Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore: wow


Matt Moore pitched far beyond his experience on Friday. Photo AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez via

When word came out that Tampa Bay’s manager Joe Madden had announced that his playoff game #1 starter on 9/30 (box/gamer) was recent minor league call up Matt Moore, I had a couple of quick thoughts:

  • I wonder how this played out in the Tampa clubhouse; you have starters that labored all year and helped earn the team the playoff appearance, and suddenly your game #1 starter is a guy with a grand total of 15 major league IP?
  • I especially wonder what this says about Jeff Niemann, who in my estimation was the scheduled starter for game #1 and now seems like he may be skipped altogether?

Nonetheless, Moore took the mound in game one against the Texas Rangers, by most measures the best or 2nd best offense in the league.  The game start was mid-afternoon, meaning the stadium shadows would be giving the pitchers a significant advantage.  However, this didn’t seem to bother the Tampa hitters, who battered CJ Wilson for 8 runs (6 earned) and knocked him out in the 6th.

Meanwhile, Moore was nearly as unhittable as he was in his first MLB start, an 11k, 5 inning start against the Yankees B-team.   His line against the Rangers in game 1: 7 shutout innings, giving up 2 hits, 6 k’s and 2 walks.  The two hits were both to Josh Hamilton, who stroked a first-pitch fastball in the first for a single, then nearly hit a solo-homer in the 4th.  Otherwise, Moore was dominant.   Despite “only” getting 62 of his 98 pitches for strikes, he was all over the plate and had numerous pitches called balls that were clearly over the plate.  Pitch F/X, which routinely has difficult times classifying new hurlers and properly categorizing their arsenal, lists Moore with 6 pitches but to me he looks to be a 3 pitch guy so far.  He has a 4-seamer that he commands amazingly well and that he can bring up to 98mph (technically, max of 97.9).  He sits a bit slower, averaging 94.37 on the night.  He also featured a decent changeup, with a 10-12mph difference off his fastball and which he uses as his secondary pitch.  Lastly he has a large off-speed overhand curve that may be a bit too loopy for now; he only threw it four times all night.  He has a very smooth, easy motion and it doesn’t look like he’s throwing nearly as hard as he does.  It isn’t surprising at all that his minor league numbers were so amazing (specifically, 210 Ks in 155 innings between AA and AAA this year).

He predominantly pounded fastballs on the night; 76 of his 98 pitches were fastballs that he moved in and out and commanded effectively.  I wonder if this heavy fastball use is indicative of his normal game plan, or if he was just so overpowering that his catcher just kept calling for the #1 until the Rangers proved they could hit it.  I have a tendency to think it may have been the latter; major league starters who have to go through the lineup three times will only show you one or two pitches if they can, saving the rest of his arsenal for later innings.  If you can get guys out by just using one pitch, you stick with that strategy until proven otherwise.

What does this mean for the rest of the playoffs?  Bad news for opponents: if the Rays could line up Moore along side their top 3 starters (Price, Shields, Hellickson) and skip their less effective starters (Niemann, Davis) then suddenly this is a much more dangerous team than what was predicted a week ago.

What does this mean for the Rays next season in terms of payroll and roster management?  Scary.  The Rays made the playoffs despite shedding $30 MILLION from their 2010 payroll.  Price is on a team friendly contract, Hellickson is pre-arbitration and will make near the MLB minimum.  Sonnanstine and Niemann are both arbitration eligible and could be trade bait to save some cash.  More likely is an off-season trade involving Shields.  He’s coming off a career year and has a $7M club option (along with relatively affordable options for 2013 and 2014).  $7M for a Cy Young candidate pitcher is a bargain and clubs would be lining up to trade prospect depth for him.

Written by Todd Boss

October 3rd, 2011 at 10:03 am

5 Responses to 'Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore: wow'

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  1. Purke might just be better … watch out for him in the AFL!


    3 Oct 11 at 4:45 pm

  2. Lets hope so. I was sniffing around for scouting reports to link to and found a bunch of guys really killing him. I just hope 2011 was not what he’s become after looking so good in 2009.

    Todd Boss

    3 Oct 11 at 4:57 pm

  3. I’m late to this, Todd, but you’re missing the most important elemant to Purke. He allowed the Nats to do a dye-injected MRI on his shoulder before they offered him any money. Incredibly ballsy/confident. If the found something, he’s out all that money.
    Obviously, they found nothing.

    That TCU coach is rapidly becoming known as a pitcher killer. The Nats got Purke out of there just in time.

    Mark L

    4 Oct 11 at 7:44 pm

  4. […] part, but did talk about Matt Moore and how good he’s looked.  Moore was the subject of an analysis post I did over the weekend.  He looked fantastic and could be a secret weapon for Tampa Bay this […]

  5. […] it by saying that any of the top 4 could be #1.  I talked about Moore after his playoff start on this site, coming away with a Wow factor that I havn’t had since […]

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