Thursday, May 6, 2010

What's Wrong With Matt Moore?

After allowing 4 runs in 5 innings in his start last night, Matt Moore's ERA is an unsightly 6.15 through 6 starts. ERA, of course, is a notoriously poor way to judge pitchers. Moore's FIP(fielding-independent pitching) is 3.21 on the season. Last season, by all accounts a successful one for the southpaw, his FIP was 3.11(note: That's according to FirstInning. FanGraphs has his 2009 FIP at 2.93). So let's say for simplicity's sake that his FIP was around 3.00 last season. Moore has performed worse, but only by about a quarter of a run. And the difference between his 2010 ERA and FIP is staggering.

Here are his 2010 numbers against his 2009 numbers and his career average(where available):
Year  ERA   FIP*  WHIP  BB/9   K/9   H/9   GB%  GO/AO  XBH%** BABIP
2010  6.15  3.21  1.74  6.49  13.67  10.25 34%  1.18   40.74  .464
2009  3.15  3.11  1.26  5.12  12.87  6.99  48%  1.34   38.37  .308
CAVG  3.09  3.02  1.25  4.98  12.94  6.92  48%                .295
*FIP data from FirstInning
**The percentage of total hits have been XBH(2B 3B HR)
His ERA is way up, but his FIP is generally in line with his average. Of course, he's allowing an extra baserunner every two innings this season. His walk rate(which is certainly a problem) is higher than an already-high career average. But in terms of him getting hit around, it's probably just bad luck over a 6-start stretch, possibly with some bad defense thrown in. Isaias Velasquez, who was an infielder last season, has been the center fielder in all six of Moore's starts. He's fast, judging from the steals he's been getting, but who knows what kind of reads/jumps he's getting on flyballs. Another infielder, Omar Luna, has played left field in two of his starts.

Why do I mention the outfielders? Well, Moore is getting close to the same ratio of groundouts to flyouts as he did last year, only his GB% is way down. That either means he's allowing a lot more line drives, or more flyballs are landing. I don't trust flyball/line drive data for minor leaguers(a lot of that is a judgement call by the stat stringer), but Moore's XBH%, while high compared to league average, isn't much worse than last year. Intuitively, more line drives would lead to more XBH, so my guess is that his line drive rate probably isn't the problem. If you do want to trust the data(and I'm sure there's some truth to it, I just don't know how much), StatCorner lists his LD% at 31.7%, which is double last year's number. That rate is unsustainable.

Moore's stuff seems as sharp as ever, judging from the strikeout rate. Is it possible he's making more mistakes and hitters aren't missing them? Sure. But Moore led the minors in opponent's batting average last season, his hit rate is bound to improve. The walks, however, are a bigger concern. Even when/if his hit rate comes down, he'll still be putting too many on base with free passes. Last year, Moore had trouble finding the strike zone early in the year, too. Here's the data through 6 starts:
                                Year  IP    BB   BB/9   
                                2010  26.1  19   6.49
                                2009  25.1  20   7.10
Oddly enough, in terms of walks, he's started better this year than last year. Moore walked six batters in his 7th start in 2009, but soon went on a run where he walked only 12 in 8 starts. He'll likely need a similar run in 2010, because a 6.5 walk rate won't cut it over the season.

The bottom line is that we really shouldn't be worried about Moore's start. The strikeouts are there* and the hit rate will come down. A .464 BABIP and a reported 31% line drive rate simply aren't sustainable, even with a poor defense behind him. The thing to watch will be the walk rate and whether or not he can "find" his control as he seemingly did in late May/early June last year.

*In fact, it's somewhat astounding that he's been able to maintain or better his rate, but then again, he didn't miss a beat in the K department from Princeton to Bowling Green.


  1. Good article. BTW Statcorner also has his FIP at 2.83 for 2009 and 2.93 for 2010. The .441 BABIP won't continue, as you said. And the GB% vs LD% could just be a different stringer making the call between the two (sometimes very similar) plays.

    What impresses me is his percentage of plate appearances resulting in a swinging strikeout, known as kS%. In 2009 it was 25.9%, in 2010 it's 27.5%. For reference, MLB average is 11.5% for starting pitchers, and 14.5% for relief pitchers.

    For comparison, let's take a look at the other four starters in the Stone Crabs rotation in 2010.

    Chris Andujar: 8.3% (down from 14.4% at BG in '09)
    Nick Barnese: 19.0% (up from 16.6% at BG in '09)
    Joseph Cruz: 13.6% (down from 16.7% at BG in '09)
    FDLS: 6.8% (down from 11.3% at BG in '09)

    In sum, I agree with you, other than the walk rate, don't see anything to worry about with Moore yet.

  2. One other comparison, Jeremy Hellickson at Durham (leaving out his Montgomery numbers for 2009).

    2009: 28.2%
    2010: 21.4%

    And interestingly, his LD% has also doubled:
    2009: 13.7%
    2010: 26.2%

  3. Great work. Will fanshot this on DRB tomorrow.