Entering 2012, Matt Moore was the runaway favorite for American League Rookie of the Year. Instead, his season began as a struggle. In his first 9 starts, Moore went just 1-4 with a 5.07 ERA, striking out 8.7 batters per 9 innings but walking walking 4.9 per 9 and allowing a horrific 1.4 HR/9 while managing just a 37.0% groundball rate. But on May 28th, Moore had a breakthrough performance, going 7 innings striking out 10 while walking just 1. An Adam Dunn 2-run homer combined with even better pitching by Chris Sale (15 strikeouts, 2 walks) led to Moore taking the loss in the game to drop to 1-5. But he proceeded to win his next 4 decisions, and although his season was not entirely smooth sailing from there, his performance was significantly improved. Moore went 10-7 with a 3.31 ERA, a 9.0 K/9, a 3.8 BB/9, a 0.7 HR/9, and a 40.0% groundball rate in his final 22 starts, including a 2.88 ERA, an 8.8 K/9, and a 3.6 BB/9 from May 28th until August 30th before he wore down a bit at the end of the year. Moore’s final numbers were not overwhelming but still impressive for a rookie as he went 11-11 with an 8.9 K/9, a 4.1 BB/9, a 0.9 HR/9, and a 37.6% groundball rate in 31 starts and 177.1 IP.In another season, he could have received Rookie of the Year votes- but not this season.
Mike Trout ran away with the Rookie of the Year race, winning unanimously, and is in the discussion for AL MVP. Yoennis Cespedes and Yu Darvish easily could have won the Rookie of the Year award another season. Moore had a chance to get maybe a third place vote in the race, but the third place votes that did not go to Cespedes or Darvish went to Wei-Yin Chen and Jarrod Parker. The lefty Chen actually went just 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA, a 7.2 K/9, a 2.7 BB/9, and a 1.4 HR/9 in 32 starts and 192.2 IP, not much better than Moore if at all, but the fact that he threw 15.1 more innings, leading the playoff-bound Orioles in the innings category, was definitely a factor. But none of this really matters. The expectations were sky-high for Moore entering 2012 after he struck out 11 Yankees in his first major league start in 2011 before tossing 7 shutout innings against the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the ALDS. Now, they’re off.
One of famous trends in baseball is the sophomore slump. David Price was the exact opposite of that. After going 10-7 with a 4.42 ERA, a 7.2 K/9, a 3.8 BB/9, and a 1.2 HR/9 in 23 starts and 128.1 innings pitched his rookie year, he dominated hitters in his second season, going 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA, an 8.1 K/9, a 3.4 BB/9, and a 0.6 HR/9 in 31 starts, a relief appearance, and 208.1 IP, finishing second to Felix Hernandez in the AL Cy Young voting. Can Matt Moore make a similar leap in his sophomore season? Only time will tell, but one thing we know for sure is that Moore was much better than Price as a rookie. The bar has been lowered for him but he remains as promising as ever. After a rookie season that fell short of the impossible standard we had set for him, Matt Moore can just relax and go out to the mound every fifth (or sixth day) in 2013, and he may have put himself in the perfect position to become the frontline pitcher everyone who has ever seen him knows he can be.