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Tampa Bay Rays: Matt Moore Exceeds Harvey, Fernandez

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It was just one game. We can’t say that enough times at this point. However, Matt Moore was tremendous for the Tampa Bay Rays last night and his start becomes even more interesting when we look at it in the context of other pitchers who have recently undergone Tommy John Surgery.

Game Score is a statistic that attempts to use one number to summarize the effectiveness of a pitcher in any particular start. It gives credit for strikeouts and innings while penalizing pitchers for giving up runs, hits, and walks. If you want to know more about it, you can head here. In any event, Moore’s 7 shutout innings in which he allowed just 2 hits and no walks while striking out 9 amounted to an 82 Game Score, which is excellent. It was in the top 2% of all MLB starts this season–it tied for 87th-best out of the 4380 total games started–and it was truly more impressive than that.

Baseball has seen quite a few notable pitchers return from Tommy John Surgery this year. Most notable among them are Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, and Patrick Corbin. None of them, though, have delivered a start as good as Moore’s according to Game Score. Harvey has topped out at 79 while Fernandez and Corbin haven’t gotten above 74. Second place behind Moore is actually Martin Perez with an 81 mark in his fourth start back. To round up the list, we have Ivan Nova with a best of 67, Kris Medlen at 62, Jason Marquis at 61, Chad Billingsley at 60, Brandon Beachy at 39.

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It will be interesting to see if Moore follows a Perez-esque trajectory from here. A disastrous third start back from Tommy John put Perez at a 10.50 ERA and a 5-6 strikeout to walk ratio to start his return to the majors, but everything has changed since that fourth game. Beginning with his August 2nd start that saw him give up just 1 run on 2 hits in 8.1 innings, striking out 6 while walking none, Perez has pitched to a 3.62 ERA and a 30-13 strikeout to walk ratio in 8 starts and 49.2 innings pitched. Perez has been closer to respectable than dominant in his starts since that great initial outing, but he has done enough to keep the Rangers in his games and he did give up just 1 run in his last start. He’s not all the way back from surgery, but he’s heading in the right direction.

Perez and Moore are very different pitchers, but the hope is that Moore can progress in a similar fashion. We can’t expect him to suddenly start reaching his upside and there will likely be more games where his control or command is off. The hope, though, is that the disastrous starts will be much rarer and occur no more frequently than his outstanding efforts. Can Moore be a serviceable fourth or fifth starter while he hopes to regain the consistency that gives him a chance to be much better than that?

The other factor working in Moore’s favor, as well as Perez’s and those of the others, is that he will soon get an entire offseason to rest and recover. Pitchers like Jordan Zimmerman and Charlie Morton are two examples off the top of my head have looked much better in their first full season back after struggling in their initial return from surgery. Then we have Harvey, who has gone right back to being an ace after the Mets didn’t even let him pitch last year. If Moore can enter that layoff having put together this start and a couple additional good ones, that would only increase his chances of being fine next season.

Once again, we are talking about exactly one game. For all we know, Matt Moore could collapse in his next start for the Tampa Bay Rays and make us as concerned as ever about his future. He doesn’t yet have a rotation spot for 2016 locked up and he still has plenty more to prove to himself and everyone else. However, his outing was a great sign, especially when we compare it to those of other Tommy John survivors, and the hope is that it does truly mean something.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Game 146: Well, Matt Moore Was Spectacular

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