The Tampa Bay Rays gave a guaranteed $14M to Matt Moore this off season despite the fact that he had only one career start and 9.1 regular season innings under his Major League belt. But Moore was, by all accounts, a top three prospect in the entire game and was armed with the command, control, mechanics, and arsenal of a potential staff ace.
The guaranteed money given to Moore was a given that he would penciled in to the rotation and one of Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis would have to be either moved to the bullpen or traded. Davis and Niemann have both flourished this year while Moore has been a bit of a let down.
Through Moore's first six starts he owns a 5.71 ERA, 5.23 FIP, and 5.00 xFIP while walking nearly five batters per nine innings and allowing over one and a half home runs over the same span.
Moore's breaking ball has surprisingly been worth -1.3 runs, mainly due to poor location of the pitch.
Moore is throwing a ton of breaking balls in the middle of the zone and up in the zone. Moore also has not had any help from the men in blue behind the plate on his breaking ball.
But it's not just Moore's slider that has been worth negative runs but also his fastball. Moore's wFB is -5.6, good for the fifth worst mark in the American League despite averaging over 94 mph on the pitch. But, like his breaking ball, he works mostly in the middle of the zone and up in the zone.
And, again like Moore's slider, the umpires have pinched the rookie this season.
But not all is lost. Moore's problems are fixable. His stuff is still there. His velocity is still plus and his change-up has been deadly at +2.9 runs.
I bring all of this up because most of us, myself included, had Matt Moore slated as a sure thing in 2012. Sometimes the story does not play out the way we thought it would. Yes, it has only been six starts, but we are reminded that the game of baseball at the top level is not very easy, even for the most elite talents.
Moore's struggles remind me of the 2009 season, David Price's first full season in the Major Leagues. Price was a top prospect who dazzled in a small sample size the previous September and October but posted a 4.42 ERA, 4.59 FIP, and 4.43 xFIP, all career worsts, while posting also posting career worst K/9, BB/9, HR/9, and just about every other rate across the board. He, too, was a sure thing.
Moore's struggles have not been fun to watch but we must be reminded that Moore is only 22 years young, that he is only in his first full season at the top level, and that his struggles are likely only temporary. Time and experience will be the cure for what is ailing Matt Moore.