Apr 22, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Matt Moore (55) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Rays Find Second Lefty Ace in Matt Moore

Matt Moore still has a ways to go in his development as a pitcher–but don’t tell hitters that. So far in 2013, Moore has baffled them time after time, holding them to just .124 average against him as he has gone 5-0 with a 1.13 ERA, striking out 39 while walking just 15 in 32 innings pitched. Lefties are hitting a grand .200 against him while righties have been totally lost, batting just .075. Moore has allowed just 3.7 hits per 9 innings, allowing more than 3 hits in just one of his five starts, and on the year, Moore has actually allowed more walks (15) than hits (13). So far this year, a hitter’s best bet has been to just Moore beats himself because the chances of the hitter doing anything when he swung was…slim. Looking at how Moore has done, though, that hasn’t worked too well either. Even as he has pitched so unbelievably, though, Moore is taking nothing for granted.

“You hear about guys having breakout seasons and getting a lot of attention,” Moore said. “Well, just as fast as that came, it can leave you. I’ve found a way to not take myself so seriously. I understand I’m pitching well right now, but at the same time I have respect for it. I’m really trying to stay in my lane and stay focused for my next start. Maybe that helps it last longer.”

 Despite his outstanding performance, Moore has some things he needs to work on. His 4.2 walks per 9 innings are too high and his fastball command could be better. But it’s impossible to deny that Moore is living up to the promise that made him burst onto the scene at the end of 2013. While Moore will not continue to pitch quite this well, it seems like he has really turned a corner and might be able to dominate on a more consistent basis. And if that is really the case, the rest of baseball is in trouble. Facing Moore is tough enough, but pairing him with the Rays’ other lefty ace–2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price–makes the Rays a force to be reckoned with. By the way, Moore and Price are going on back-to-back days now after the Rays’ rotation was shuffled by a rainout. How about that assignment for opposing hitters?

Price and Moore have plenty in common. Drafted seven rounds apart in the 2007 MLB Draft, both were unhittable in a big league cup-of-coffee at the end of the season that extended into the playoffs, Price in 2008 and Moore in 2011. Both then struggled through an inconsistent rookie year but showed promise at the end, with Price managing a 3.58 ERA in his last 12 starts while Moore managed a 3.01 ERA in his last 14 starts. Then, in their second full season, both came out of the gate firing. In his first five starts of 2010, Price went 3-1 with a 2.34 ERA and Moore has been only better as he has gone 5-0 with a 1.13 ERA. Will Moore’s 2013 season mirror Price’s 2010 as he makes a push for the AL Cy Young Award? That’s something worth watching for as the season progresses. But no matter how Moore performs the rest of the season, the connection he has made with Price will prove valuable to him forever, as he told to Yahoo Sports’ Jef Passan.

“One of the biggest reasons I can trust what David is saying is not because he’s left-handed and around the same age as me but because he literally went through the same thing I have,” Moore said. “He got called up at the end of one year, had a pretty decent run, had some ups and downs and came back. He’s had the success and failure, and it makes it that much easier to listen to him.”

Price and Moore aren’t just two pitchers whose career arcs to this point have happened to be similar. Price’s example is the right there for Moore to emulate, and as Moore told Passan, Price has been instrumental to Moore developing the mental part of the game and simply be encouraging him from the dugout. And while Moore’s clubhouse presence isn’t quite Price-caliber yet and his Twitter account may never meet Price’s lofty standard, Moore is doing what he can to return the favor. In the entire incident between Price and umpire Tom Hallion, it was Moore, along with Jeremy Hellickson, who expressed his discontent with what had transpired and his support for his teammate both by speaking up from the dugout and on Twitter. Moore got fined $1,000 in the process, but to help a pitcher who has done so much for him, it was worth it.

Five starts mean nothing in the scheme of things. Matt Moore has a long way to go as he hopes to prove himself as an ace-caliber pitcher who will the Rays’ rotation for years to come. However, there’s something different about him this year and the change is most certainly for a better. His confidence gets bigger with every passing start and his development as a pitcher and as a teammate just continues to expedited. Everyone who has followed the Rays has known for years that Moore’s talent was up there among the best in baseball. Now, though, is when that potential is turning into reality. Everything is coming together for Moore, and the Rays having not one, but two dominant lefty aces at the top of their rotation isn’t just a dream or wishful thinking, but something that is happening before our very eyes.

Tags: Matt Moore Tampa Bay Rays

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