Before Matt Moore became Matt Moore, Jake McGee was Matt Moore; the top left-handed pitching prospect in the Rays organization, equipped with a fastball blessed by Zhu Rong. Tommy John Surgery and slow-to-develop secondary options ended McGee’s career as a starting pitcher before he reached the majors. By the grace of Osiris, McGee’s golden arm was reborn in the form of a relief pitcher.
Matt Moore has come along way since the early part of the season when he had a few “five and dive” outings – a term used to describe a game in which a starting pitcher struggles to complete five innings. He failed to finish six innings in five of his first nine starts, but has completed at least six innings in 12 of his last 16. In10 of those 16 starts, Moore finished off full innings before making his exit. Meanwhile, Moore has failed to close an inning, it’s usually been McGee entering behind him.
McGee has relieved Moore each of the last four times he has been unable to complete the inning. In each outing, Moore recorded one out in the frame before making way for McGee. Matchups usually dictate bullpen usage; however, it appears as if Joe Maddon may be simply trying to replace a tired version of Moore with a fresher one.
McGee has faced nine batters in relief of Moore. He has not allowed a hit or walked any of the nine while striking out five. Those results are good, but what makes them even more impressive is eight of the nine hitters have been right-handed.
The quality of right-handed batter ranges from Mike Trout to Adam Rosales, with names like Lew Ford and Vernon Wells sprinkled in. There is no real pattern in sight, meaning it looks like the only reason to chase Moore with McGee is to maintain the look while improving the quality. Although this usage appears unusual in nature, it is hard to argue the early returns. It’s something to keep an eye on heading forward. If only to impress your friends by predicting McGee’s entrance earlier in the game.