(This is my first fanpost, and I can't seem to preview it, so sorry if there are formatting problems)
I've been having a "discussion" with some of the fellows over at PSA for the past 24 hours about Moore's first major start (September 22, 2011).
It started when one of their members seemed outraged that Moore had lasted 2 rounds in some MLB Network silly competition about the most talented players under 25 years of age, and I questioned why he had such a hard time with that.
I ended up posting something along the lines of this (or this exact quote):
Once I posted that, the conversation deteriorated into Yankees fans making excuses as to why the start wasn't that impressive. Reasons given relied heavily on the Yankees lineup that day:
I see a lineup with a star SS (Jeter), DH (Teixeira), a great RF (Swisher), formerly great major league hitting catcher at 1b (Posada), future star (Montero), lefty masher (Jones), and a decent utility IF who amassed about half of a season's worth of PA and hits lefties better than righties (Nunez). Laird and Golson are the only batters in this lineup who are not of real major league quality.
Missing are some of the regulars who admittedly might've made the game a little different. Rodriguez, Cano, Granderson, and Gardner were not in the game.
Here is what Moore accomplished in his 5 innings (84 pitches) of work:
Jeter struck out
Nunez grounded out (pitcher to
Teixeira struck out
Swisher singled to left
Jones struck out
Montero walked [Swisher to second]
Posada was called out on strikes
Laird struck out
Golson struck out (catcher to first)
Jeter struck out
Nunez singled to second
Moore threw a wild pitch [Nunez to
Teixeira lined to shortstop
PENA BATTED FOR SWISHER
Pena popped to first
Jones struck out
Montero singled to left
Posada struck out
Laird singled to right
Golson flied to center
Dickerson struck out
Nunez struck out
He faced 20 batters, and he struck out 11. That's top notch in my book, especially considering the players he had the most success against.
But first, the successful Yankees batters:
Swisher and Montero were the only batters not retired by Moore at least once. Swisher reached base once and Montero twice. There were a few other hits sprinkled in.
And now on to Moore's success:
Jeter struck out twice, as did Jones and Posada (a minor victory compared to Jeter). Teixeira struck out once and did not reach base against Moore. He even struck out Nunez, who is fickle mistress when it comes to lefties and striking out (9.1% on the season, 7.5% for career). Some of the less desirables also struck out, but that should go to Moore's credit, not against him just because they weren't the regular Yankees starters.
And that brings up the missing Yankees starters.
Granderson and Gardner are lefties, and they tend to struggle against left-handed pitching. Replacing Gardner with Jones was probably a smart move. However, replacing Granderson with Golson is a stretch, especially considering Granderson's success against lefties in 2011.
Alex Rodriguez was absent, but after returning from a week long hiatus on September 17th, he only went 6 for 32 (.188) with 2 XBH (1 HR, 1 double), 6 walks, and 6 strikeouts for the remainder of the regular season. According to Fangraphs, he only had 3 line drives over this period of time, also. There's a very significant chance that he would have actually done worse than Laird, who replaced him and managed a single against Moore in the 5th.
Cano was replaced by Nunez in the lineup, and there's no doubt that Cano is a much better hitter, but as pointed out earlier, Nunez is quite adequate against lefties, and he, like Laird, also managed a single, going 1-3 against Moore. Cano is a very good hitter. Excellent, in fact, and he has basically has no platoon splits to speak of, so it's impossible to feel good about thinking Cano couldn't have done better than Nunez because, frankly, that's nonsense. He may have gone 3-3 with 3 HR. Who knows?
Again, though, can that be held against Moore? Do the Yankees missing Granderson and Cano make this start not impressive even though Moore struck out over half of the batters he faced in his first major league start? Should this not be held with any high regard? Is his start in the playoffs against the Rangers his only impressive performance in the major leagues in 2011? Does the location of the start (Yankee Stadium) help the case for Moore? Is there homerism going on in on with Yankees fans, Rays fans, or both? These are questions that can surely be discussed, but most importantly:
Was Matt Moore's start against NYY impressive or not?