Drayer: How Strange-Gordon played a role in Moore’s improvement for Mariners
After his first year in the big leagues with the Mariners, where he filled the roll of utility player picking up his 282 plate appearances playing every position but catcher, Dylan Moore’s plan for his preparation for 2020 was simple.
“I just wanted to get better overall,” said Moore, whose offensive numbers place him in the top three in most categories on the Mariners this season. “I wanted to be able to learn from my first experiences because last year was a lot of firsts, obviously being a rookie and kind of hone into who I am as a player and be more consistent at the plate.”
He knew who he was as a player. Drafted as a shortstop in the seventh round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers and traded to Atlanta the following year, he made the determination after being released by the Braves and signed by the Brewers in 2018 that his best path to the big leagues was to play multiple positions.
While perhaps in the past the utility position seemed like almost a default for those who were not good enough at any one position, in recent years many organizations have been putting more value on that role, asking more from those who sought to land it. It is no longer a defense-first position but the defense must be solid. Offensively, every day numbers are expected from a player who doesn’t play every day. In that area, for Moore, who was signed by the Mariners as a minor-league free agent in the fall of 2018, there was work to be done.
“Over time with all of the video and analytics, I have been able to connect my feels with what I see in my swing and I am a little more direct to the ball, less swing and miss, which was a problem last year,” he pointed out.
It is one thing to diagnose the problem, another to fix it. The majority of the work came during the shutdown between spring training and the start of the 60-game season. Moore wanted to find a way to increase the consistency of solid contact and, as luck would have it, he had a neighbor in Orlando, Florida, with contact skills and a blow up batting cage who was willing to help.
“I worked with Dee (Strange-Gordon) a lot, who doesn’t swing and miss a lot,” he said. “We worked on point of contact stuff, being more direct to the baseball, setting my body in a position to where I could recognize and be on time to a fastball. I was late a lot last year.”
It might sound like an unusual pairing. Moore, who ranks in the upper quarter in baseball in hard hit rates, exit velocity and slugging percentage and Strange-Gordon on the opposite end, but Moore saw there was much that could be learned from his neighbor.
“I don’t want to hit exactly like Dee and Dee doesn’t want to hit like me. Obviously we are a different player, but I knew I wanted to go with a little more direction, a little less launch angle, a little more direct to the ball and I knew he was a guy that did that and obviously has been a great player for a long time,” he said.
Some say teammates can be the best teachers and during the shutdown, a teammate was the only option. For Moore, Gordon might have been the perfect match.
“He can really talk about it,” he said of Strange-Gordon’s teaching style. “He’s very simple. ‘This is where you do this, this is where I do this. This is how I feel, this is how you should feel. What do you think?’ We gel very well together.”
In addition to working with Strange-Gordon on his swing, Moore worked to get stronger believing that if he increased his consistency of solid contact with more weight behind it, the ball would go further. From what we have seen with his numbers this season, it would appear he is reaching his goals. In addition to the increase in his slash lines – .206/.302/.389/.691 to .283/.366/.545/.912 – there have been increases in his barrel percentage, hard hit percentage, contact rates and a decrease in strikeout percentage would indicate significant change.
Hey look, another Dylan Moore tweet. pic.twitter.com/qmjDuiGgdQ
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) August 11, 2020
Moore had a plan, but real estate also played a factor. Much was learned from time spent with Strange-Gordon, who he was fortunate enough to live near. That Strange-Gordon would be willing to take the time to help, was no surprise. He has been of tremendous benefit to the Mariners according to Moore.
“He’s amazing,” said Moore. “If you have a question he is always there for you. I think that shows a lot of the person he is and the player he has been throughout his career, to be able to help the guys that look at him as a big brother. He helps a lot of the younger guys and is a great person.”