Matt Moore had an unbelievable 2011. He started the season in Double-A Montgomery and finished it pitching in the “Trop” for the Rays in the playoffs. Earlier this week on MiLB.com he was named the best overall starter in the minor leagues. It is a choice that is hard to argue with. He had success at every level he played at and was a key performer when he was called up to the Rays at the end of the year.
In the Southern League, where Moore started the year he went 8-3 with a 2.20 ERA. His highlight was a no-hitter in June against the Mobile BayBears. It was his first complete game and he struck out 11 while walking just two. He threw 106 pitches and 76 of them were for strikes. Opponents batted just .187 against Moore in Double-A and in 102 innings he amassed 131 strikeouts. At the beginning of July he was selected for the Futures game and of course pitched a scoreless inning and recorded a strikeout.
In July Moore was called up to Triple-A Durham. The Bulls were in the midst of another playoff run and Moore was key in helping them clinch the South in the International League. Moore went 4-0 in his time with the Bulls with an ERA of 1.37 and in nine starts piled up 79 strikeouts. He quickly proved he belonged, striking out 13 batters in his second start, on his way to pitching eight scoreless innings and picking up his first Triple-A win.
After some speculation about whether the Rays were going to limit Moore’s innings and might be reluctant to call him up to the majors, they promoted him to the big leagues in mid-September. Moore saw his first action in a game against Baltimore, and looked uncomfortable out of the bullpen, giving up two runs in an inning and a third. He bounced back in a crucial game at Fenway and gave up just one run in three innings to help the Rays to a 4-3 win. Matt got his first Major League start in New York against the Yankees in what was a must win game for the Rays at the time. Moore came through with five scoreless innings and eleven strikeouts to propel the Rays to a 15-8 victory.
It was a good story, he had come up to the big leagues and had more than just got his feet wet, he had contributed. But Moore wasn’t through. In a surprising move manager Joe Maddon tabbed Moore to start the division series against the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington. Moore made his manager look like a genius as he shut down the vaunted Rangers lineup, allowing just two hits in seven scoreless innings.
What a season! It was a year worthy of offseason recognition. He not only played at three different levels of baseball, he excelled at each one. He was a part of two playoff runs. He proved to people that questioned his control at the beginning of the year that he can throw strikes and be effective. The only question left to be answered now is, what will his role be in 2012?