The Rays Tank: The Absurdity of Matt Moore's Start Against Toronto

Al Messerschmidt

Big league hitters can't dream of hitting Matt Moore on any sort of consistent basis–but thanks to his walk rate, they haven't needed to.

Baseball has been around for a very long time, so when you're the second player to accomplish anything in baseball, that's quite a feat. Matt Moore's start on Tuesday, though, felt fans were not a look of amazement on their face but pure bewilderment.

Moore went 6 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, earning his 10th win as the Rays beat the Blue Jays 5-1. And in the process, he struck out 11 and walked 6. Moore became just the 7th player since 1916 to strike out 11 and walk 6 in 6 or less innings, the first since Johan Santana on 5/27/09. And he became just the second player, after Russ Ortiz on 5/27/00, to make a start like that and allow less than 3 runs. That's a pretty crazy stat, but that's only where the insanity begins.

When Alex Cobb had his remarkable 13-strikeout game on May 10th against the Padres, Cobb lasted just 4.2 innings despite only walking 2 batters. How in the world did Moore manage to go 6 innings if he struck out a ton of batters as well, 11, but also walked 6? Over at Rays Colored Glasses, I broke down how that happened.

We generally associate strikeout pitchers with working very deep counts and Matt Moore is certainly no exception. Against the Blue Jays, though, Moore wasn't working deep count after deep count and proceeding to strike out some and walk some. Instead, his strikeouts came when he was locked in and his walks came when he couldn't buy a strike. Just one of Moore's 11 K's came in at-bat of five pitches or longer as it seemed like he could force a swing-and-miss whenever he wanted. His whiff rate on the day was 18.3%, almost double his 9.3% mark overall on the season, and that's bizarre considering his control was so bad. Why didn't the Jays stop swinging if the knew Moore couldn't throw strikes?

It was almost as though Moore's strikeouts and walks were totally independent. Three of Moore's walks came on at-bats of five or fewer pitches and none of them exceeded six pitches. When Moore was walking hitters, he was just completely losing the zone. When he was making his pitches look anything like a strike, though, hitters didn't stand a chance. Take those quick strikeouts and walks and add in some weak contact early in the count, and Moore certainly wasn't efficient but he had enough in the tank to get through six innings. Now if only he could get rid of the lapses of control and make the dominance that he exhibited with his strikeouts something that doesn't come and go nearly as much as it has for him this season.

On Tuesday, Matt Moore looked like a force of nature. Hitters couldn't do anything against him and the only thing that could beat him was himself with the walks. Moore's stuff is electric and it's incredible how dominant he looks when he is right. He has a long way to go in his development as a pitcher and he was luck to allow just 1 run with all those walks, but the promise is there and you have to hope the control clicks.

Here are your links for today:

-From Marc Topkin: Alex Torres is getting a bigger role in the Rays' bullpen, Alex Colome will start Friday, and David Price will throw 70 pitches in his rehab game tonight.

-Alex Rodriguez tweeted that he had gotten the green light to start rehab games. Brian Cashman told him to shut up.

-Manny Acta (who apparently works for ESPN Insider now) discussed the dangers of rushing prospects. Rays fans can laugh and say "yeah, the Rays don't do that."

-With an Insider subscription, you can also read how Nick Markakis is apparently the most average player in baseball. Scroll down to the comments to make fun of people still believing that batting average is the end-all stat.

-B.J. Upton has forgotten how to hit a fastball. The Braves hope that changes.

-Brendan Ryan's defense is something independent of time and place.

-Baseball isn't working in Las Vegas.

-Baseball Prospectus assigns movie endings to 10 MLB teams. If you didn't already know, Arte Moreno is the wrath of God.

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