Matt Moore and the sophomore slump

Something's changed about Matt Moore. - USA TODAY Sports

He's not the pitcher he used to be.

After a promising rookie year, Matt Moore has taken a step back. Despite the good record at 8-4, he has not pitched very well. His command and control are very inconsistent (or just not very good, depending on who you ask). He's striking out slightly fewer men than he did last season, but walking more. His 4.12 ERA is probably slightly fortunate. What's more worrisome for Rays fans, his velocity is way down, averaging only 92.3 mph.

Toward the end of last year, Matt Moore's velocity declined noticeably, and the movement on all of his pitches changed as well, mostly for the worse. I wrote about how Moore was hitting the rookie wall. Take a very quick look over that. I think it's a good jumping off point for discussing his current problems.

Here are the LOESS Regression Curves, thanks to Jeff Zimmerman's Baseball Heat Maps.

Fastball velocity:

A71pm891i5d9m1o5ol7aphkvt0519043start_speedwm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

Fastball horizontal movement:

A71pm891i5d9m1o5ol7aphkvt0519043pfx_xwm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

Fastball vertical movement:

A71pm891i5d9m1o5ol7aphkvt0519043pfx_zwm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Moore's fastball other than velocity. Last season, as he tired, he lost both velocity and movement. This season, the movement is back and as good or better than ever, yet the velocity is even further down.

I must admit to knowing very little about pitching mechanics or wear. Toby David, or other local experts, what would that mean to you?

Changeup velocity:

A71pm891i5d9m1o5ol7aphkvt0519043start_speedwm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

Changeup horizontal movement:

A71pm891i5d9m1o5ol7aphkvt0519043pfx_xwm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

CH vertical movement:

A71pm891i5d9m1o5ol7aphkvt0519043pfx_zwm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

Matt Moore's changeup has rebounded to near pre-wall levels. The velocity is still very slightly down from where it once was, but not near as much as his fastball's. I'm not over-worried about this pitch.

Breaking ball velocity:

A71pm891i5d9m1o5ol7aphkvt0519043start_speedwm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

Breaking ball horizontal movement:

A71pm891i5d9m1o5ol7aphkvt0519043pfx_xwm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

Breaking ball vertical movement:

A71pm891i5d9m1o5ol7aphkvt0519043pfx_zwm_medium

via www.baseballheatmaps.com

As with the last time I looked at these charts, the breaking ball is the most interesting pitch. Boy has it slowed down. After gaining velocity at the end of last season, Moore's curve is now the slowest it's ever been in the major leagues. At the same time, it's regained the drop and swerve that it had pre-wall. Same movement, less velocity sounds to me like strictly inferior for a breaking ball, and my eyes tell me that Moore currently has little feel for it.

I have very little idea what all this means, but I can say that right now, Matt Moore is neither the pitcher he was when he entered the league nor the pitcher he was when he tired at the end of last season. He's something new, and worrisome.

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