The Tampa Bay Rays will give the ball to rookie Matt Moore against the Rangers' prolific offense tonight. The 22-year-old lefty struck out 11 hitters in his first MLB start against the Yankees on September 22, featuring a David Price-esque fastball that averaged nearly 95 MPH. Are the Rangers ready for Moore's heat?
In general, hitters struggle mightily against high-speed fastballs. They have a .298 Weighted On-Base average (wOBA) against fastballs thrown at 95 mph or higher over the past three seasons, compared to a .349 wOBA versus fastballs thrown under 95 mph. Several of Texas' heavy hitters have fared worse than most when a pitcher lights up the gun:
wOBA of Rangers hitters vs. fastballs thrown 95+ MPH since 2009 (including with other teams)
Nelson Cruz: .264
Ian Kinsler: .270
Adrian Beltre: .277
Josh Hamilton: .288
This quartet has absolutely killed fastballs thrown under 95 mph, with each posting a wOBA of at least .425, but high-velocity heat has been an issue. Michael Young (.333 wOBA vs. fastballs thrown 95+ mph) and Mike Napoli (.324) have hit top-shelf velocity pretty well, however.
It's possible that the advantage Moore's velocity provides is blunted by Texas' righty-heavy lineup. But if he relies heavily upon his fastball tonight against the middle of the Rangers' lineup, it might be a smart strategy instead of a rookie mistake.