Matt Moore did a good job in Washington on Sunday and we can all be happy for him. He doesn’t seem to be an unpleasant person, and the Giants made a big trade to get him (though who even remembers what players they gave up to get him, ha ha, am I right), and with the options in his contract, if he does well over the next couple years, he’s a bargain.
If he repeats his performance from this year, he will be, shall we say, not a bargain.
According to Baseball Reference, Moore has been worth -0.5 WAR this year. According to Fangraphs, he’s been worth 0.8 WAR. According to Baseball Prospectus, he’s been worth -2.3 WARP, which to be honest, is the one that feels right. However, even accepting the Fangraphs number, which is the one most generous to Moore, he’s still been quite bad this year. I know sometimes it’s hard to trust the fancypants numbers from Internet baseball sites, but let’s just assume the story they’re telling is true. What’s going on with Matt Moore?
Moore’s lefty/righty splits are, bluntly, shocking. Righties are hitting .256/.318/.455 against him, which isn’t especially good, but it’s not a disaster either. It’s 10 points of wOBA more than his career number, because even though the raw power numbers are significantly worse (about 50 points of SLG higher than his career line), the 2017 environment is so offense-friendly that, compared to league average, it’s not as bad as you might think. So as much as righties are a problem, they’re not really the problem.
This is when we come to lefties. Left handed hitters are hitting .378/.448/.641 against Moore this year. To put that into perspective, it’s awful. To put that into more perspective, Joey Votto is leading all left handed hitters in OPS this year, and he’s hitting .317/.447/.603. So roughly speaking, Matt Moore turns every lefty he faces into Joey Votto.
YOU: That’s not fair. The batting lines are different!
Yeah, well, “Matt Moore turns every lefty he faces into someone better than Joey Votto” doesn’t give you a clear picture in your head, does it? It’s close enough for you to get the point.
But it gets worse! Lefties on the road are hitting .446/.507/.905 against Moore this year.
YOU: That’s got to be small sample size. No one’s that bad.
No, that’s not the point. The point is more, what the hell is that? He’s also worse against lefties at home than he’s ever been, but not Peak Barry Bonds OPS Bad, which just to be clear, is incredibly bad. Something has to be obviously different, right? You can’t be this much of a disaster without there being some sort of obvious clue as to what’s going on, can you?
I’m going to present some graphs now from Brooks about Matt Moore facing left handed hitters. I hope you like graphs. First up, two about his whiff rates:
Ignore the blue changeup lines from last year, because from August through October Moore threw a total of 10 changeups to lefties, so the high whiff rate on those doesn’t mean a lot. But if you look at the curveball, which was a consistent swing and miss pitch for him after he came to the Giants last year, it’s declined significantly. The cutter’s had ups and downs, but lately it’s been awful, the changeup hasn’t been working, and the fastball, even though he’s seen some improvement there, hasn’t been a consistent swing and miss pitch either. Matt Moore just doesn’t have an out pitch against left handers, which has made it harder to get left handers out.
Now, his batting average against and ISO:
So if he only throws his curve and cutter in even numbered months, only throws his changeup in odd numbered months, and completely abandons his fastball against lefties, Moore’s got a good shot at being effective. Got it. Good plan.
Now, finally, his velocity and the percentage of line drives he gives up per ball in play:
On the whole, Moore’s velocity is down and has been all year, even with that little spike in June. The cutter especially has been sitting under 90 for most of 2017, but Moore’s fastball is down about 1 MPH from last year too. What’s the result of all that? He’s getting hit hard. He’s giving up line drives on everything he throws, he’s giving up more hard contact than ever, he’s giving up more contact than ever, he’s giving up more runs than ever, and he’s making fans give up on games more than ever.
There doesn’t seem to be a simple fix for Moore. His pitches all seem a bit flatter, he’s throwing them in the wrong place, and he’s giving up lots of runs. He’s been tinkering with his release point all year, and I’m sure he’s been working very hard on righting himself, but nothing has really helped.
Matt Moore has had a bad year, especially against lefties, and there isn’t an obvious solution to make him good again. I’m sorry that I don’t have a more hopeful conclusion, but there we are.