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Numbers show Moss to be a good fit with the Indians

Numbers show Moss to be a good fit with the Indians
Brandon Moss (Photo: AP)
December 9, 2014
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When the deal for Brandon Moss first started to break almost a week ago I half joked that most of the fans would hate the deal for a myriad of reasons: he is hurt, he has a low average and he isn’t a right-handed bat.

Today I am sad to see how many people jump to hate every deal the Indians make, even when it is clearly an excellent addition at a low price. My goal with this article is to try and use numbers to show just how good of an addition Moss is for the Indians, especially at the bargain basement price the Indians paid.

I know some fans saw this deal and thought Moss must be damaged goods for the Indians to get him this cheap. While the hip is a concern there is a long history of players having better years when they return from hip injuries the next year. It saps some of the power but with rest and rehab the player often comes back just as good as they were before it.

On top of this, remember, the return on the Josh Donaldson deal wasn’t loved in most circles. It is clear Billy Beane is targeting specific players and he loved Joe Wendle. In addition, it is clear that Beane is in a shed salary mode now as well. 

Now a year ago I thought Wendle was a guy who was a bit under-rated but needed to prove it in Double-A because of his age relative to his level. He was hurt and missed part of the year but there is some sense to why the A’s targeted Wendle. He has shown some nice skills in the minors, but I am not sure he will ever big a regular major leaguer. His prospect value in the Indians organization reminds me of Cord Phelps. He could surprise everyone, but he looks like a depth guy going forward.

For years fans have clamored for the Indians to go out and find a power bat; to go out and add an All Star talent in their prime. The Indians did just the thing on Monday and still some people were upset. To some, it was another sign of the Indians cheap ways. If it wasn’t thanks to his age or injury, then it was a failed trade because he is left-handed. It should be noted that Moss is the first All Star the Indians have acquired coming off an All Star year since Roberto Alomar in 1999.

I mentioned in my last article that only 11 players hit 30 or more home runs last year. Moss hit only four in the second half due to injury and still finished tied for 21st in all of baseball in home runs. Some of the players he tied are huge names in the game: Miguel CabreraAndrew McCutchenKyle Seager and Matt Kemp. Again, remember he basically played only half a year as the second half he was playing on half a leg. His second half OPS was only seven points lower than Lonnie Chisenhall last year and while that is not great at least Moss had a reason for such a collapse.

Moss hit 30 home runs in 2013 and was on pace for 35 or more in 2014 before injury. He should be a player who can be counted on to hit 30 home runs as long as he is healthy this year. Part of the reason is thanks to park factors. Using ESPN park factors Progressive Field was 11th home runs at 1.083, Coliseum where Moss played last year is 21st at .903. Now Moss is a guy who tends to hit a lot of no doubt home runs, but it will still help him moving to Cleveland.

In terms of other park factors I would be remised if I didn’t mention at least one more. Park Index is an interesting tool that allows us to look at how parks break down for hitters from both sides. The medium value for a park is 100 which make it easy to compare. I used Fangraphs’ park factors for this data.

While Oakland and Cleveland are identical in terms of left-handed average at 97, it is their power index values which are hugely different. The value for left-handed power in Oakland is 88 which was 3rd worst in the majors. On the other hand, Progressive Field was 8th in terms of left-handed power at a park factor of 109. It is a 21% jump, which is not something to be overlooked. It is pretty clear Moss’s overall value as a player increased when he joined the Indians.

I also feel the need to point out the right-handed power Park Factor at Progressive field is 93. In other words, it is much easier to hit home runs from the left side and there might actually be some logic to why the Indians tend to target left-handed bats. They have a stadium which is much more conducive to left-handed power than right-handed and it’s not even close.

Now before you go thinking I have overstated the degree to which this change will positively affect Moss, if you look at his home and away splits it becomes very obvious this move will be a major benefit for Moss as well. His OPS outside of Oakland was 120 points higher the last two years. His lowered OPS was spilt nearly evenly between his on-base and slugging percentages. Just switching parks should be good for five to seven home runs and a jump in on-base percentage.

Another good stat to use for Moss is wRC+ which measures the total runs created by a player. This past year with the injury Moss was able to have a wRC+ of 121, the year before when he was healthy it was 137. If he had a 137 wRC+ this past year he would have been tied for 17th in baseball with Nelson Cruz, and even so, his 121 wRC+ was tied for 46th with Yan Gomes and Lonnie Chisenhall. This will give the Indians five players in the top 50 in terms of run creation from last year.

A lot of people do complain about Moss being another lefty but I stand by the fact this is short sighted. Moss in nearly 400 plate appearances has a .723 OPS against lefties. While it is true he started out as a platoon guy, the past few years he has faced more and more lefties and he owns a career 101 wRC+ against lefties. He has a large enough sample size to judge his ability to be an average bat against lefties. He might not be a great bat against lefties, but he is at least solid.

Again, 11 players hit 30 home runs last year. If Moss had been healthy it would have been 12. Finding a power bat is the hardest and most expensive commodity to acquire. The fact the Indians added a bat for a player who had no future in the organization and wasn’t even one of their top 10 prospects is a steal.

In the end I think it is clear the Indians made a wise addition and that all of the grumbling wasn’t about Moss, but more about people’s issues with the front office and ownership. There can be no doubt the Indians just got stronger on Monday. Once Moss hits his first walk off moon shot I am sure the fans will forget all the issues and just enjoy what Moss brings to this team.

Look at it this way, if Moss performs the way I think he can then for the next two years he will be a valuable part of the Indians. When his contract is up he would be entering his age 33 year and the Indians could extend a qualifying offer to him. If that happens, down the road the Indians might be able to turn a former sixth rounder in Joey Wendle into two productive years from a power hitter and a first round draft pick.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at

User Comments

December 9, 2014 - 11:17 PM EST
Even if Moss cannot play the while year or is like Swisher, still a good trade.
December 9, 2014 - 7:59 PM EST

LOLOLOLOL. Absolutely no way a doctor openly discusses another patient's medical information with you. Ever hear of the Hippocratic Oath? Good lord, how dumb do you think some of us are...
Jake D.
December 9, 2014 - 6:32 PM EST
I was reading Jordan Bastian's blog where he had a Q&A with Moss. One thing I found interesting was the fact that he had a cortisone shot for his hip right before the last series of the regular season which he said relieved the pain immensely. That would explain his performance in the Wild Card Game, so if he fully recovers, which is expected, I'm not too worried about him losing much pop in that bat.

He said the majority of his struggles were due to the injury, but also said the Cespedes trade affected how pitchers approached him in at-bats, which also made sense. Lost a lot of protection there. Hopefully with Brantley, Santana and Gomes, he'll get better protection again.
December 9, 2014 - 4:00 PM EST
On this site most people are positive about this trade. Other sites have been negative about it because they believe Moss will become another injured riddled like Swisher. Or they just hate the Indians and they are the happiest when they bitch and complain about any Indian moves.
December 9, 2014 - 2:22 PM EST
Hey Jeff,

Glad to see you like this deal too. Don't understand your attitude and comments about negative reactions from tribe fans. Seems like 98% or so of fans here think this was an absolute steal for all the reasons mentioned below. I don't blame people for wondering if Moss is damaged goods, after all, it's Joe Wendle going the other way, and that's hard to believe!

Now, for what's next, I'm not sure they need to move Murphy, but I'm certainly ok if they do...same goes for a few other guys too...8--)
December 9, 2014 - 2:02 PM EST
I am NOT against this deal, but didn't the numbers show Murphy was a good fit for the Indians last year? The A's may be out of the playoff next year because of their salary dump, but I think they will be back in the mix within three years. The American League version of Miami without the two world series wins.
December 9, 2014 - 1:45 PM EST
Shy, if his doctor told you anything about him then he could be fired for doing so. That is a major HIPPA violation.
Devin R
December 9, 2014 - 1:42 PM EST
I posted this over on Let's Go Tribe yesterday... seems apropos...

There’s really nothing to debate here. This is a straight STEAL for the tribe. I was not very excited when I first heard we were in on Moss, and even after the trade, my expectations for him remain tempered. But man, we just turned "organizational depth" (i.e. next to nothing) into a guy who has averaged 25 HR over the last 3 seasons. It’s honestly hard to believe, and CA deserves some big, big kudos for pulling this one off.

We all know about his hips. We all know about his slow second half last year (he was playing injured). But the bottom line here is we gave up VIRTUALLY NOTHING (no disrespect, Joey) for a potentially significant upgrade to our lineup. In terms of organization depth, Wendle was BURIED with Lindor, JRam and EGon in front of him and Kip locked in for another 5 years. I like the way Jason says "If no one else were traded and Wendle was starting for the Indians at some point in the next five years, it would’ve meant multiple things had gone badly wrong for the team," because it really sums it up perfectly. Losing Wendle is not a loss. We simply took a flyer on a guy that we can dump after a year if he bombs, and we control for another year at a reasonable cost if he excels.

I fully expect there to be follow up moves here. I’d expect to see Murphy shipped off. I’d expect to see a strong pursuit of JUpton/ARios/a complementary RH bat. Swish will likely stick around at least another year, and unlike most, I’m fine with that. Regardless of what happens next, this is a firm step in the right direction this offseason. It’s a free move. Now, we move on and see what other pieces we can add.

December 9, 2014 - 1:35 PM EST
Most of the comments on site seem to be favorable Jeff. I avoid the PD like the plague and seldom read other postings. It is possible that this will be unfavorable to Cleveland but it is hard to see how. Wendle had such little value to the Tribe. I am not sure he could even be considered the best 2B prospect in Akron last year. I know he had a down year but I think RRod had more offensive and defensive ceiling than Wendle. Gonzalez and Wolters were certainly superior prospects from what I see. Unless the injury is worse than reported, I would expect Moss to improve over Murphy offensively and defensively.
December 9, 2014 - 12:58 PM EST
Not for nothing but Moss seems very happy and excited to come to Cleveland from this ESPN article. States he enjoys hitting at Progressive Field.

Can't say enough about having another good attitude in the clubhouse...he should fit right in.
December 9, 2014 - 12:55 PM EST
Not that it matters but I don't believe anyone who does that whole "This random person that I am affiliated with just happens to be affiliated with the person of discussion, and here's what he told me!" Routine.
Devin M
December 9, 2014 - 12:34 PM EST
Agree with all the comments. I can't believe Billy Bean let Moss go for just Wendle. Our team got much better yesterday, and I think we are not done yet.
December 9, 2014 - 12:27 PM EST
This will be a great deal if we can trade one of Murphy/Swisher. I'd rather trade Murphy because I still think Swisher has some value and will be madder than hell to turn it around. He, by all accounts, is a great ambassador of Ohio and I think there's value in that. The fact that he's a switch hitter also helps.

Also, potentially trading Bourn could shift Brantley over to CF and Moss to play LF. While I know Brantley's defensive metrics aren't the best in CF, it's something to consider as well.

I also feel that left handed bats are more valuable anyway, not just in Cleveland, but the fact that more pitchers are right handed than they are left handed. Sure, you have left handed starters and LOOGY's, but most guys are righties...we have three LHP in the bullpen and it's considered a lot.

Moss is an extremely low risk play for a good player, but was old and was blocked by multiple guys. I'm happy for Wendle and hope he gets an opportunity.
December 9, 2014 - 12:12 PM EST
This appears to be a great deal for the Indians and has a lot of folks wondering if Billy Beane has lost his touch. Cespedes let go for a pitcher that is signing with someone else today. Now I hear Samarrdjia for Marcus Semien who Billy could have drafted out of Cal but didn't, Donaldson for who? Moss for Joe Wendle? Anyway, kudos to Antonetti for right place right time on this one. There are probably two dozen other second base prospects in the minors that other GM's would have gladly traded for Moss. I did ask my doc yesterday- he's the A's team doc- about Moss's hip. Said it didn't look good on the XRAY and MRI. The original plan was to do micro-fracture surgery on it to try to stimulate activity and platelet rich plasma to restore cartilage and joint integrity. This is a last resort type of surgery for advanced degenerative conditions- Grady Sizemore had it twice but he never really regained what he lost. The good news w Moss is the doc- Thomas Byrd in Nashville went in and repaired the labrum w an arthroscope- he is pioneer in hip arthroscopy and said Moss should be fine- You can always stimulate cartilage regrowth w plasma injections, prolotherapy, and even stem cells. My guess is Moss got a pretty good cortisone injection in there before the Wild Card game w KC. You see what he can do when the hip is right, so hopefully he is doing his PT, eathing right and he'll be in good shape for Spring Training.
December 9, 2014 - 12:06 PM EST
Great deal for the Indians. His bat would have had us in the playoffs last year. Big power for a non-prospect. What a deal!
John M
December 9, 2014 - 11:47 AM EST
Nailed it.
December 9, 2014 - 11:34 AM EST
Anyone upset at the Moss trade doesn't really follow baseball. They see the overall numbers, rarely look past batting average, home runs & RBI totals. They don't understand the big picture, which is why they're having discussions about why the team doesn't blow its wad all over free agents.

They see a left handed hitter. The Drennan types on TV and radio keep complaining about the lack of right handed pop. Name a team not from Toronto that isn't looking for right handed power for its lineup. There aren't many.

People complaining can't get past the "oh he's hurt go figure dumb cheap DOLANZ!" And don't see value in adding any player with 30 home run potential for a young infielder who's blocked in your own system.
December 9, 2014 - 11:09 AM EST
I dont understand how anyone on the cleveland side could be unhappy with this deal. We stole brandon Moss, huge upside with very little risk involved,
December 9, 2014 - 11:09 AM EST
Will Carroll was quoted by Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs as saying he expects Moss to recover fully from this injury. I didn't know it but Alex Gordon had this exact same surgery a few years back, and he's obviously done just fine since then.

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