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Did Evan Longoria and Mike Moustakas swap bodies?

Prior to the 2018 season, the Giants traded for Evan Longoria because they didn’t want a third baseman with severe on-base problems, but that’s exactly what they got.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time where Mike Moustakas heading to the Giants was terrifyingly imminent. Following the 2017 offseason, San Francisco needed a third baseman to fill the void initially left by sweet, sweet Matt Duffy. Christian Arroyo didn’t look quite ready to take the reins and Moustakas was available for a pittance. The problem is that Moustakas was a one-dimensional player. He was a left-hander who thrived on his power, played middling defense, and struggled to get on base. He was exactly the kind of player that would wilt at Oracle Park.

The Giants instead went for Evan Longoria, a right-hander who hits for power, plays good defense, and got on base just fine. At the time, you could argue with the Giants’ logic for making the Longoria trade at all, but it’d be hard to make the argument that they should have picked up Mike Moustakas instead. Just compare their career slash lines through 2017.

Moustakas: .251/.305/.425, 96 wRC+

Longoria: .270/.341/.483, 123 wRC+

Moustakas might have had more contractual appeal, if you had to pick between the two based on talent alone, you’d go for Longoria. But that wound up being the wrong decision. Here’s what each have done since the beginning of 2018.

Moustakas: .254/.317/.478, 110 wRC+

Longoria: .239/.387/.412, 87 wRC+

Since coming to the Giants, Longoria has been the one-dimensional power hitter who struggles to get on base and plays middling defense that the Giants thought they were avoiding with Mike Moustakas. Meanwhile, Moustakas has gotten on base just fine while playing defense well enough to convince the Brewers to start him at second. It turns out Moustakas was the right choice all along.

So that leads me ask: did Mike Moustakas and Evan Longoria Freaky Friday into each other’s bodies?

It would certainly explain why their talents suddenly swapped, but that presupposes that baseball ability is on the inside and isn’t ultimately determined by one’s body. Longoria’s baseball acumen inside of Moustakas’s frame would be the main cause behind Moustakas’s emergence.

If that were the case, we could look for changes in their discipline stats. Longoria has been progressively more aggressive in recent years, but Moustakas has been similarly aggressive. So, that doesn’t prove anything.

What we might be able to look to is the change in their groundball and fly ball rates. Before the 2017 season, Moustakas changed his swing to put more balls in the air. Prior to that, Moustakas was hitting around 40 percent of his batted balls on the ground. After the swing change, he’s down to 34. Longoria’s had the inverse happen to his groundball rates. His average groundball rates have risen four to five percent since 2017. Did Longoria bring his fly ball mindset into Moustakas’s body and did Moustakas bring the ground attack to Longoria’s?

If that’s the case, then the Freaky Friday-ing happened a year before the Giants could have acquired either. Maybe they could have picked up on the switcheroo, but it was only one season’s worth. It could have been a small sample.

Still, Moustakas has been great since the Giants most seriously kicked his tires and Longoria, well, hasn’t. Presumably, if they could Freaky Friday once, they could Freaky Friday again. Longoria hasn’t been completely lost. Since I wrote about how his walk rate was lower than last year’s, he’s been walking like Brandon Belt. But he certainly hasn’t hit 41 homers in the last two years, and that used to be no trouble for him prior to 2017.

The easiest explanation is that a Freaky Friday-ing did in fact occur. Otherwise, it would simply mean that the Giants aren’t great talent evaluators, and that can’t possibly be true, can it?