Demoted outfielder encouraged by results of open batting stance
June 20, 2010 4:00 AM
Peter Diana / Post-Gazette
Pirates Brandon Moss
By Chuck Finder Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Brandon Moss still is possessed of an open personality.
One month ago, he added to it an open stance.
The latter has restored his confidence -- after a 2009 of "negativity," to use his word -- and his ability to drive a baseball deep.
"I have been doing pretty well the past month or so," said Moss, batting .236 until a midweek 0-for-10 stretch amid the attention on a third Class AAA Indianapolis teammate to get promoted within one week --none of them named Brandon Douglas Moss.
"April and most of May, I was searching down here, still. I went through so many different things last year and went through so much negativity with the way I played that I lost a lot of confidence in myself and my ability.
"When I came here, it wasn't that I was depressed. ... When Neal [Huntington] told me that I was designated, I was actually happy. I told him that I hoped I cleared, really. I knew that I needed to come here to find myself and to find the swing that had made the Pirates want me to begin with."
After being one of the keys in the Jason Bay deal with Boston, Moss, 26, broke off in the Pirates' lock-- knee surgery, the lingering weakness, hitting issues, you name it. This spring, he was designated for assignment and went unclaimed, setting up his return to a Class AAA level where he proved his competency with the Red Sox's Pawtucket club: a .282 average, 24 home runs and 108 RBIs in 176 games.
One batting practice in early May, he decided to make a change.
He didn't so much add the open stance as he reverted to one.
"I went back to extremely open stance, and the ball just started jumping," Moss said. "It was like, from that moment on, my confidence was back.
"My front foot is back behind my back foot a lot. It is kind of like how [former Pirates first baseman] Adam LaRoche hit. I hit like that in the minor leagues with the Red Sox and in '08 I went up with them, didn't play a lot and kind of eliminated it because of timing issues."
After his average dropped to .210, he embarked on an eight-game hitting spree. Moss remains subject to polar-opposite spells, cold and hot, but look at the change in production: From two homers, seven RBIs and two doubles in early May to six homers, 26 RBIs and 15 doubles by mid-June. He then endured an 0-for-10 skid in four games against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, dropping his average by week's end to .225 in 59 games.
"Still, my average is not where I want it to be," Moss said. "But, early on, my average was not where I wanted it to be and I wasn't getting any extra-base hits.
"I was a joke, I was bad. Here, lately, every hit I have gotten has been an extra-base hit.
"To me, average doesn't mean everything, because you could hit five balls hard and right at someone. Me, I look at on-base percentage [.295] and slugging percentage [.380], just look at those numbers. If your on-base percentage is good, in relativity to your average, and your slugging percentage is up there, that tells you what you are swinging at and how hard you are hitting it."
In his most recent hot streak, he went 7 for 24 (.291) with five RBIs. Six of those seven hits were doubles.
When he was demoted, Moss said, "I was not worried about getting back, I was worried about getting better. The last thing I needed, right at that point, was to get back [to the big leagues]. I didn't need to go up there and not have success -- that wouldn't have been a positive.
"When I am comfortable again, and I'm almost there, getting close, I'd love to get back there."
Another expatriated Pirate
You don't have to look too hard around the Indianapolis clubhouse to find another ex-Pirate gladdened by what he considers a Class AAA rejuvenation.
"I haven't felt this good about the work that I've put in, from the offensive side of it, as I do right now, in a long time," Clement said. "It is just kind of getting that feel back ... when things are going well. I am not locked in right now by any stretch, but I think that it is coming ... faster than I thought it would."
After being sent to Indianapolis amid the Jose Tabata-Brad Lincoln callups June 8, Clement did what was ordered: play every day and work on his game. He went on a 5-for-16 mini-tear (.312) with two homers and two doubles in four games heading into this weekend at Buffalo.
"My focus is on enjoying playing the game and I understand, obviously, to enjoy playing the game you have to have success," Clement said. "I feel like I am doing the things I need to in order to have that success."
Indians manager Frank Kremblas: "In this organization, you are not trying to play good at Triple-A, you are not trying to play good at Altoona or at A-ball. You are trying to play good, or practice what you have to do in the big leagues, to be successful."
A chilly draft
Baseball America took the occasion of the recent draft to rate the past decade's drafts, and the Pirates didn't fare well -- mostly due to the previous administration.
The magazine ranked the Pirates' 2007 class as one of the 10 worst, given its lack of major league impact. The magazine's summation: "Three years later, [Altoona closer Danny] Moskos and shortstop Brian Friday are the only players that remain in the Pirates' Top 30 from this class."
Moreover, the magazine gave the Pirates a C average overall for their 2000-09 drafts, with an F in 2004 (Neil Walker and little else) and 2007 (see above), but Bs at the decade's start thanks to Mickey White and Co. landing Chris Young, Nate McLouth and Rajai Davis. On average in the decade, the Pirates held the third-earliest pick in the draft. Huntington's first two drafts? Baseball America gave 2008 (Pedro Alvarez) an A and last June (Tony Sanchez) a C-plus.