Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Moore Continues To Dominate; Can It Last?

By Thom Tsang
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry, David Price. They say that the game is about what you’ve done lately, and what you’ve done lately isn’t all that remarkable.

It doesn’t help that the Tampa Bay Rays‘ ace is shelved on the DL with a triceps injury, but it helps his status even less that he’s been consistently outperformed by the sophomore on the block in Matt Moore, who is quickly ascending the team’s depth charts to the point where it wouldn’t be too difficult to make a case for him to be the team’s new No. 1 already.

After all, how can you deny the 2.29/1.09 ERA/WHIP that the 23-year-old owns, on top of an AL-leading .197 BAA?

The lefty’s dominance continued against the divisional rival Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, as he delivered yet another quality start (six of nine in 2013), throwing seven strong innings while allowing just one run on five hits, one walk, and striking out three batters.

Though he didn’t end up making everyone look silly, there was little question that Moore was in control. Only a leadoff triple from Manny Machado (who later scored) gave him his only legitimate trouble inning of the outing, and he came out it relatively unscathed by retiring his next three batters.

In all, it was enough to earn him his eighth victory of the season, and if you happen to like wins and losses as an evaluator, you’ll probably enjoy the fact that the win on Sunday gave Moore a franchise record ninth consecutive win in a row dating back to last year … a record set by — yes, you guessed it — David Price.

While being compared to Babe Ruth certainly isn’t going to hurt a player’s stock, the more pertinent question to ask of Moore is if this run of dominance is going to last.

And the short answer is no … well, not like this, anyway.

Although the lefty has been very good in most of his outings, the ones that didn’t quite fit in that category were ones what he was lucky not to have lost. It’s also no coincidence that those starts happened to be the ones where his penchant for giving out free passes was at its worst (six walks on April 10, consecutive four-walk outings to start May).

No matter how great his pure stuff might be, the 4.25 BB/9 and a 1.15 HR/9 rate is eventually going to come back to bite Moore, simply because he’s riding on a fairly ridiculous 91.8 percent strand rate right now.

There’s little doubt that the youngster’s stuff is excellent, but the short of it is that he’s not throwing a lot of strikes (46 percent), batters are making more contact (78.7 percent vs. 74.5 in 2012), and they aren’t coming in the way of ground balls (0.77 GB/FB, 0.87 in 2012).

Yes, many of them are pop-ups (12.3 percent) and most are not hard-hit (17.3 line drive rate), both contributing to his .197 BABIP, but that’s not going to stay almost 100 points below the .293 he posted last year, not the the whole season.

That’s not to say that Moore can’t continue succeeding, of course.

But if he wants to maintain the numbers he’s had all year, adjustments with his control are going to have to be made, lest he wants the rest of his season to be a off-again, on-again high-wire act.

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