Matt Moore‘s effectiveness has progressed along with the 2012 season. After being hit around the yard in April and for most of May, Moore turned the corner in June and July; posting an ERA around 3.00 over the past two months with solid peripherals to back it up. But despite the gains, Moore is still showing a reverse split.
Moore has done a fine job against right-handed batters; important because he has faced them 76 percent of the time. Using his fastball and breaking ball on the inner half of the plate, and his changeup darting away on the outside, Moore has held righties to an OPS under .700 with a 2.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Even though Moore is left-handed and throws in the mid-to-upper-90s, he has struggled keeping his fellow lefties off base. True, Moore has improved since the first six weeks of the season, but lefties have hit .269/.389/.404 against him overall. Lefties make up just 14 percent of Moore’s strikeouts, yet account for nearly 30 percent of his walks allowed.
Digging deeper, it appears Moore’s control issues against lefties have to do with the outside portion of the plate. Moore has issued 17 walks to lefties. Of those, 13 ball fours have come on outside fastballs. More than half of lefties hits against him have come in this area as well.
One thing tough that goes unnoticed but is worth watching for is a pitcher’s spot on the rubber.Early in the season, I noticed that Moore lines up on the extreme third-base side of the rubber. I checked some minor league video, and it appears this has been his preference for a while; it is in stark contrast to the Rays’ other fire-tossing lefty David Price.
As you can see, Price is more centered, but with a slight lean toward first base. Moore lines up few steps closer to the visitor’s dugout. Could this positioning be the reason for Moore’s ability to pitch middle-in to righties and his inconsistencies versus lefties?
In search of more information, I consulted with former major-league pitcher Eric Knott, a southpaw himself. He informed me that pitchers with tailing fastballs are likely better served working on the third-base side, while pitchers with cutting fastballs may find more success on the first-base side. According to PITCHf/x, Moore’s fastball tails (away from righties, inside to lefties) more than any other pitcher not named Chris Sale. David Price also has a tailing fastball, and has incorporated a cutter into his arsenal and (using it quite often to put away hitters).
Knott also mentioned that he struggled against left-handed batters because he could not locate far enough inside. To remedy this, he began throwing them more two-seam fastballs. Looking at Price for a moment, he has steadily increased the amount of inside pitches to left-handed batters. This coincides with increased usage of his two-seam fastball and a gradual shift toward the first-base side.
Like Price, Moore also throws both variations of the fastball. That said, he favors the four-seam. Looking back at horizontal movement, Moore’s two-seamer tails even more so than the four-seamer. Perhaps a Price-like shift in fastball selection would help gain a better share of the inside plate and keep fastballs from missing the outside corner.
The good news is Moore is–and will continue–getting better. Although Moore’s control and pitch selection against left-handers are still a minor, correctable issues, his ability to retire right-handed hitters is something to take comfort in. Moore has all of the tools, he just needs a little more polish.