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Rays vs. Orioles game 3: Matt Moore gives up 12 hits, loses game

Moore's strikeout to walk ratio was strong, but the Orioles put together too many hits for the Rays offense to catch them.

Was that Matt Moore giving up 12 hits in five innings? No, it was the masked bandit.
Was that Matt Moore giving up 12 hits in five innings? No, it was the masked bandit.

Let's step back for a second. When I'm upset, feeling down, and lacking much hope, it's sometimes comforting to ignore what I saw and look at a box score.

Matt Moore: Five innings pitched, 100 pitches, eight earned runs, 12 hits, one walk, six strikeouts. He threw 38 of his 58 fastballs for strikes, which at 66% is a little bit lower than I'd prefer, but he did produce a 14% whiff rate on his fastball, witch is excellent. Moore threw his changeup early and often (pitch #8, 27 times), and threw it for a strike over 80% of the time, producing 5 whiffs (19%). His curve was a bit less effective, but fine, with 15 attempts, 11 strikes, and two swinging strikes.

That's a good line. My point of view as an analyst who believes in Defense Independent Pitching Theory (DIPS) would lead me to identify Moore as a good pitcher. He's striking out over a batter an inning, he doesn't have control problems, and he's missing bats with every pitch he throws. I'm inclined to drop the hefty hit number, and consider it an aberration. We know Matt Moore isn't easy to square up. Even if his velocity is below where we'd expect it to be (averaging a bit over 92 mph), the movement he gets on it is elite.

And yet, that happy point of view is tough to adopt when I watch the game. I've seen Moore exit early two outings in a row before this game. I've seen him struggle with his command. That's the problem with DIPS theory. It's hard to stay positive when your guy is getting hit, it's easy believe in continuing success when your guy is skating by with fly balls and stranded batters. I'm trying to keep a level head. Here is my best description of the hits Moore gave up.

  1. The first run scored when J.J. Hardy hit a fly ball straight back into center field. Desmond Jennings tracked it back, leaped, and had it in his glove before it popped out. Jennings's effort was good enough that it it wasn't counted as an error, but it was a ball he'd say he should have had.
  2. The second run scored when Matt Moor threw a fastball to Adam Jones right at the bottom of the zone, that got lined into the alley for a double. It was a good pitch to a very good hitter, who did something with it.
  3. Danny Valencia doubled off of a hanging curve right in the middle of the zone. It was not a good pitch.
  4. Steve Pearce grounded through the hole between third and shortstop. Maybe Evan Longoria would have made the play, maybe he wouldn't have, but Ryan Roberts was playing third, and he dove but didn't reach it. Valencia scored on a fly out in foul territory.
  5. In an 0-2 count, Manny Machado swung at a high fastball away and up out of the zone, lining it into the corner for an RBI double.
  6. Hardy reached for a changeup on the outside corner but belt-high and found the alley with it for another double. Perhaps if Moore's fastball has a few more ticks on it, Hardy whiffs on that changeup. This time he was right on it. There were plenty of whiffs on Moore's changeup today, though, so it's not like he was struggling with a lack of separation.
  7. Matt Wieters hit to the warning track of the right-field power alley a changeup that stayed in the zone too long. Matt Joyce made a game attempt with a dive, but came up just a bit short. If that wasn't perfectly placed, it's a loud out, as it hung in the air a long time. It found the right spot, though, and it correctly goes down as a hard hit ball.
  8. Down 0-2, Pearce reached for a changeup off the plate and lined it just over Yunel Escobar's head for a single.
  9. Alexi Casilla grounded a first pitch changeup past Escobar, who uncharacteristically showed almost no range. The throw came to the plate, and bounced through Molina's legs, enabling another run to come home. Another run scored on a sacrifice fly.
  10. Adam Jones lifted an 0-1 backdoor curve that caught just a bit too much of the plate out to nearly straight-back center. It was pure strength. The man can hit. I would trade Eric Bedard for him any day of the week.
  11. Wieters lined a 1-1 changeup on the outside of the plate just over shortstop for a single.
  12. Pearce got his third hit of the day on a groundball off a pretty decent backdoor curve. Escobar made a good dive to keep it on the infield, but Pearce beat out the throw.
The Rays mounted just enough of a rally to bring Jim Johnson into the game and make things look like a shootout. It was not. Chris Tillman pitched well, Matt Moore did not.

It's much easier to describe baseball than to understand it. Matt Moore gave up a bunch of hits, but aside from the hits, his line looked respectable. Some of the hits were unusual, some were well struck. Most of them came against changeups left in the zone, but based on contact%, the changeup was Moore's best pitch today. How can a pitch both be unhittable and hittable in the same day? A few others came off of attempts at backdoor curves that caught too much of the plate, and I'm comfortable saying that Moore's breaking ball was unimpressive. His fastball was not as fast as I'd prefer to see it, but it was effective. He threw it for whiffs, and gave up very few hits when throwing it.

What's my conclusion? I'm not sure. Maybe Moore should be throwing more fastballs. Maybe he should work on locating both his changeup and curve further down in the zone. Maybe he should pitch similarly to how he just did, but will throw a complete game shutout his next time out. Bottom line is that we won the series against one of the teams ahead of us in the AL East and we'll host the Red Sox in Tropicana for three games starting tomorrow. There's no grand pattern of despair to seize on right now, so let's just let it slide on sweep the Sox.