I think it’s time we change our perception of Matt Moore.
Everywhere I look, Moore is considered a top 30 starting pitcher heading into 2014 … despite finishing outside the top 30 in each of his first two seasons. If you’ve been playing fantasy baseball for at least a few years now, chances are Moore is a guy who was on your radar well before he even made a start for the Tampa Bay Rays. A few years ago, Moore was a can’t-miss prospect. Heading into the 2012 season, Keith Law had Moore ranked third on his top 100 prospects list — behind Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, and right in front of Manny Machado.
Moore is perceived by many as a dominant, bullet-throwing, left-handed starting pitcher who is capable of striking out anyone and who is only going to increase in fantasy value. That’s the perception, so what’s the reality?
The reality is that Moore is an incredible left-handed talent who still has a long way to go before he can be considered dominant. There is no denying that there is limitless potential in Moore’s left arm, but there are also plenty of red flags surrounding him as well.
Moore’s primary weapon has always been his fastball. In 2012, the pitch was a veritable fireball averaging 94.1 mph. Last season though, Moore’s average fastball velocity dropped dramatically down to 92.3 mph and the results were obvious. In 2012, opposing batters hit .219 with 78 strikeouts against Moore’s fastball; in 2013, opposing batters hit .247 with 38 strikeouts against the same pitch. In 2012, batters swung and missed on 10.3 percent of Moore’s fastballs; in 2013, they whiffed at a 6.6 percent rate vs. his fastball.
Diminished velocity wasn’t the only problem that plagued Moore’s fastball in 2013 as inability to control the pitch infected him as well. Moore’s 76 walks were the ninth-most among starting pitchers (he threw at least 20 fewer innings than all but two pitchers ahead of him), and his 4.55 BB/9 was the second-worst rate in all of MLB (among pitchers with at least 150 innings).
In 2012, Moore had a walk rate of 13.8 percent with his fastball; in 2013, that walk rate rose to 17.8 percent. Batters were swinging at the pitch less when it was outside the zone (21.7 percent outside swing percentage in 2013 compared to 24.2 percent in 2012) and when they did swing, they were making more contact (74.8 percent outside contact rate in 2013 compared to 69.4 percent in 2012).
Moore wasn’t fooling anyone with his fastball in 2013, and he wasn’t blowing it by anyone either. Many perceive Moore as being on the cusp of breaking out and becoming the pitcher Law wrote about back in 2012. Those people will likely point to his improved ERA, WHIP and win total from 2012 to 2013 and claim that he must be close.
The reality though is that he’s just 24-years-old and he still has a lot to improve upon. It would not surprise me if Moore someday puts it all together and becomes a Cy Young-caliber pitcher; it would surprise me greatly, however, if that happens in 2014.
I have Moore projected to record 11 wins, a 3.94 ERA, 171 strikeouts and a 1.37 WHIP in 2014, and I have him ranked as my 61st starting pitcher behind guys like Danny Salazar, Tony Cingrani and Francisco Liriano.