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Matt Moore: Looking Back, Moving Forward

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Matt Moore was looking to rebound in 2014 and show that his All-Star year in 2013, along with his 17-4 record, were no fluke. He was seemingly an ace in the making, and 2014 was going to be his year to shine, until, that is, after only two starts (and 10 innings pitched), Moore went down with a torn UCL that ultimately lead to Tommy John Surgery. Moore missed the remainder of the season, and he’s likely going to miss at least the first month of the 2015 season. So where do we go from with Moore?

Moore, who hadn’t thrown after his surgery until early September, should be on track to be able to play as early as mid-May, but is there really a need to rush such a valuable asset to the Rays? Let’s assume that a healthy Moore in 2014 would have posted an ERA of 3.32 (after posting a 3.81 mark in 2012 and a 3.29 in 2013). If Alex Cobb, who finished 2014 with a 2.87 ERA and Chris Archer, who put up a 3.33 ERA, continue to put up those kind of numbers, is it really worth rushing Moore back into the rotation?

You can even throw Jake Odorizzi into that mix, who will have a year of big league ball under his belt and who should have a much lower ERA than his 4.13 mark in 2014, and Drew Smyly, who fit the rotation like a glove by recording a 1.70 ERA in seven starts. Jeremy Hellickson has struggled the past two years, but he’s not a totally lost cause, and the Rays could also bring a guy like Alex Colome into the rotation on a temporary basis until Moore is ready to go. And, if that’s the case, and that’s the rotation, Moore might not need to comeback until he is absolutely, 100% ready.

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The biggest concern for Moore when he comes back, aside from his health, is his velocity, which has been steadily declining ever since his debut in 2011 and took a major downturn in 2013. While all of Moore’s pitches, except his curveball, began 2014 higher in velocity than when it ended in 2013, his 2013 fastball saw an average velocity of 93.28 MPH, down from a 95.11 MPH average in his 2012 year per Brooks Baseball. The changes can also be seen across the board; his two-seamer went from 94.89 in 2012 to 93.27 in 2013, his changeup from 86.07 to 84.95 and his curveball took an 82.74 to 81.78 dip.

Regaining velocity will be key to Moore bouncing back strong in 2015, but the good news is that often pitchers come back from Tommy John throwing harder than before. On top of that, he needs to work on honing in his control a bit, as his 4.5 BB/9 in 2013 was disappointing. If he can do these things, 2015 might see him win the Cy Young award, but if not he could struggle to regain his previous form.

Matt Moore has the potential to be an ace for the Tampa Bay Rays, but there are still questions surrounding him. First and foremost, Moore needs to get healthy, and after that he needs to regain his velocity and fix some control issues. If he can do just that, the Rays rotation will be scary, but we also have to temper our expectations until he can come back and re-establish himself.

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