Since he came off the disabled list, David Price has been absolutely on fire. In five starts, he’s 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA and a 27-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 41 innings pitched. He has tossed complete games in three of his last four starts, enough for him to tie for the American League lead in complete games despite having five less starts than any of the pitchers he’s tied with. Price has been the picture of efficiency, not going over 100 pitches a single time even as he has gone 7 innings each time. And the key for Price has been his fastball. Price has been able to put away hitters so quickly by pitching off his fastball and locating it well down in the zone, forcing weak contact early on the count and plenty of easy innings. And after how well Price has pitched, it’s easy to see that every other Rays starter would want to emulate him. Unfortunately for Matt Moore, he tried to hard to copy Price and wound up with a disastrous start in the process.
On the season, Matt Moore has thrown his fastball 62% of the time, his curveball 19%, and his changeup 18%. On Sunday, though, Moore tried to do his best David Price impression, throwing his fastball 63 times among his 91 pitches (69%). He did keep his changeup at 18% of his pitches, although he reduced his curveball to just 13%. At the end of the day, those difference aren’t too large–but the issue is that mixing his pitches like that was completely the wrong move in this game. Moore was leaving his fastball up and getting hit hard with it, including the home runs he allowed to Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano. And it wasn’t like Moore didn’t have any other option. Moore’s changeup was unhittable in the game, generating 6 whiffs among the 16 times he threw it, a ridiculous 46.2%. Why didn’t Moore resort to his changeup Moore when it was looking so good? And while Moore’s curveball wasn’t that great, why didn’t he go to it a little bit more seeing how ineffective his fastball was? Moore–and Jose Lobaton, the catcher in the game–fell in love with his fastball not because it was looking so good, but because it worked great for Price, and that simply can’t happen. With Moore not using his pitches in the best way to help him succeed, it isn’t a surprise that he allowed 5 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings of work.
David Price is a great pitcher to learn from, but every game is different and pitchers and catchers have to adjust accordingly. If Moore’s fastball is great in his next start, maybe he can try to “pull a Price” and pitch off his fastball again. If it isn’t, though, Moore has to recognize where his strengths lie and rely on the secondary pitches that have made him one of the most talented pitchers in baseball and have the ability to make him one of the best.