Stuff is a huge part of the success of Archer, Moore, and Cobb, but don’t underestimate the impact of character. (Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
When the Rays announced the Chris Archer extension, the second of their triumvirate of young pitchers was locked-up for the long haul. With Archer, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, the Rays are poised for a lengthy run of success. The statistics are going to be rehashed numerous times, but part of what a team considers when investing long term in players like these is often overlooked: their makeup. How do these three young starters fare in that category?
Though his career-to-date is a small sample size, Archer has made huge strides in his control. A 2.66/9 BB rate last year was the lowest of his professional career. An aberration? Maybe. But in an article by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Rays manager Joe Maddon noted that Archer is “a proactive thinker, always analyzing and seeking better ways to do things.” David Price also attested to Archer’s knowledge of the game by saying, “Talking to Arch is like talking to Einstein.” The improvement of his command could very well be because of Archer’s natural baseball IQ. While an analytical mind is no guarantee for success, that, coupled with Maddon’s assessment that he always is striving to be better, can only aid Archer going forward.
Not only is Archer a smart player, but he is also a high character guy. Raised by his maternal grandmother and her husband from birth, Archer, a child of mixed heritage, has seen discrimination, but has never let it slow him down. Archer has been quoted as saying, “Life is not about having a 2.70 ERA. That’s awesome, but what life is about is using that to impact others positively.” Regardless what the Rays get from Archer as a pitcher, they have a quality human being who you can’t help but root for.
Thus far, Matt Moore has demonstrated that he’s a warrior, unwilling to settle. This has been par for the course for his brief career to date. To quote Topkin in a profile he did about Moore: “There has been fame…There has been fortune…And there’s the same Matt. He shows up early. He listens intently. And he works hard — as hard as anyone else in Rays blue.” Moore has been heralded as a top prospect and future ace, but he has never let it get to his head. He works hard each and every day and never takes anything for granted. That was never more evident than this spring, when he returned to old training methods to help regain his velocity and simplify his delivery.
Matt’s dad, Marty, a longtime member of the air force, has been a guiding light in his life. Marty coached him through high school and always demanded hard work from Matt. In the same Topkin piece, Marty stated, “I used to tell him, ‘Son, you’ve got to be good because that’s my last name you have on your back out there.'” Marty always asked Matt to give his all, both in school and on the field, and it certainly shows in Matt today.
No matter who it is speaking, everyone heaps praise on Moore’s ability to take nothing for granted and continue to work his butt off no matter the plaudits thrown his way. Coupled with his absolutely electric stuff, Matt Moore is in a position to dominate the American League and anchor the Rays starting staff for a long time to come.
Just about everyone has seen the replay of Cobb being hit in the head by an Eric Hosmer line drive. Scary? Yes, but Cobb came back and pitched better than ever. Obstacles have never stopped him. Considered no more than a potential middle to back of the rotation starter, Cobb has defied expectations and has only gotten better as he has progressed up the ladder.
That Hosmer line drive was scary, but baseball is just a game, and Cobb’s fortitude has been forged by something bigger. The first was the sudden death of his mother, Lindsay. Driving home from baseball practice his senior year in high school, he received a call from his brother who told him the news that his mother had suffered a stroke. She was responsive and seemingly going to be alright, but she later passed away. If that wasn’t enough, his brother R.J., a captain in the Army, was on patrol in Iraq when an IED was thrown at his Humvee. R.J survived relatively unscathed, but it was yet another scary event for Cobb. In Christopher Smith’s article from 2012, Cobb noted, “To go through all that, it strengthened me as a person…I think it has really helped me with my career to not get too high and not get too low.” Despite being ranked below many others as a prospect, Cobb has managed to beat expectations thanks to his level-headed approach.
Life has forged a toughness in Alex Cobb that has helped him succeed on the baseball field. Beginning the 2013 season as Tampa Bay’s fifth starter, Cobb has taken giant strides forward in his development year in and year out and now is the number two pitcher. Along the way, he has even taken up the role of mentor, teaching current Rays’ fifth starter Jake Odorizzi his nasty split-changeup. We will have to wait and see if Cobb can truly become the perennial Cy Young candidate that some think the can be, but one thing that has been proven time and again is to never bet against Cobb. He will always find a way to succeed.
During the press conference to unveil the Rays signing Chris Archer to an extension, Rays GM Andrew Friedman noted, “It’s not only important to identify the talent of the player, but also who he is.” In this day and age, we have become used to the desensitized nature of many major league ballplayers. However, in Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Chris Archer, the Rays have found not only very talented pitchers but high-character individuals who represent the organization as exemplarily off the field as they do on it.