Matt Moore‘s rookie struggles have been very reminiscent of another promising young lefty the Rays have developed: David Price. Price struggled through his rookie season but then finished second in the AL Cy Young voting in 2010 and continues to dominate. How has Moore done compared to Price?
Here are both of their stat lines through 17 major league starts (keep in mind that Price was not called up in 2009 until May 25th, so his stat line runs through August 29th, 2009).
Moore: 5-6 record, 4.42 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9, 4.43 FIP, 39.6% GB%, 99.2 IP
Price: 7-6 record, 4.63 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9, 4.77 FIP, 41.9% GB%, 91.1 IP
What’s funny about doing this now is that Moore’s 4.42 ERA is exactly the same as Price’s ERA for his entire rookie season. Looking at the stats, we see that Moore is well ahead of Price’s pace in terms of strikeouts, FIP, and the length of his starts (5.9 IP per start compared to 5.4), and he also edges him in HR/9, but he has shown more command and control problems that are reflected in his walk and groundball rates. We know that bad control is something that can doom pitchers. Is there reason for concern here? Well, look at Price’s stats through July 11th of 2009, once again compared to Moore.
Moore: 17 GS, 5-6 record, 4.42 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9, 4.43 FIP, 39.6% GB%, 99.2 IP
Price: 9 GS, 3-3 record, 4.70 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 6.3 BB/9, 1.4 HR/9, 5.31 FIP, 38.4% GB%, 44 IP
When you compare them here, Moore is astronomically better (sorry, Astro), trailing Price purely in terms of strikeout rate. Can we really make this type of comparison based on date when the sample for Price is so much smaller? I’ll say yes because Price’s 9.2 K/9, 4.7 BB/9, and 1.3 HR/9 in 8 Triple-A starts before he got called up was more of the same- and after his 2008 playoffs performance, all eyes were still on him. Now look at Price’s numbers the rest of the season.
14 GS, 7-4 record, 4.27 ERA, 5.9 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9, 4.36 FIP, 45.2% GB%, 84.1 IP
Price lost his strikeout rate, but he worked ardently to improve his command and control, and that has served him very well the past few seasons as his BB/9 has been 3.0. The Rays may try to do something similar with Moore because the swing-and-miss stuff is there but only when he can control and command his pitches. But even if they don’t, keep in mind that if something clicks, Moore’s walk, groundball, and homer rates could noticeably improve in the second half. One half-season of bad control and command doesn’t brand Moore as wild.
Moore is doing about as well as Price did as a rookie, maybe even a little better. His control and command are the issues that he has to deal with and we know he can. We saw how he dominated in 2011 in the minor leagues and then after getting called up to the big leagues at the end of the season. Someday, he hope that he will be able to pitch like that consistently. He is not there yet. But we see the flashes and Moore is getting a feel for major league hitters with experience. He is too talented for something not to click by the end of the season. And when it does, the turnaround will be quick. Like Price, he could go from struggling rookie to Cy Young contender from one season to the next.
What’s great about rookie struggles is that the sophomore slump is out of the picture because there’s nothing to live up to. If Moore finds his groove and continues to get better, there isn’t going to be a sudden distraction with the ability to impede his progress and derail his career. We expected too much of Moore at the beginning and he has struggled in the face of the pressure. But with a year under his belt and the ability he possesses as a major league pitcher, Moore is primed to follow in Price’s path and become an ace before we know it.