Tyler Moore is back in the Nationals’ lineup again tonight, his seventh start since Washington recalled him from Class AAA Syracuse on June 6. Since he came back, Moore has been a different player. He went 3 for 19 with seven strikeouts and no walks in his first stint, which was marked by infrequent playing time. “I was kind of out of my element a little bit,” Moore said. “I didn’t really know.”
In his second trip to the majors, brought on by the back injury to Carlos Maldonado, Moore, 25, has forced his way into the lineup. He is 8 for 18 with two home runs, two doubles, four walks and two strikeouts. Thursday night, he had a remarkable game in a small way. In three at-bats, Moore saw 22 pitches. He drew two walks, and against reliever Joel Peralta he lined out to right-center field on the 11th pitch of the bat.
The performance reflected two aspects of Moore’s game: how he changes his approaches when he starts as opposed to pinch-hitter, and how that approach developed this season.
“Really the last probably year or so, I just tried to keen in on a pitch I wanted to hit,” Moore said. “[Thursday] night, I just wasn’t able to get it, so I was able to stay patient. Coming off the bench, it’s a little bit different, because I know I’m going to see the guy more than once when I’m starting. I can take a pitch – hey, let me see his arm slot. But coming off the bench, you have to be more aggressive, because that’s the only time you’re facing him.”
Moore worked hard with Class AAA Syracuse hitting coach Troy Gingrich to improve hid discipline this year. Moore has been “not really chasing,” he said.
As Moore became one of the most prolific power hitters in the minor leagues, he was still a free swinger. He walked once every 15.2 plate appearances in his minor league career before this year. At Syracuse this year, as he mashed nine homers, Moore also drew 11 walks in 113 plate appearances, increasing his rate about five percent.
You can look at the numbers for the improvement. Or you can take in Moore’s awesomely phrased description.
“Just finding a ball in my honey hole, what I want to hit,” Moore said. “And it’s really been paying off for me.”
Moore is really a neat story. The Nationals drafted him in the 16th round in 2008. In 2010, he was hitting .190 at Class A Potomac about midway through the year. His hitting coach there, Matt Nokes, told him to stop thinking so much at the plate. Moore won four of the next six Carolina League player of the week awards. He has not stopped raking since.
Moore has turned himself from a mid-round draft pick to a fringy prospect to a 40-man roster player to a frequent contributor on a first-place team. He looks now like a player who could have a long career crushing left-handed pitching, and at best is an everyday first baseman. This year, right now, his growing plate discipline in the next step in the process.