Tyler Moore's unreal streak
In the middle of July, Potomac hitting coach Matt Nokes sat down with Tyler Moore and told him not to worry about his batting average, which at the time sat south of .200. All the coaching staff and the organization wanted to see Moore prove is that he was moving forward in the final months. A couple good weeks, and he would be back to where the Nationals wanted.
"No one expected him to take it that seriously," Nokes said Sunday afternoon in the Potomac dugout, laughing out loud at the memory.
The comedy comes from the absurd month-and-a-half that has followed the chat. Moore has turned from a first baseman batting .195 into perhaps the most devastating slugger in minor league baseball. Today, Moore was named the Carolina League Player of the Week, which they might think about renaming The Tyler Moore Award. He has won it four times in six weeks.
This past week, Moore went 11 for 24 with four home runs, two doubles, 13 RBI and six runs. He had an 1.125 OPS last week, and excuse Moore if that's a letdown for him. It actually dropped his OPS since July 15, which is now a mere 1.406.
Since July 15, a span of 37 games, Moore has hit 18 home runs, one every eight at-bats. He has 55 RBI and 39 runs. He has a .424 batting average, a .475 on-base percentage and a .931 slugging percentage. Nine. Three. One.
"I've never seen anything like it," Potomac starting pitcher Trevor Holder said.
There was nothing that predicated Moore's sudden burst. "I hadn't shown any power, really, in the minor leagues," Moore said. Last season, Moore hit .297 with nine home runs. He did well to rise in the organization, not quite well enough to make much more than a ripple. He immediately hit with more power, blasting 10 home runs by midseason, but his average, partly because of bad luck on balls put in play, plummeted. He struck out far more than he did last year.
"This is the level where they starts infiltrating the parts of your zone you can't hit, your weak spots," Nokes said. "They found them, and he needed to make some adjustments."
As Moore tried to acclimate, he became tentative. When pitchers made mistakes, Moore fouled them off. He worked diligently to correct his problems, but then thought too much at the plate. During one chat, Moore told Nokes, "I'll be looking for a pitch and feel good about it and right before the guy releases it I think, 'What if?' " Moore looked in a clubhouse mirror, examining where he held his hands and how he stood.
"The first half, I was just thinking a lot going to the plate," Moore said. "I was really just over-thinking every situation possible. I was making it real, real tough for myself."
The change happened instantly. When he thought about what pitch might come or where his hands were, he'd tell himself, "Just shut up, man. That's stupid." On July 15, he drilled a home run with a hellacious swing. In the dugout, Nokes leaped out of his seat.
"I started laughing, because it was what I wanted him to do all year -- hit with conviction," Nokes said. "It was literally like slow-pitch softball. Just, 'Whack!' "
"I feel like I went back to hitting," Moore said. "I said, 'Enough is enough.' I just went back to hitting. It was like, 'Oh, there it is.' A light went off in my head.
"In the second half, I was just trying to get that competitive edge back and just stop thinking about everything. Just going up there and competing with the pitcher, trying to keep everything simple. Just seeing the ball and hitting it."
He hasn't stopped. On Sunday morning, the scoreboard at Pfitzner Stadium rolled through Carolina League leaders. Moore had 102 RBIs, and the closest hitter had 79. His teammates joked that he better watch his back because someone was right on his tail.
These have not been cheap home runs. On Saturday night, one of Moore's home runs flew into the trees beyond the scoreboard in left-center field. The second clanged off the scoreboard so hard it rolled all the way back to the infield.
For the season, Moore has 71 extra-base hits, more than anybody in baseball. Nokes tells him jokingly he has to ignore him and not say anything at all anymore. Moore still reminds himself not to think too much.
"I've got to be as simple as possible," Moore said. "I'm going up there to hit."
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