The Light Bulb Goes Off for Rays’ Matt Moore

By Robbie Knopf

No one has ever doubted Matt Moore‘s stuff. When he’s throwing 97 MPH or 91 MPH, Moore’s fastball eviscerates hitters, and that’s only the start. Moore’s changeup is dominant and continues to improve while his curveball is a third plus pitch. What has held Moore back from reaching his potential and becoming his potential in baseball? A lack of consistency, not in his arsenal but in his ability to repeat his delivery and throw strikes. It has been clear for a while that the moment when Moore solves that problem is the moment that he truly evolves into an ace in the major leagues. Maybe that moment has arrived.

Following Moore’s 2-hit shutout of the Red Sox on Monday, all the post-game talk was not about the velocity or movement on Moore’s pitches. According to Brooks Baseball, Moore got his average fastball velocity up to 94.23 MPH, 1 MPH harder than his 93.23 MPH average on the season, including 8 pitches of 96 MPH or harder. But that wasn’t the story–instead, it was about his focus.

"“I really felt like he was in command of everything about himself in that game — his emotions, his breathing, his delivery, his command of his fastball,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Everything he did (Monday), he commanded it. It was the one-moment-at-a-time thing, and that’s why he was so effective.”“He was concentrating on every pitch,” Lobaton said, noting that the few times Moore shook him off they came back to the original call.“It was very deliberate,” Hickey said. “When he got to a 1-0 count, a 2-0 count, he just took a nice deep breath and made a nice pitch, where sometimes it has a tendency to get away from him a little bit.”"

When Matt Moore is locked in, there isn’t any lineup in baseball that can beat him. The issue is that no pitcher is ever going to be locked in for an entire game. Against the Red Sox, that certainly held true as well–Moore certainly didn’t have a perfect night. But whenever he lost his feel for the strike zone, he found a way to get it back. He kept his emotions in check and took a breath whenever he felt stressed. He just relaxed on the mound and everything came together. And if he could do the same thing with any regularity, plenty more special games should be ahead. Maybe Matt Moore has finally figured out how to command his pitches on a regular basis. And if he has, opposing hitters won’t stand a chance.