You still don’t have to like the Matt Moore trade. But you can at least understand it a little bit better now.
We’ve seen Moore’s upside. We don’t have to rely on rumors, anecdotes, and blurry pictures from the other side of the country to build the case for him. We’re six starts into what everyone is hoping will be a long, fruitful Giants career, and the last two have been fantastic. This start featured just one walk, which means you can probably refreeze the Jonathan Sanchez jokes and thaw them out for the next pitcher.
You still don’t have to like the Matt Moore trade. But at least we can start calling it the "Matt Moore trade," right? The Giants didn’t just jump on the first available pitcher under contract for the next couple years; they saw something of a trade unicorn on market. Moore was a young, cheap, former All-Star who was available in trade, and the other team wasn’t hanging up on Bobby Evans. I’m honestly not sure if there are other pitchers who would fit that description. The difference with Moore is his team couldn’t risk being wrong about the direction of his trade value, so they were willing to price him like the pair of slightly irregular outlet store jeans that he was.
Still expensive, of course. Still soul-crushingly expensive. I’m not trying to gloss over that part.
But with each start, we get it a little more. If Moore can pitch like that more often than not over the next three years, the Giants will have something they couldn’t have found anywhere else. They weren’t going to buy it. They didn’t have the prospects to trade for it. Their farm system hasn’t produced it in years. This was the shot, and all that was left was for Moore to make them look smart. Which he politely declined to do for his first four walk-speckled starts.
Two starts later, and we can exhale just a teensy bit. Moore’s stuff was remarkable again Wednesday afternoon, mixing a 93-mph four seamer with a fast-moving cutter, and returning to the changeup more than he did any of his first few starts. And with all that working, it was probably his curveball that was his best pitch. Moore picked up 14 swinging strikes on the afternoon, which is just one short of Johnny Cueto’s best game of the season, for perspective. It’s what Madison Bumgarner had when he struck out 11 in a complete game against the Padres. It’s what Moore had when he almost no-hit the Dodgers. It’s a fair amount of whiffs.
It’s a reminder that Moore can sure miss a lot of bats, which is one of the most important thing a pitcher can do.
That isn’t to say this is a parade-worthy start. Moore threw just 5⅓ innings, after all. That had plenty to do with the pitch count from his almost-no-hitter, and Bruce Bochy deserves a little credit for not pushing him for a couple more batters. Beware the 11-pitch at-bats in that situation. A season filled with five-inning starts would put an enormous strain on the bullpen, so it’s probably easy to be too giddy about Moore’s start. It was fine.
After his last start, though? He’s moved up into the rarified category of Giants Starting Pitchers I Really Enjoy Watching. That wasn’t guaranteed to be the case so quickly after the case of walkitis. The Giants have three of those pitchers now, which is about two more than they’ve had since Tim Hudson was an All-Star.
Still not sure about the trade myself, but I can’t argue that it’s not extremely nice to have another pitcher to look forward to. Why did the Giants trade for Matt Moore? Because in his good-not-great starts, he can do that. Which makes us look forward even more to the great starts. Which we’re assuming exist now.
It’s good to assume those exist. It’s good to watch Matt Moore be good. The Dodgers lost the first game of their doubleheader. Good, good. Everything’s good.
These are so much more fun to write when the Giants win. They might not be more fun to read, but I don’t care. It’s all good around here.
* * *
Moore’s start could have been a lot different, of course, if he were playing in Yankee Stadium or Camden Yards. That’s the point of AT&T Park, I suppose. It allows for plays like this:
It’s Gorky’s park, and we’re all just paying rent, he said, chuckling to himself like he hasn’t been waiting to use that since March. Considering the situation, the catch from Gorky Hernandez was one of the most important defensive plays in the second half, and if you think that’s hyperbole, please note that I’m limiting the field to defensive plays occurring in second-half wins. So, yeah, it’s up there.
I’m not sure if this was one of the most important defensive plays of the second half, but it’s definitely one of my favorites:
Count the ways:
- Posey’s immediate hustle and Shelby Miller’s lack thereof are the only ways the play is made.
- Posey’s loooooooaaaaaawwwwwwwng throw to get Miller. How many throws will Posey make like that in his career? Can’t be too many.
- Brandon Belt’s freakish ability to extend for leaves/balls that seem completely out of reach. Also, when he says he stays on the bag, he gets the honor rule for that, too.
- That the replay hosed the Diamondbacks (though I did agree that it was too close to overturn)
- That baseball’s dumbest rule — "Let the runner reach base because he swung at a pitch that was far too awful to catch" — didn’t reward a team that didn’t deserve it. Because they never deserve it.
It was a solid defensive game all around. Also, did we mention the Giants got four runs? Joe Panik was 3-for-4, and Buster Posey had the kind of first inning RBI that pacifies us slobs. Hunter Pence had a two-out RBI, and Angel Pagan timed his lone hit well. It wasn’t all about Moore and a couple of stellar plays behind him.
But those are the bits I’ll remember. Well, those and ...
* * *
Birds. I’ll also remember the birds.
Honest question for the ornithologists out there: What is so delicious for birds in the middle of a baseball diamond? It’s something I suppose I’ve never thought of. Because one bird came down, started pecking away, and then he got a friend, who concurred that this was a helluva spot, who then got another friend.
It’s seeds, right? Grass seeds. So why doesn’t this happen more often? Unless it’s bugs. But those birds were going to down, so does that mean that every baseball game is played atop flowing rivers of bugs? I’m not trying to get ponderous or weird, here. I’m trying to understand this.
Anyway, this is notable because birds usually don’t hang out on the infield grass all danged game. Maybe this is the start of a trend.
When you’re a hyper-intelligent secret dinosaur, and you’ve just implemented Phase 1 of the revolution with your buddies.
That’s a good looking bird.
Everything’s good today. How are you? The Giants won, and the Dodgers lost at least once. The birds probably aren't here to murder us. That’s a good day. Good, good, good.