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Mound Visit: Moran barrels to consistency ☕️


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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Pirates infielder Colin Moran has always carried, perhaps unfairly, the weight of being a piece of the Gerrit Cole trade since joining the club.

This designation has levied criticism against him at many different turns over the past season-plus, amplifying each error at third base along with each meek at-bat.

Yet over the past two weeks, Moran has slashed .298/.353/.660, making a believer out of manager Clint Hurdle, who designated him as the team's starting third baseman even as Jung Ho Kang returned to the club.

Dejan Kovacevic already let us in on the mindset that Moran has carried over his resurgence, now let's look at the mechanics of how it's happening.

First, it must be noted that Moran has barreled the ball a solid 9.8 percent of the time. Here, "Barrels" refer to an especially well-hit ball. Specifically, a batted ball where the combination of exit velocity and launch angle usually results in at least a .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage when compared to similar batted balls across all of Major League Baseball.

In rough terms, if a ball has an exit velocity of 98 mph or greater along with a launch angle between 26-30 degrees, it is an automatic "barrel." The higher the exit velocity, the greater degree of launch angle can be achieved while still considered to be a barrel. Here's a handy chart:

[caption id="attachment_839832" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Courtesy of MLB[/caption]

All of the above is simply a fancy way of explaining what is painfully obvious: Moran is absolutely crushing the ball as of late. And concerns about sustainability should be waylaid, if only by a small measure, by this:

[caption id="attachment_839847" align="aligncenter" width="641"] Since May 27, Moran has made consistently good contact[/caption]

In DK's piece linked above, Hurdle alluded to Moran getting into his motion much earlier, allowing him to get the bat off the shoulder much quicker. This has clearly afforded him the opportunity to get the heart of the bat into the heart of his swing much earlier, but so has a slight change in approach.

If we were to lump all of Moran's pitches seen at 0-0, 1-0 and 0-1 counts, we'll see some distinct changes year over year:

On the surface, one might think that Moran is seeing the results he has recently seen in spite of holding back a bit, especially on pitches in the zone. Clearly, the results are there regardless, with Moran's wOBA and xWOBA rates showing as sturdy.

For more on advanced hitting statistics such as wOBA and xwOBA, please visit my recent primer.

Yet, Moran has been seeing fewer fastballs early in the count, and the ones that he does see are not necessarily in his wheelhouse. Here's a look at the pitch types and locations in those early counts year-over-year:


Contrast that against the areas of the strike zone -- overall and at any count, not just early -- where Moran has either tagged a barrel or plain old solid contact, and the patience starts to make sense:

By being patient enough early, Moran is setting himself up for success later. In plain terms, he simply sees more fastballs later in counts, and he is doing everything he can to get to those counts.

The approach that Moran is currently displaying may be passé in another two weeks, or perhaps even beginning now. Pitchers will adjust, but if Moran can continue to take a cerebral approach to hitting, he may be able to sustain the level of production he has currently attained.

Not bad for someone who is simply supposed to be a placeholder for Ke'Bryan Hayes.


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