Matt Moore's 2012 season hasn't gone as scripted. Instead of vying for Rookie of the Year honors and pairing with David Price to give the Rays two of the game's most dominant lefty starters, Moore has lasted less than six innings per outing and has an ERA that's 16 percent below average when you account for league and park factors. That's some serious underachievement from a guy possessing mid-to-upper-90s gas who eviscerated minor league competition and shut down the Rangers in the ALDS last fall.
Moore has issued too many walks to batters on both sides of the plate, but he's having serious trouble putting away fellow lefty hitters. He's got a big reverse platoon split in 2012:
Moore's miss rate against right-handed batters is 28.1 percent, the seventh-highest rate among all major league starters and third among left-handers, behind Francisco Liriano and Cole Hamels. Against lefties, however, Moore gets a miss just 15.2 percent of the time. That ranks 82nd out of 96 qualified starters and is dead last among lefties. Think about that: A lefty who can dial it up to 98 can't miss bats against lefties.
Pitch selection appears to be a big reason for Moore's lack of lefty whiffs. He has an effective fastball-changeup combo against right-handers, with both offerings missing lots of lumber. But the changeup, typically used against opposite-handed hitters, disappears against lefties and is replaced by more fastballs and sliders that aren't garnering swings and misses.
Moore's miss rate with the slider against lefties isn't anything special. But his fastball miss rate against same-handed batters is downright paltry. They're not fooled by his heat, thrown three-quarters of the time:
|Vs. RHB||Pct. Used||Miss Rate||Avg. for LHP vs. RHB|
|Vs. LHB||Pct. Used||Miss Rate||Avg. for LHP vs. LHB|
Moore may be going to his fastball so often because he lacks confidence in his breaking ball, described by Baseball America this past winter as a plus-plus pitch and the best in Tampa's system. Moore has left his slider over the fat part of the plate far too often, throwing 32 percent of them to the middle of the plate. The league average, by contrast, is 22 percent:
Moore's poor command of the slider hasn't buried him against righties, as he rarely uses the breaking ball against them and attacks them with his fastball and changeup. But the ineffective slider leaves Moore with little more than his fastball against lefties. And even if you've got 98 MPH heat in your back pocket, hitters can connect if they know it's coming.