Matt Moore’s Slider Has Turned His Season Around

This is not quite the rookie season that many envisioned for Matt Moore. He was supposed to be at worst a contender for the rookie of the year, he was supposed to be one of the top pitchers in the league in just his rookie season. He was supposed to be, essentially, the pitching version of Mike Trout this year, maybe to a slightly lesser extent. While the season totals will not look as impressive as hoped before the season started, he has taken massive strides over the past few months and performed at a very high level.

Over his past 15 starts since May 28, Moore has a 2.78 ERA, 90 strikeouts, and 38 walks in 94 innings. Those are rather impressive numbers from a rookie, especially after he posted a 5.07 ERA in his first nine starts of the year. His past six starts have been the most impressive, in which he has gone 4-1 with a 1.38 ERA over 39 innings, with a 39-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

So, what has Moore done differently over his past six starts that he was unable to do in his first nine starts? How exactly has he evolved as a pitcher? The biggest difference has been his slider, which has seen massive improvements since the start of the year. The below charts detail his frequency, velocity, strike rate, and whiff rate from the past six starts compared to his first nine starts.


The slider has become his unquestioned secondary offering now, surpassing his two-seam fastball and changeup. Along with the increased frequency, his strike and whiff rates have both risen substantially of late with his breaking ball. Early in the season, Moore was least likely to generate a swing and miss with his slider of any of his pitches, but as the season has advanced it has essentially become his out pitch. With two different fastballs that sit in the mid-90’s, the addition of an impressive slider compared to what essentially acted as a show pitch early in the season has led Moore to a series of dominant outings.

The large drop in velocity from his fastball to his slider gives the pitch more of a slurve feel than a traditional slider. Normally, at his velocity he would be throwing his slider at around 86-88 miles per hour on average, but he sits at around 82 miles per hour with the pitch, which is between where a normal slider and curveball would sit given his fastball velocity. The below .gif shows Moore throwing a slider that has more of a slurve feel than a hard biting slider to strikeout Mark Trumbo in his most recent outing.

Regardless of why Moore was throwing his slider less frequently earlier in the year, whether it be A general lack of feel for the pitch or an organizational decision, making it his most frequently used secondary offering has been a decision that has paid immediate dividends. His strike rates on all of his pitches are up significantly over his past six starts, which may show that he is getting his overall command problems under control. Limiting walks will always be the big focus for Moore, so his ability to command all of his pitches is likely even more important than the increased slider use. However, the increased frequency and ability to miss bats with his slider has elevated him to this level over the past month.

Following the continued development of his breaking ball over his remaining starts will certainly be interesting. With how effective the pitch has been of late, it will be intriguing to see if he and the Rays’ staff have him ramp up his slider usage even more down the stretch. It is easy to fall in love with a nice and easy 94 mile per hour fastball with tailing action, but what has surprisingly been the key to Moore’s development has been a slow slider that has turned into arguably his top offering. While Moore does not have a very expansive repertoire, his ability to evolve as a pitcher in his rookie season has been crucial to both his and the Rays success. His season stats will not look as impressive as anticipated, but his development over the course of the season shows that Moore can certainly be one of the top pitchers in baseball in the very near future.

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Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

14 Responses to “Matt Moore’s Slider Has Turned His Season Around”

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  1. Uncle Randy says:

    That gif is naaaaasty

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    • Big Jgke says:

      That gif is so freaky I thought it might have frames removed the first time i saw it. That ball takes a fairly ridiculous path to the plate.

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    • tbjfan says:

      Rays were very wise to hire Jose Molina. That guy is an amazing game caller. He’s the perfect guy behind the plate for rookie pitchers.

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  2. Krog says:

    I know some organizations think that breaking pitches cause more arm strain, so it would be interesting to see how TB treated their other young pitchers upon promotion to the majors. Did David Price throw less breaking pitches when he was called up?

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  3. henry says:

    ALERT: on i saw a picture of moore, and he was using a knuckle curve grip. there was no date on this picture, but i’m wondering if he either A: started using a knuckle curve grip and that improved his breaking pitch or B: he stopped using that grip and switched to a more traditional one. it’s been fun to watch moore pitch recently, and i hope he continues to dominate.

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    • GG says:

      Good idea, but if you look at pictures of his grips from years past, he has always used a knuckle curve grip. Last year, though, he appeared to rely more on his awesome curveball, but knuckle curves are considered harder to throw in the zone than other curveball grips. That grip can be used for a slider as well, so maybe he couldn’t throw his breaking ball for strikes early in the season and then switched to a loopier one to control it better.

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  4. Matt says:

    Moore has always had a very good curve, but his command of it is inconsistent. When he has the feel for it, though – it’s devastating. He threw another one to Trumbo in his start against the Angels a few weeks ago that was just flat out ridiculous – fell straight off the table.

    Moore is going to be a tremendous MLB starting pitcher, he just needs some time. His swinging strike rates are completely off the charts.

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  5. makeitRayn says:

    He has changed his release point a little bit. He is throwing the curve closer to his body now. I think he is throwing a different pitch, he is getting much moore vertical movement now than before.

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    • makeitRayn says:

      He has increased the spin of his curve from 892 RPM (April) to 1,074 RPM (August). The increase in rotation will lead to an increase in movement and apparent velocity (with more movement, it will take the ball longer to get to home;Pitch/fx uses a fixed distance of 55 ft for their velocities). He is getting more speed and more rotation compared to the curve in April, I think it must be a different pitch.

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  6. Big Jgke says:

    Mike Trout may have ruined rookie seasons for every other player in baseball, now and forever.

    Moore has been a reliable starter, able to take the ball every fifth day, as a rookie, in the the meat grinder that is the AL East. By any rational standards of rookie achievement, his season has been a masterpiece.

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    • Ruggiano's Pizza says:

      It’s a good thing the season isn’t over yet then. We wouldn’t want to demoralize all the future ROY candidates. Might as well call it the Mike Trout award …

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  7. Antonio Bananas says:

    I had Matt Moore as a potential Cy Young candidate. Grew a big rubbery one in the off season when I went back and watched him vs the Yankees. Way to let me down Matt. 8.6 k/9? Sub 4 ERA, tERA, and FIP? Pfft. The guy’s a tease.

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  8. Pete Rose HOF 2013 says:

    This kid is going to be great.

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