During his last start on Tuesday, something strange was going on for Matt Moore. Just as the broadcasters were touting his mid-90’s fastball, Moore threw a fastball at just 92 MPH. And it was no fluke. Over the course of his outing, Moore averaged just 92.60 MPH 0n his fastball according to Brooks Baseball, his lowest average velocity in any of his starts this season, and he didn’t hit 95 MPH a single time. Moore struggled, going just 4 innings allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 3. He generated just 7 swings-and-misses, his fewest since July 2nd. Is Moore’s lack of velocity a legitimate reason for concern?
What’s scary is that Moore’s velocity has actually gone down in each of his last 4 starts. Should Moore be tired at this point on the year? Seemingly not. Last season, between Double-A, Triple-A, and the regular season and postseason in the big leagues, Moore tossed 174.1 innings, 29.2 more innings than he tossed in 2011. So far this year, he’s at 166.1 innings. But the obvious difference is stress. Pitching in the big leagues is a lot more strenuous than pitching in the minors. And this season has been especially tough for Moore considering how much he struggled early on and how the Rays’ season in general has been a strain on every Rays player because of all the injuries and the team’s inconsistency throughout the year. But the Rays really can’t see Moore implode now. Moore is one of their five starters as their make a desperate attempt to make the postseason, and he seems in line for a postseason start if the Rays can get there. Are the Rays going to have to start considering their options knowing that Moore is running out of gas?
The good news is that Moore’s velocity has declined earlier in the season and come right back up. Moore had two prior stretches where his velocity went down four starts in a row but there were no major problems going on those times and Moore has continued to light up the radar guns. And Moore working at lower velocities is certainly not entirely based on fatigue. Here’s a breakdown of how Moore has performed based on his average fastball velocity in his starts.
We see that Moore working in the 92-93 MPH range with his fastball is red flag even in the small sample size- look at that FIP! But it’s not a bad thing for him to take a little velocity off and work in the 93-94 MPH range, adding a little control and command. Was Moore working at a lower velocity on purpose on Tuesday? I would say no. However, it may not have been fatigue but instead that he was simply off all night. What about the whole thing with Moore tipping pitches by tapping his glove when he threw his fastball? In Tuesday’s start, Moore was working really hard to negate that from happening and that threw him off.
Is Matt Moore wearing down right now? It’s too early to tell, but it seems not. Moore had one bad start that made a minor trend of his velocity decreasing seem much more catastrophic. If Moore does work at lower velocities in the future, it could very well be on purpose as he tries to command his fastball better. Moore can still light up the radar guns. Except to see at least a few more fastballs hit 97 MPH before the season is through. The Rays need Moore to pitch well the remainder of the season to give them a chance at the playoffs, and Moore will do everything he can to try to give the Rays quality outings every time out the rest of the way. He isn’t tiring out, and the Rays hope that some of his best baseball this season is still ahead of him.