Sure, it’s a buy-low piece. But what I’m really saying is, trade me Matt Moore. Because I’m buying.
We can start with his strengths, even if they are obvious. His 11.9% swinging strike rate is fourth among qualified starters. Only Cole Hamels, R.A. Dickey and Stephen Strasburg garner more whiffs. That leads to a strikeout per inning, which is extremely valuable from a starter. All from a wicked 95+ mph fastball and a great changeup and curveball combination.
Speaking of that pitching mix, Dave Cameron did point out that Moore has some problems versus left-handers this year. But will this really be a problem going forward? After all, when he’s facing lefties, he has the platoon advantage. He’s walked more lefties than righties in his career (13.8% to 9.8%) and struck out fewer (16% to 27.5%), but he struck out 27.3% of the lefties he faced his rookie year. And when seen as a whole, Moore was just as good against lefties than righties in his minor league career (save for a few strikeouts).
There’s a minor note of interest in the platoon splits of his pitches — the curve has a reverse platoon split, and the straight change has the biggest reverse platoon split in the business. But the power change is neutral. Moore’s changeup has the vertical movement of a straight change and the horizontal movement of a power changeup. Good luck figuring that one out, but it’s easy to come back to the fact that the lefty starter with reverse platoon problems is rare.
But we know he can strike people out. More importantly, can he stop walking guys?
Luckily, we set up some conditions for a possible expected walk rate last week. The best walk rates come from pitchers that throw first strikes, pound the zone, get players to reach for pitches outside the zone, and have low contact rates. Matt Moore does all of that save one, and that one he’s done in the past.
Moore is getting a first strike 61.9% of the time compared to the league average of 59.7%. That puts him in the top fifty of starters. He hits the zone 49.9% of the time (49.4% average) and batters make contact on him 74.6% of the time (80% average). So far, he’s only getting swings on pitches outside the zone 28.2% of the time (28.5% average), but that wasn’t the case in his rookie cuppa joe (31.3%). Just watching his stuff dip and dive around the zone, my subjective feeling is that he’ll get batters to reach a little more as he sticks closer to the zone.
Making this improvement more likely even than his PITCHf/x plate discipline stats suggest is the fact that Moore did not have a walks problem in the high minors. He walked 7% in Double-A and 8.8% in Triple-A. Those walk rates suggest something closer to the 8.2% that’s average in the bigs this year than the 11% he’s currently showing.
At the very worst, I’ll end up with a strikeout boon on my team. His high strikeout rate should also keep the ERA respectable. And, given his work around the zone and in the minor leagues, Matt Moore obviously has upside beyond. So trade him to me.
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