This all seems way too familiar. Matt Moore is coming off a minor league season in which he went 12-3 with a 1.92 ERA in 27 starts between Double-A and Triple-A in his age 22 season. Then he posted a 2.89 ERA in 1 start and 2 relief appearances in the major league before posting a 0.90 ERA in 1 start and a relief appearance in the postseason. In 2008, David Price went 12-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 19 starts between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A in his age 22 season. Then he posted a 1.93 ERA in 4 relief appearances and 1 start in the majors before posting a 1.59 ERA in 5 playoff relief appearances. We all know what happened next for Price: he posted a 10-7 record in his official rookie year in 2009, but struggled to a 4.42 ERA and a 4.69 FIP in 23 starts and 128.1 IP as the Rays fell well short of replicating their 2008 success. Is Moore doomed to a similar fate?
There is a key difference between Moore and Price. They were both selecting in the 2007 draft, Price with the first overall pick and Moore in the 8th round, which sounds like a similarity but is really a major difference. Price was rushed through the minors as a college pick to make the majors in 2008 while Moore was allowed to take his time as an originally raw high school arm before debuting in 2011. Price actually never truly conquered Triple-A as his 2-5 record, 4.13 ERA, and 4.05 FIP in 12 starts there between 2008 and 2009 are nothing special at all. Looking at Price’s overall minor league numbers from 2008, not only was his ERA worse than Price, 2.30 to 1.92, but his FIP wasn’t even in the same stratosphere, coming in at 3.00 compared to Moore’s ridiculous 2.42 mark. Even if their prospect hype is practically identical, it’s clear that Moore is considerably better prepared for the major leagues in 2012 than Price was in 2009.
But sometimes the stats don’t tell nearly the whole story. Let’s compare the Pitch F/X data from David Price’s time in the big leagues in 2008 and Moore’s big league stint in 2011 using the data from Brooks Baseball to see how big the gap how advanced they were entering their rookie seasons really is.
(For a general explanation of the topic of Pitch F/X and specifically how to read this type of graph, please click here.)
We can’t penalize Price for working out of the bullpen more than Moore did, but even with Price having the freedom to put max-effort into his delivery, his pitches were no better than Moore’s and arguably worse. But we can delve deeper using Brooks Baseball’s Pitch Outcome charts.
According to Brooks, Moore got a 10.28% swing and miss rate on his fastball compared to Price’s 8.18% mark (both marks are above-average). Price did force groundballs at a much higher rate with his fastball than Moore, posting a 1.73 GB/FB (groundballs to flyballs ratio) compared to Moore’s .74 mark. Price’s slider was about the same than Moore’s curveball, posting a 21.3% whiff rate compared to Moore’s 18.75% mark and also forcing a ridiculous 9.00 GB/FB- but Moore’s curveball did not allow a single flyball, meaning his GB/FB was infinity. Counting line drives as flyballs, Price’s GB/FB was 2.25 while Moore’s was 5.00. We can’t exactly blame Price for not using his changeup nearly as much out of the bullpen as Moore did, but we can’t penalize Moore either (his changeuup had a ridiculous 31.48% swing and miss rate and a 3.00 GB/FB).
One of Price’s major problems in 2009 was that he didn’t trust his secondary stuff nearly enough, throwing his fastball nearly three-quarters of the time. Moore will not have that problem. As long as Moore lets his natural ability come out, he will put up impressive numbers as a rookie. There will definitely be growing pains, but his overall repertoire of pitches has proved to be too much for hitters to handle at every stop, even in the major leagues and even in the postseason.
Is Matt Moore a better pitcher than David Price right now? Absolutely not. Can Matt Moore be a better pitcher than Price someday? He definitely had a chance, but who knows how things will turn out! One thing we can say with some certainty, though, is that Matt Moore is a better pitcher than David Price was entering 2009. Rays fans have a lot to look forward to from Moore in 2012, and that will start today versus the Tigers.