During the offseason after 2012, when the Tampa Bay Rays made the bold move of trading starting pitcher James Shields to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder Will Myers, everyone knew the Rays would have to replace Shields’ innings with an effective starter. It wasn’t entirely clear, however, who that starter was going to be. One year later, the Rays know exactly who to count on in the starting rotation behind David Price, and that pitcher is Matt Moore.
Moore had a breakout year in 2013, going 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA. In his Major League Baseball career prior to 2013, Moore had only won 12 games total and he was a pedestrian 12-12 in 2012, throwing to an ERA of 3.81. Moore made a drastic improvement in his winning percentage from 2012 (.500) to 2013 (.810), and while going 17-4 against in 2014 might be a bit of a stretch for the Rays’ left-hander, if Tampa Bay is to compete in the American League East, Moore will again have to be a strong number-two starter.
Moore has only allowed one homer about every 10 innings so far in his career, a valuable asset to possess for anyone pitching in the American League. He gave up just 119 hits in 150.1 innings last season, which are numbers any pitcher would envy. All of which would lead many to think that he could be a Cy Young contender for 2014. That may well happen, but there are some issues that Moore needs to clear up, as well, before being considered an ace.
The main issue for Moore is his control. Moore walked 76 batters last season, or about one every other inning. This diluted the benefit of him giving up so few hits, because he still gave up 195 baserunners in those 150.1 innings. The fact that he only gave up 58 runs (55 earned), about one every three innings, shows Moore is very comfortable pitching out of jams and working with runners on base. But it’s difficult for a pitcher to make a living like that over a number of years without his numbers taking a hit. With Shields gone and ace David Price always the subject of trade rumors it seems), Moore must reel in his control to be counted on as a future ace. Moore also had 17 wild pitches in 2013, the most in the American League.
Another potential red-flag for Moore are the innings he pitched. The total of 150.1 came in 27 starts, meaning he only lasted approximately 5.5 innings per start. Maybe as Moore gets older (he turns 25 in June), he will be able to improve his workload, or maybe the Rays will be more comfortable letting him pitch longer. Whatever the reason, Moore has the potential and ability to be a top starter in the American League if he can improve his control and become more durable.