In his second stint with Class AAA Syracuse, Tyler Moore finally solved what had been plaguing him all season. He began the year with the Nationals in the same role as last season and struggled, hoping to replicate his promising rookie season as a fill-in and bench player in which he hit 10 home runs in 156 at-bats. But the 26-year-old hit only .151 and three home runs with the Nationals in 106 at-bats this season and his first stint with Syracuse in June didn’t completely fix it.
Now, Moore is hitting .400 (26 for 65) with 12 walks and nine extra-base hits, since being optioned to Syracuse on July 10. In his past 10 games alone, he has homered three times, driven in 11 runs, walked seven times and struck out 11 times in 37 at-bats.
“Walks are up and strikeouts are really down,” he said. “I feel good.”
The lack of regular playing time in the majors hurt Moore. He appeared in 42 games with the Nationals, but 15 of those were as a pinch-hitter. Coming up through the minor leagues, Moore was an everyday player. With the Nationals, for a second straight season, he was a bench player. Bad timing and habits emerged at the plate and stayed there.
“Whenever you’re not playing every day and just coming off the bench, sometimes you struggle and it just makes it even harder to kinda get out of that rhythm,” said Moore, after taking indoor batting practice in Louisville on Wednesday with the Chiefs visiting for a four-game series. “You’re doing small things that you think work and you try to hang onto those things because maybe you got a hit or went 1 for 3 but still didn’t really feel that great. Once you get some at-bats consecutively, you kinda figure it out.”
But to Moore, it wasn’t only the playing time. Moore’s timing was simply off, and Syracuse hitting coach Troy Gingrich helped him discover why.
“For me it was Troy helping me out a lot and in that I need to start earlier,” Moore said. “It slowed the ball down, slowed everything down and now it feels like I’m back to normal just hitting the ball like I can. It wasn’t anything with my swing, wasn’t anything to do with that. It was just tough coming off the bench and not being able to find that because you have only sporadic times to play.”
Moore was also a bench player in the majors last season and still maintained his success at the plate. Then what was the difference? Moore was promoted after a hot start at Syracuse last season; this season he began on bench with the Nationals. He was missing pitches he would normally crush. The Nationals had hoped he would help them attack left-handed pitchers. But after he and the team struggled to do so, they turned to Chris Marrero and traded for Scott Hairston, the latter sending Moore back to the minors.
“They think I was kinda off the fastball, which I was,” Moore said. “Off the fastball and missing all the offspeed. The in-between. I was just late. Everything was late. That’s what makes you chase things. The fastball seemed so much faster. Now I’m just starting a little bit earlier and everything is slowing down. I don’t have to sit on pitches and kinda react with God’s gift.”
The Nationals still believe strongly in Moore. By September, he is a likely candidate to return to the majors, if not sooner because of performance or injuries to others.
“He has potential to be an everyday player on a first-division ball club,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “I think as time goes on, he could handle more of a super-sub coming off the bench. That’s very difficult for a young player who’s playing every day to do that thing. That’s usually for old guys like me. He’s getting some valuable experience playing every day than up here not having that opportunity.”
Syracuse Manager Tony Beasley believes that Moore will be better equipped to handle the majors when he returns.
“He’s a little more relaxed,” he said. “He knows he’s playing every day. He knows he’s getting consistent at-bats and that’s what he needs. Just to get a feel at the plate and to know that he’s a good hitter. ‘I’m a dangerous hitter.’ To get that swag back, if you will. That’s what he had last year, the past few years hitting 30 home runs every year. He had such a strong mind with what he could do offensively, he kinda lost that.”