Brandon Moss has been mired in a dismal slump for quite some time. As an All-Star and one of the A’s better hitters, it is easy to write his struggles off as a slump and be confident he will come out of it. However, as time wears on with Moss’ bat still showing no signs of life, it’s not unreasonable to start wondering if it’s something more than a slump. A’s fans have a right to be worried, especially as the team is in the middle of a grueling pennant race.
Moss’ struggles have been well documented. Entering Monday night’s contest with the Houston Astros, he is batting .170/.343/.208 in 17 games in August. Folks, that’s bad. REALLY bad. To put it in context, also in 17 August games, Eric Sogard is batting .275/.420/.400. Now before you start crying, “That’s such a small sample size!” Or, “Sogard walked four times in one game, his stats are inflated!” I have two arguments.
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First, Sogard walked four times in that game because he was patient, had a feel for the strike zone, and made good decisions — something Moss is not doing (or maybe Sogard just used his NerdPower to instantaneously calculate the spin and trajectory of each pitch, pinpointing the exact spot each ball would cross the plate before it even left the pitcher’s fingertips). Secondly, while it may be a somewhat small sample, something pretty major happened the day before Moss’ dismal August began: Yoenis Céspedes was traded to the Boston Red Sox. Céspedes often hit fifth against RHPs, one spot behind Moss. When Céspedes batted third, Josh Donaldson batted fifth. With Céspedes gone, Donaldson consistently slots in the batting order ahead of Moss, leaving Moss with no protection.
I have always been skeptical about the importance of protection until Moss’ recent slide. When Moss starts against lefties, he bats lower in the order and has no protection anyway. But against righties, post-Céspedes, the fifth slot has been a revolving door, seeing the likes of Derek Norris, Nate Freiman, Jonny Gomes, and Josh Reddick. Decent hitters, but none of them are power threats like Céspedes or Donaldson. Without protection, opposing pitchers are less likely to give Moss something good to hit, because they aren’t as worried about Norris/Gomes/etc. batting with a runner on than they would be with Donaldson or Céspedes.
At a time when the A’s have hit a rough patch and lost the division lead, they need their second-highest runner producer to, well, start producing runs again. Moss hasn’t hit a homer since his grand slam against Houston on July 24. In that time, he only has 5 RBI and has struck out in a ridiculous 38.3% of his at bats (31K/81AB).
Whether Moss’ struggles are just a slump or something more remains to be seen. What I do know is that Oakland needs him to step up during these final 33 (and hopefully more) games. Getting Moss back on track will be a necessity if the A’s are to overtake the Angels atop the American League West. Recently, the A’s have been bitten quite harshly by the injury bug. It’s imperative that those that are healthy, especially the stars, do their part.
Moss apparently believes his struggles are due to a flaw in his swing. Prior to Monday night’s game, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that Moss believes he’s found a fix.
"Moss…believes he has figured out the mechanical flaw affecting him much of the past month. He worked it out after his second-to-last at-bat last night, and he’s pretty excited about it – feels as if it’s a real breakthrough.— Susan Slusser"
Let’s hope he has indeed figured things out.