Matt Moore's Control Problems

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Moore got two fourth place votes in the CY Young voting even though the lefty had a pretty mediocre year. Can he live up to his potential in 2014 or will control problems continue to hamper him?

So Matt Moore went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 2013. If you stare hard enough at those numbers, you might think Moore had a good year. Maybe that's what Scott Gregor of the Daily Herald and Dick Scanlon of the Lakeland Ledger were doing when they placed Moore 4th on their CY Young ballots. By the way, they each placed Yu Darvish 5th because PITCHER WINS or something.

Other than that, 2013 was not a strong year for the Rays lefthander. He spent the month of August on the DL with elbow soreness, and struggled to get deep into games. Over 27 starts, he threw just 150.1 innings. Joe Saunders and Edinson Volquez had a better xFIP- than Moore's 109. His first-pitch strike rate of 50.9% was the lowest among all starters that threw at least 150 innings.

If Rays fans were hoping for a step up from his 2012 season, they didn't get it. His FIP and xFIP were almost exactly the same, and his fastball was down a full two miles per hour. Control has long been an issue for Moore. Since 2012, only the aforementioned Volquez has a higher walk rate than Moore. Over his minor league career, he has a 10.4% walk rate.

Of course, he won't turn 25 until next season, so there's hope that his control will improve. With that in mind, I decided to take a look at pitchers who had similar control issues early in their careers. Going back to 1990, I found 20 pitchers who had a similar walk rate to Moore through their age-25 seasons (4.0-4.5 BB/9), while throwing at least 300 big league innings.

Here's the average career line for these 20 pitchers.

19.0 K%, 10.8 BB%, 4.25 FIP, 2.3 WAR/200 IP.

Overall, that's pretty average. Nothing special. There are some good names on the list. A.J. Burnett has managed 37.5 career WAR, Gio Gonzalez is pretty good, Kerry Wood had flashes of brilliance and Brandon Webb had a nice run of dominance before injuries ended his career. There are also disappointments such as Oliver Perez, Daniel Cabrera and Jaret Wright. The list would look more encouraging if I eliminated pitchers that had a combination of bad stuff and bad control, guys like Kyle Davies, Ruben Quevado, and Shawn Chacon.

History is not in favor of Moore becoming a control artist. Brandon Webb is the only player on the list who significantly improved his control. Other than Webb, A.J. Burnett has the next lowest career walk rate at 9.5%. 300 or more innings at the big league level will tell you a lot about a pitcher's control.

Since Moore has excellent stuff, I'd say he could be very similar to Gio Gonzalez, provided that he can stay healthy. Even with his fastball velocity dropping, there were only five lefties that threw harder than Moore in 2013. He has an excellent changeup, and a very good curveball. His repertoire suggests ace. I wouldn't bet on him becoming the next David Price but I still think he can be a No.2 starter for the Rays.

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