wacha made just the sixth start of his major league career. The Cardinals were in the thick of the pennant race and taking on the Pirates, who were battling them for NL Central supremacy. St. Louis’s advance-scouting staff — which includes both traditional scouts and data analysts — teamed with Lilliquist to concoct a plan: If the Cards combined Wacha’s repertoire with Pittsburgh’s batting tendencies, they’d have a chance to dominate their division rivals. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
Again and again, Wacha fired pitches toward the outside corner or even off the plate outside, ignoring the inside part of the plate almost entirely. (Brooks flipped the vantage point for left-handed batters on this chart so all pitches on the right side appear as outside and all pitches to the left side appear as inside.) The Pirates were overwhelmed. Wacha tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and pacing a 9-2 blowout win. The Cards opened up a 1.5-game lead, and though they fell into a tie a few days later, they never relinquished first place, eventually winning the Central crown by three games. By winning the division, the Cardinals also claimed home-field advantage in the National League Division Series, which they put to good use by knocking off the Buccos in a deciding Game 5 in St. Louis.
Wacha got another crack at the Pirates during that series, and he again destroyed nearly everyone in his path, unleashing an even heavier blizzard of pitches toward the outside edge than he had a month earlier.
Once again, the results were phenomenal: 7⅓ innings pitched, nine strikeouts, and just one run allowed on one hit, a solo home run. And again the Cards beat the Pirates, this time by a 2-1 score.
Lilliquist is quick to deflect credit for the team’s pitching success over the past two-plus seasons, instead praising the team’s talented and cerebral pitchers for executing game plans; current bullpen coach Blaise Ilsley for keeping the team’s relievers prepared; and manager Mike Matheny for being hands-on enough to take copious notes but also hands-off enough to trust others to make a plan work. Lilliquist reserved some of his highest praise for Molina, though. The scouts and quants find the weaknesses to exploit and the pitchers actually throw the ball, but without Molina, Lilliquist said, the Cardinals wouldn’t have the kind of sustained pitching success that’s carried them for so many years.
“It’s almost a sixth sense for [Molina], pitch to pitch, the feel of what this guy’s adjustments are, what he’s looking for, what to throw with runners on base,” Lilliquist said. “It boils down to his checklist being so much bigger than everybody else’s, and him being real good at processing it.”
Duncan echoed Lilliquist’s praise for Molina. “He’s really smart, and he’s got a great memory. We’d be talking about doing something with a particular hitter. And all of a sudden he’d say, ‘If you remember three years ago, playing in their ballpark, we tried to do that, and he burned us.’ His recall of past games is incredible.”
Molina doesn’t have to be an expert at recalling past events to know that the Cardinals haven’t been as good as expected this year, sitting 2.5 games behind the Brewers in the Central with a modest .533 winning percentage. For that, they can blame a lack of power hitting; an 8-9 record in one-run games that’s due partly to bad luck and partly to questionable tactical decisions by Matheny (Lilliquist’s praise notwithstanding, Matheny has made curious decisions on everything from the bullpen to bunting); and enough failures with runners in scoring position to make baseball fans wonder if opposing teams have bugged the Cardinals’ clubhouse for clues on how to get guys out in RBI situations.
But the Cardinals still have the arms, and they still have Duncan’s system. And thanks to that system, they still rank among the league leaders in run prevention this season, as they have for years. As long as the Cardinals can continue practicing what Duncan preached in order to outpitch and outwit the competition, they’ve got a fighting chance to outlast it as well.
May 20, 2014
THE LONG WAY HOME
By John Perrotto
Monday wasn't a day for sabermetrics for Brandon Moss.
The Athletics first baseman didn't punch up the FanGraphs or Baseball Prospesctus websites on his smartphone during an off day for Oakland in St. Petersburg, Fla., before opening a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night. Instead, like an admitted good old boy from Loganville, Ga., Moss spent the day hog hunting.
"Hunting and my two sons, those are the two biggest passions in my life," Moss said with a smile.
Yet Moss can work his way around a sabermetrics website, too. He understands that on-base percentage is more important than batting average, what the acronym OPS stands for and how to calculate BABIP.
As Moss points out with a smile, "I was part of the Moneyball draft, you know."
Nearly 12 years have passed since baseball's 2002 amateur draft, which became a major part of Michael Lewis' best-selling book Moneyball which explored how Athletics general manager Billy Beane used stat-driven analysis to acquire players. The book was adapted into a 2011 motion picture of the same name that starred Brad Pitt as Beane.
Moss was not selected by the Athletics in the Moneyball draft, instead being chosen in the eighth round by the Boston Red Sox following his senior year at Loganville High School. However, Moss has turned out to be what is still perceived as the ideal Moneyball player --- though Beane's approach has always been geared toward finding market inefficiencies rather a certain type of player --- as he has both power and patience in abudence.
"I always felt this would been a good organization for me," Moss said. "I do a lot of the thing that the A's value. I can hit the ball out of the park and, even though I strike out a lot, I'm willing to work counts when the situations calls for it. It just took me a while to get here."
It was a 9 ½-year journey from the time he was drafted until he signed with the Athletics as a minor league free agent on Dec. 1, 2011. Even then, Moss wasn't expecting a complete career revival when he put on the green-and-gold uniform.
"I remember telling my wife when I signed that I was at a stage where there was no guarantee that I'd play in the big leagues again," Moss said. "I figured if I did get to the majors, I'd be the kind of guy who'd get 100-200 at-bats a season, and I thought my best bet in the long run might be going to Japan and trying to make it over there for a few years."
Instead, Moss became a key part of a team that is coming off back-to-back American League West titles and is in first place again this season by 3 ½ games over the Los Angeles Angels. Though the statistic is the bane of sabermetricians, Moss is tied for second in the AL with 39 RBIs while hitting .301 with a .391 on-base percentage, a .582 slugging percentage and nine home runs in 43 games.
It is a continuation of what the 30-year-old has done ever since the Athletics called him up from Triple-A Sacramento on June 6, 2012. That year, he hit 21 home runs and had a .954 OBP in 84 games, then followed with 30 homers and an .859 OPS in 145 games in 2013.
"We're so fortunate to have a guy like Brandon, a left-handed hitter with power in the middle of our order, and especially the way it all happened," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. "We didn't know how long he would be going to be here when we called him up here, then he was the American League Player of the Week in his first full week with us and hasn't stopped hitting yet. You're talking about a guy who truly did take advantage of his opportunity and has made the most of it."
Moss had played in 249 games over his previous five major-league seasons from 2007-11 with the Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies before joining the Athletics. More than half of those games, 133, came in 2009 with the Pirates when he got his one shot at being an everyday player in the major leagues as their right fielder.
The Pirates had acquired Moss in a three-team trade with the Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31, 2008, that was much more notable for two other outfielders changing teams -- the Dodgers acquired Manny Ramirez and Boston got Jason Bay. The Pirates were hopeful Moss could be a part of one of their gazillion rebuilding tries, but he hit just .236 with seven home runs and a .668 OPS.
Moss admits he put added pressure on himself to replace Bay, who was the face of the Pirates' franchise at the time of the trade. He also never got comfortable with the various mechanical adjustments to his swing that he was asked to make by general manager Neal Huntington, manager John Russell and hitting coach Don Long.
"I was a 25-year-old kid who hadn't established himself as a major league player, so what was I going to do, not do what they asked me to do?" Moss said. "It was tough. They wanted me to hit everything the other way or up the middle and that's just not the type of hitter I am. I'm much more effective when I pull the ball and they just wanted to be something I'm not."
Moss' confidence hit bottom the following season when he hit .224 with two home runs in 17 April games for the Pirates' Triple-A Indianapolis farm club. Jeff Branson, now the Pirates' hitting coach, held the same position at Indianapolis then and called the Red Sox and asked if they could send tape of Moss from when he was hitting well in their farm system. Branson and Moss studied the tapes for hours and found a solution.
"Brano told me to spread my feet out and just starting hitting the ball like I used to," Moss said. "I owe a lot to him. I really wasn't part of the Pirates' plans anymore but he cared enough to call the Red Sox and put in the time with me. It turned my career around."
Moss wound up hitting up hitting 22 homers and an .800 OPS that season for Indianapolis, then had 23 home runs and an .877 OPS the following year at Scranton/Wilkes Barre, then the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate. He was on his way to another monster season at Triple-A in 2012, belting 15 homers and posting a .952 OPS in 51 games before getting called up by the Athletics.
That season in Indianapolis also taught Moss a very valuable lesson. "Ultimately, it's your career and you have to do what's best for you, what works best for you," he said.
Moss hasn't been back to the minor leagues since, because the instance of a minor league coach providing a simple piece of advice overrode all the coaching he received while with Pittsburgh. It is why he has found a home in Oakland and why Melvin and his coaching staff deserve their share of credit for the late-career emergence of such players as Moss, third baseman Josh Donaldson and right-hander Jesse Chavez, despite the organization's reputation as being merely number crunchers.
"You're allowed to be yourself here," Moss said. "These guys are outstanding at seeing what a player's strengths are and working with that rather than trying to change guys into the type of players they think they should be. It's a great atmosphere and that's why you see so many guys succeed here when they didn't in other organizations. I'm a perfect example of that."
“to really become successful you're going to start to narrow down how quick you can make adjustments."
Royals Player Development Director Scott Sharp on MiLB adjustments
The director of player development for the Royals articulates the differences that MiLB position players have to make from one level to another to advance.
Scott Sharp, Director of Player of Development for the Royals, was a guest on the Omaha Storm Chasers pre-game show last week. He addressed a couple of topics that Royals fans will be interested in.
Sharp was asked about the differences that position players like Matt Fields and Brett Eibner are seeing as they make the transition from Double-A to Triple-A. After hitting .310/.379/.440 for Omaha in April, Fields experienced his first slump in May, hitting just .226/.284/.500 so far. Eibner is struggling for Omaha, hitting .223/.322/.351.
"In A-ball, you may have a week or a month to adjust before your opponent adjusts to you," Sharp said. "In Double-A, it may be an at-bat or a game. And in Triple-A and the big leagues, the adjustment is pitch by pitch. And I think to really become successful you're going to start to narrow down how quick you can make adjustments."
"I think it's really important," Sharp said. "Obviously to pitch there, you've got to get there first. And I think it's good to get it out of the way. You know, the way that we're set up in Kansas City - obviously we're trying to make a playoff run this year and we're going to use a lot of pitching. And if guys are going up and down, at least they have that experience, that exposure.
"I think obviously the expectation is much greater after the way the team played in the second half [last season], and really just the expectations in general coming into the year," he said. "I, personally, kind of like where we are. We haven't hit on all cylinders yet, but we've been competitive and I continue to see us growing as a young team throughout the course of the year.
"There's no question that the fan base would probably want us to be undefeated at this point, you know, and rightly so, but I think we're in a good spot. And I think there is a really good vibe and a really good atmosphere."