Matt Moore is the Sell Highiest Starting Pitcher

Yes, the sell highiest. The easiest way to identify buy low and sell high candidates among starting pitchers is to export the advanced tab of the leader board into Excel and then simply subtract the pitcher’s SIERA from his ERA. Sort and voilĂ , you now have your list of pitchers who are most outperforming and underperforming their SIERA marks. Of course, you shouldn’t blindly take that list as gospel, as some pitchers have proven that they can consistently post ERAs higher or lower than their SIERAs. But it’s the quickest way to generate a list of names for further analysis.

After performing this exercise, Matt Moore was not the biggest SIERA outperformer. But, given his name value and preseason draft cost, he is the one most worth shopping. He currently ranks eighth among all qualified starters in ERA outperformance, with a 4.11 SIERA versus a 2.29 ERA. While that alone should make him a sell high candidate, there are additional warning signs beneath the surface.

Oddly, I had him ranked as the 24th best starting pitcher in the preseason, but yesterday our consensus rankings were updated and he actually moved up to 20. So it would seem that I have actually become more optimistic, but in reality, it was solely the result of pitchers ahead of him getting injured (like Jered Weaver and Roy Halladay) or whose projection is swiftly declining (like R.A. Dickey).

We first observe that Moore’s K%, BB%, batted ball mix and SIERA are nearly identical to what he posted last year. That’s really not such a good thing, however. In fact, my initial preseason ranking was derived from my projection that assumed better control and an increased strikeout rate. So far, none of those improvements have been made.

That’s okay of course and not a reason to panic, as 55.0 innings remains a rather small sample. In just one or two more outings, Moore can easily post strong strikeout and walk marks that would push his season rates to more appealing levels. But there’s a problem. Actually, several. For one, his velocity is down…on every pitch:

Year vFA vFT vSL vCH
2012 94.1 94.5 82.2 85.4
2013 92.4 92.6 81.0 84.5

And now in fun graphical format for his most frequently thrown fastball, the four-seamer:

Moore Fastball Velocity

That is one scary trend. You could also see that along with his average fastball velocity being down, he’s also topping out at a lower speed. In 2012, his four-seamer reached 97.0 mph. This season, it hasn’t even broken 95.0. Sometimes with young fireballers with iffy control, you hear that a pitcher has “learned how to pitch, not throw” and takes some velocity off in order to improve his control. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here.

In fact, his control looks to be significantly worse than it was last season, despite a similar BB%. His F-Strike% is the worst in baseball, and it isn’t very close. His 47.6% mark is well below the next worst mark of 50.0% posted by Brandon Morrow. For comparison, last season Moore was right around the league average, which provided optimism that his walk rate would dip, perhaps considerably. His Zone% is also down from where it sat last season, but at least it still falls around the league average.

That brings us with his strikeout rate, which is strong, but digging deeper, appears questionable to remain that way. His SwStk% is all the way down to 8.4%, ranking just 57th among all qualified starters. This comes after he posted an 11.8% mark last year, which ranked sixth. Looking more deeply into the PitchF/X data, we can already see the effect his diminished fastball velocity is having on his results. Last season, his fastball generated a 10.3% SwStk%. This season that has declined to just about half that at 5.3%. He is also throwing the pitch in the zone less frequently.

So how is he managing to continue racking up the strikeouts with such a deterioration in his swinging strikes induced? According to Baseball-Reference, his called strike rate is way up, and as a result has generated more strikeouts looking than last season. Is this sustainable? David Price has made a living doing it, but he’s been consistently among the leaders (there actually is no leader board I can find for looking strikes, but if there was, I assume Price would always be near the top). Moore didn’t do it last year and while getting called strikes is most certainly a skill, it is likely a much less stable skill than inducing swinging strikes. So I would be much more confident if his strikeout rate was buoyed by a high SwStk% than called strike rate.

There’s a lot happening behind the scenes with Matt Moore beyond the standard “his ERA is wayyyy below his SIERA, sell high! sell high!” Given his name value due to his top prospect status, his fantastic surface ratios and how many owners were projecting a big breakout to begin with, the many red flags identified above make him the perfect sell high candidate.




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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


76 Responses to “Matt Moore is the Sell Highiest Starting Pitcher”

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  1. Stormin' Norman says:

    So. . .who are we selling him high for? And what are people in keeper/dynasty leagues supposed to do?

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  2. TheOneWhoKnocks says:

    He’s flashed elite velocity before, he’s flashed elite control rates before(in the minor leagues) so even though there are a lot of red flags here I’m going to ignore them and try to acquire him from all the owners who will try to sell him this week now.

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  3. Clifford says:

    last year, only 5 qualified pitchers had a BB/9 of 4.25 or higher. They combined to average a 4.82 ERA/1.52 WHIP. Matt Moore has a BB/9 of 4.25 this year.

    In keeper/dynasty leagues, you should have no problem getting great value for him because he has that mystique of “being young.” I would try going after an Allen Craig or Joey Bats or maybe Cespedes?

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    • jake says:

      i just traded him for cespedes. yea i know cespedes is struggling, but i think he’s a buy low. and he started slow last year as well. it is however, a redraft league

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  4. Mike says:

    Do you trade Matt Moore for Cole Hamels straight up?

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  5. s_t_w says:

    Last week, in an AL-only re-draft week, I traded him for Adam Jones.

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    • s_t_w says:

      That should be re-draft league

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    • Pat G says:

      i flipped Bruce, Moore, and Miller for Heyward, Scherzer and Fister a couple days ago

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    • PDR297 says:

      In a keeper league two weeks ago I moved Moore, Fowler and Arenado for Kemp and Hudson. Point being, in moving Moore I’m looking to pair him and get first round talent where possible.

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    • bluetuzo says:

      Moore for Scherzer straight up two weeks ago. I play in a league where no one else (I don’t think) reads FanGraphs or uses the advanced stats to evaluate players…

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      • BeyondThunderdome says:

        But your league mates might have held the distinct advantage of having seen the madness of Mad Max

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  6. Don from Tampa FL says:

    In watching Moore develop over the past few years, I think he is learning how to pitch and turn it up when he has to. This may explain why he has only given up one hit with runners in scoring position all year..there is something to be said with that stat. I always felt he will be better than David Price because of having three strong pitches and just needs to have control of all, then the jump to stardom will take place. He is doing this in front of my eyes this year.

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  7. jordan from atlanta says:

    Earlier in the year i received a trade offer for samardzija for moore straight up in a one year league. Owner loves moore and says the offer would stand all year. I think im gonna pull the trigger. Thoughts?

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    • Pat G says:

      If he is that enthralled with moore, i would try and pair an upgrade elsewhere, if he asks cite lack of wins for samardzija

      if he balks just take the trade as is, the shark is better

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      • jordan from atlanta says:

        the way the league is set up it has a heavy importance on having like 3 big time SP and awesome RP’s. I think im just gonna take the deal before the yankees get to moore sat.

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  8. Cuck city says:

    Moore is going to #regress

    SELL SELL SELL

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  9. Steve-O says:

    The regression police is out of control with Moore. Yes, he has a high strand rate and a high BB%. But those numbers are slightly inflated by one outing with 6 BB in 5.1 innings. He has only topped 3 BB in 3 starts this season. For a young pitcher with his stuff, who has shown the ability to get out of jams, thats not that bad people.

    His velocity is down, but his K% is up slightly from last season. I just don’t get it, everyone predicted him to break out, and now that he has actually broken out people are shouting SELL! SELL! SELL! from the rooftops.
    Sure, he will regress. So if you play in a league where you can get Hamels. Darvish or Wainwright for him, go right ahead and sell. But even once he regresses, I think we still have a top 20 SP ROS on our hands. No way I am selling him for Samrdjiza or any other pitcher that was similarly ranked in the pre-season that he is currently out performing.

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    • jordan from atlanta says:

      wins is really the only spot he is outperforming samard in.

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      • batpig says:

        well yeah that and ERA and WHIP. So 3 out of the 4 categories that SP influence.

        more accurately, K’s is the only spot in which shark is outperforming moore.

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    • Worm Turner says:

      But look at his BABIP/ LOB% and come back, not so much of a “break out”, more of a “lucking the f_ck out”.

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  10. Bill says:

    There are some red flags, but also some positives the author left out.

    A. The trop remains one of the best places to pitch
    b. The Rays boast one of the best IF/OF defenses in the league
    c. His walk rate has been low in the minors

    I wouldn’t expect a 2.5era the rest of the way, but I could see 3.5 with a lot of W’s and K’s. In a re-draft league I’d be targeting him around 65-75. I suppose if you can get cespedes or someone around 40 then yes, sell.

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  11. Andre says:

    I’ve read several articles about Moore already this season. I selected him fairly high in my fantasy league for one primary reason. Excellent movement on his fastball. When he is throwing strikes, he is very difficult to hit as you can see from the highlights (Refer to his last K in most recent start, nobody is going to hit that). The key for him is control. When he gets behind or has runners on base, his pitches tend to lose their bite. All these stats do not account for weak fly ball outs (that count for line drives sometimes?), pop ups, or pitching to contact. His #’s really aren’t that much different than 2nd half of 2012. Wins will drop and ERA will rise but I don’t see much other change. If anything, his K rate should increase as he gains experience.

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  12. Don Pardo says:

    I thought I was selling high when I traded Moore and Bruce for Braun in my keeper league about a year ago. Should I have waited until now to do that deal?

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  13. Skinny says:

    I’ve been trying to sell him for weeks, with no success. The fact that he’s won his past three starts, all against AL East opponents, should help his case. But I doubt it will. Problem is I’ve already offered him in trades to essentially every team so it’s hard to offer up a similar deal to one they’ve already declined.

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  14. Dancing Homer says:

    Sweet, “selling high” is going to be that much easier now.

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  15. Tripp says:

    I have a standing offer of Moore for Granderson.

    Should I do that?

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  16. MLB Rainmaker says:

    In this case, I don’t think smoke means fire. I still think he’s trade candidate due to his BB rate, but don’t think he’s a meltdown of injury risk guy based his decreased fastball velocity.

    Both he and Strasburg are on the Justin Verlander school of pitching — reduce velocity, stay in the game longer. Last season, Moore would get in jams and literally not be able to throw strikes. His fastball has so much armside run, he couldnt keep it in the zone. He hasn’t had that problem this year — when he needs to he can throw strikes.

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    • Did you read the article? First of all, how does reduced velocity by itself help to stay in the game longer? Second, Moore’s F-Strike% is way down, and his Zone% is down. He’s also throwing a lower percentage of strikes. So all the data does not support your claims.

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      • MLB Rainmaker says:

        I did and 99% of the time, I’m a data guy. I don’t disagree with your numbers, and I’m not saying that his attempt to reduce velocity and command pitches better is necessarily working, but what it is doing is resulting in success.

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  17. Tripp says:

    SO now I just got offered a trade of Moore and Segura for Longoria. Pretty sweet deal right?

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  18. bgburek says:

    Moore’s F-strike is down, but don’t the Rays place a greater emphasis on getting ahead 1-2 over 0-1?

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  19. thistakesgumption says:

    Traded him straight up for Cain a few days ago. Not sure if I traded up or sideways with that one but we’ll see.

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  20. Stacked says:

    I’ve been quietly pursuing trading Moore myself. Keeper league and I have him relatively cheap so he holds a lot “more” value. How much of a downgrade is Homer Bailey? Was thinking of trading Moore for Bailey and two relievers (really need saves).

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    • Bailey is certainly a downgrade, but not a big one. That said, you should be able to get a whole lot more for Moore than Bailey and 2 relievers. That wouldn’t be taking advantage of his great start at all and definitely not be selling high.

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  21. S. Urista says:

    Moore + Trout for Votto & Carlos Gomez. I already have Darvish, Wainwright, Medlen, Garza and Colby Lewis on DL. Discuss.

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  22. Nick says:

    What would be a reasonable offensive return for Moore?

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    • Jeff says:

      This is what I want to know. I’d thinking Cespedes (who someone mentions above) might be the most you can expect, unless someone’s selling low. I got a real quick rejection when I offered Moore for Josh Hamilton.

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  23. masonzippo says:

    I’m sure others noticed this, but Kershaw is right behind Moore in the “siera minus era” computation. Anyone selling high on Kershaw?

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  24. longbeachyo says:

    Hey Mike, is your book available through the Google play marketplace? I haven’t seen it. Look into that, will ya?

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    • It is not. I just looked into it and seems to be very difficult to get all the information about the program. Not sure exactly what the benefit is for it to be worth the continued digging.

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  25. Michael says:

    Anyone who has Matt Moore had to draft him in the top 100, which means they expected him to be one of their best pitchers. If you drafted him: sit back, relax, and enjoy your pearly-white ratios and pile of Ws. If I didn’t have Matt Moore on any of my teams, I’d easily trade someone in the preseason top 80 for him. There is a point where a hot start becomes a good season.

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  26. Paul says:

    Should I sell high on Corbin? I have an offer to get Mark Reynolds in exchange. No brainer right? Ian Kennedy, AJ Griffin, Arroyo, Estrada and McCarthy are all FAs. Thanks in advance for any help.

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    • I think Reynolds is a sell high himself. Not really into trading for him. Though your league is clearly shallow given the solid free agents. Who would Reynolds replace?

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      • Paul says:

        I have Craig right now, but traded him and Gardner for Holliday and Morneau. I guess he’d replace Justin. I can probably get Desmond Jennings or Swisher instead. Which one would you prefer? I’ve got Segura, Altuve, Rios, Zo and Choo for SBs.

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      • In terms of overall fantasy value, I like Jennings better. But with these sell high guys, I always reach high at first. Worst that happens is it gets rejected and then you aim a bit lower. Keep doing that until you hit.

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      • Paul says:

        He said no to Jennings. Is Swish enough of an upgrade over Morneau to give up Corbin?

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      • Ehh, what about the rest of your league? Is this owner the only one with interest in Corbin? Offer him to everyone!

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      • Paul says:

        Didn’t think so. They’re almost the same player. I’ll put Corbin on the block and see what happens! Thanks again.

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      • Not sure putting him on the block is the best way to go. It’s basically broadcasting to the league “I’m trying to sell high! I don’t believe in Corbin’s hot start, so hoping one of you suckers does so I can pawn him off on you!”. Instead, check out every team that needs pitching and offer a package of Corbin and a hitter for an upgrade at that position.

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      • Smell the glove says:

        How about Altuve/Corbin for Bourn/Fernandez? Trying to get back some SBs after dealing Gardner. He also has E. Cabrera.

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  27. Josh says:

    I traded away Moore, Bruce, Andrus, Zobrist for Choo, Kinsler, Uggla, Victorino and Strasburg. I already have Darvish & Jordan Zimmerman and Jose Bautista/McCutchen/Longoria.

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    • Josh says:

      And I should note I’m dropping Victorino once Kinsler is off the DL, just there is really no other option in FA.

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  28. Omar says:

    I just traded Matt Moore for Pablo Sandoval. I wanted to upgrade my 3b situation while I had a nice surplus of SP’s. Hope it’ll work out.

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  29. oregonjed says:

    Great article Mike. I have Moore and based on this analysis I think I’ll offer him up. I do need to get a solid starter in return though so my question is this; I understand the logic of the ERA/SIERA differential on the sell high aspect; I assume that some of those at the bottom of the list could be considered buy low candidates? Of course taking into account that actual numbers that led to the differential in the first place. Thanks.

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    • Thanks. Well, yes, the opposite end of the list would be your initial list of buy low guys. However, most of them are guys whose SIERA marks are above 4.00, versus like a 6.00-7.00 ERA. So basically, they still stink, just less so than a 6.00 ERA would make you think! That leaves you with fewer buy low guys than sell high guys.

      You also have to remember that any expected ERA metric factor’s in the pitcher’s current strikeout and walk rates. But you could also dig deep and determine if those rates are even real to begin with. Sometimes a pitcher may be due for a strikeout rate surge or a jump in walk rate, so you would have to then mentally adjust their SIERA, and they may suddenly not be such a good buy low or sell high anymore.

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      • oregonjed says:

        Thanks and I haven’t thought about adjusting the K BB rates accordingly. It looks like there may be three candidates; R. Hernandez (1.82 differential); Dempster (.75 diff) and Porcello (2.38 diff) Of the three Hernandez has the lowest SIERA and similar K/BB to Clay Buchholz. Dempster has a high walk rate now 4.27. Porcello may be the most intriguing with an SIERA under 4 but with an ERA well above that (5.92). Interestingly, he’s available in both m leagues and has a 6% ownership in Yahoo.

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  30. Moore has been able to compensate for his shortcomings by increasing his slider usage, easily his best pitch. That’s going to keep him at bay in the short term, but yes he needs to correct his shortcomings before running into danger.

    The good news is that the walk rate is trending in the right direction. His last 2 starts aren’t a great sample size to read too much into, but a 2.08 BB/9 is at the very least a positive indicator. Moore has a reputation for being a slower starter, so there’s that as well.

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  31. joebagels says:

    Traded Moore and Avila for Yadi. 2 C league… Thoughts? My main Hitting weakness was obv at C. Still have Greinke, Hamels, Peavy, Lester, Bailey, Garza, Fernandez, Ogando.

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    • I’m fine with that. I wouldn’t necessarily consider that selling high and you could have probably gotten more, but I had Yadi valued higher than Moore preseason, and nothing so far has changed that.

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  32. joebagels says:

    I wanted to keep that comment short, but I should have stated, we are a keeper league (only 4 keeps) and this year we started an innings max for pitchers and use k/9, so SPs don’t get moved much unless they have a great dollar value. Most teams are projected well over max innings allowed right now.
    My only other offer was Jay Bruce $30 (I was turned down for a $7 cespedes from that team)and since I already have 7 OFers w Dom Brown and BJ right now as 6 and 7 (abd Hart coming off DL) I figured I’d fix a weak spot… A similar example in the league would be Shelby Miller being traded for VMart… Yep that happened

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  33. Jordan says:

    I traded Moore for Edwin Encarcion after Moore recorded his 8th win on Sunday. That is how we sell high my good people.

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  34. Rob G says:

    Totally agree here, and this is another great article I saw on Moore’s likelihood to regress to where he was last year:
    http://www.bsports.com/statsinsights/mlb/matt-moore-the-luckiest-man-in-baseball

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  35. rotobanter says:

    The sell highest that can provide too much trade value..agreed. Here’s a full list of June SP to sell high:

    http://rotobanter.com/june-list-of-sp-to-sell

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  36. Jordan S Krant says:

    I traded Matt Moore for Edwin Encarnacion as stated 19 1/3 innings ago.

    Let’s just say, BRILLIANT! Mike Podhorzer, you are brilliant kind sir.

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