Matt Moore came to the Giants yesterday in an uncontroversial, widely loved deadline deal for players no one probably remembers, and now Giants fans everywhere are left with one question: So, uh, like, who is he? Let’s investigate!
Moore was drafted by the (then Devil) Rays out of high school in the 8th round in 2007. After a couple years in Rookie ball, he spent a very good 2009 in the Sally League (Class A), a very good 2010 in the Florida State League (High A), and upon getting promoted to AA to start the 2011 season, decided that he was better than the minor leagues and that really it was about time for him to make the majors, so after a fantastic three and a half months in AA, he got promoted to AAA where he was even better, and was in the majors that September. That December (when Moore had less than a month of service time), the Rays signed him to an extremely cheap 8-year contract, which is a huge part of his current value.
Moore has the standard four pitch repertoire: fastball, sinker (or two-seam fastball, if you prefer), curveball, and changeup. Velocity-wise, the fastball and sinker are generally both mid-90s. His off-speed stuff is good, and the curve in particular is kind of a power curve, coming in in the low 80s. But it’s mostly the fastball that you’ll see; this year he’s thrown it about 60% of the time, with the two off-speed pitches coming in at a little less than 40% combined, and very sporadic use of the sinker.
While the stuff is very good, there is some bad news, and that is that ever since Moore came back from his 2014 Tommy John surgery, he hasn’t exactly been the same pitcher. Now, some of that drop in performance is to be expected and it can be assumed that he will improve over time, and especially last year, when he was a little more than a year out from the surgery, his performance was not likely to be predictive. This year, though, he hasn’t been too much better, and why is that? Home runs!
Yes, this new Giants pitcher in 2016 has had a problem giving up home run, and if you think I’m phrasing it that way to give you Samardzija tremors, that’s stupid because Matt Moore is left-handed. Also, Samardzija’s home run problems last year came in an extreme hitter’s park, while Moore’s have come in the Trop, which is definitely a pitcher’s park, so that’s another thing they don’t have in common. Do you have some hope that the home run rate is a fluke? Nope! Moore has been a fly ball pitcher this year, so it might just be that the homers are the price of starting him.
Moore started off the season very badly this year, as Grant noted in one of the many fine Matt Moore articles on McCovey Chronicles dot com, with a 5.56 ERA through June 7, before turning it around with a 2.39 ERA since. However, if you look behind the numbers, the trend isn’t quite so encouraging. As much as Moore was maybe getting a little unlucky earlier in the year, with BABIP (.328) and LOB (72.6%) numbers a bit off from where you’d think they should be, and HR/FB (16.5%) significantly higher, since then the only thing that’s really different is his results. He’s striking out fewer guys, walking them at basically the same rate, and actually giving up more fly balls. But his BABIP has plummeted 100 points (won’t last), his LOB has gone up 9 points (probably won’t last), and his HR/FB has dropped to 7% (please, please last). It’s hard to see where the improvement part of the improvement is happening.
Here’s the part where I say Dave Righetti is well regarded and maybe he will wizard up a solution to Matt Moore’s problems, so: Dave Righetti is well regarded and maybe he will wizard up a solution to Matt Moore’s problems.
Giants scouts and front office people are all smarter than me and have more information and know more about pitching. It could well be that what they’ve seen in Matt Moore over the last couple months has convinced them that he’s ready to be an All-Star contributor. Eno Sarris at Fangraphs laid out the case that the stuff is back, and that’s what the Giants are betting on. It could also be that they have a plan for developing a cutter, or they have some mechanical fix in mind that will help him strike out more guys. Or maybe they’re just trusting him to get better the further away from surgery he gets, as many TJ guys do. There are a lot of thoughts the Giants might have that would justify this trade. From the outside, it’s hard to know what they are.