Tampa Bay Rays: Parallel Universe of Left-Handers

Evan VogelContributor IIINovember 13, 2012

Tampa Bay Rays: Parallel Universe of Left-Handers

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    In a world full of strange connections to actor Kevin Bacon, the world of sports will, occasionally, develop a unique relationship between players. While some are linked with a kiss, like Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson, some are linked in more...unfriendly fashion, like Pete Rose and Ray Fosse.

    However, when physical relationships of different players are eliminated, there are times when statistics forever link players together. Although Barry Bonds has broken the home run record (asterisk or not), Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron are forever linked. Pete Rose, at least in Cincinnati, will always be remembered on September 11 for hit No. 4,192 and his passing of the great Ty Cobb.

    Then, there are times when statistics are strange, and that is what this is about.

    For the Tampa Bay Rays and their fans, David Price and Matt Moore are the future of the starting rotation. Especially with Jeremy Hellickson and James Shields having their names come up in potential trades this offseason and previously. The two left-handed starters will be linked together for a long time, or that is what the team and their fans should be hoping.

    If they continue on the track that David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young candidate, has laid for them both, things could get weird for their fans.

    Let me explain...

The Age and the Introduction to MLB

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    In 2008, David Price arrived in September for the Rays, compiling a 1.93 ERA over 14 innings with a 12:4 K:BB. Price started one game on September 22 against the Baltimore Orioles, when he tossed 5.1 innings and allowed one earned run. He won his only start, but he made five total appearances.

    In 2011, Matt Moore arrived in September for the Rays, posting a 2.89 ERA over 9.1 innings with a 15:3 K:BB. Moore started one game on September 22 against the New York Yankees, when he tossed five scoreless innings, striking out 11 in the contest. He won his only start, but he made three total appearances.

    So, Price and Moore both came up in September to make an impact for the Rays. They both started their only game of their introduction to the majors on September 22. Price and Moore were both 22 years old when they made their debuts.

Dominant in Their First Playoffs

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    After winning their only starts on September 22 during their initial call-up, David Price and Matt Moore took to the mound in the playoffs for the Rays.

    In 2008, the Rays went to the World Series and eventually lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. David Price was very effective during the playoffs for the Rays, but he was used exclusively out of the bullpen. In five total appearances, Price was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA over 5.2 innings, posting an 8:4 K:BB and a 1.06 WHIP.

    In 2011, the Rays lost to the Texas Rangers in the ALDS in four games. Matt Moore started Game One of the ALDS, tossing seven scoreless while striking out six to earn the win. Moore came in for Jeremy Hellickson in relief in Game Four, allowing one earned run in three innings, finishing the playoffs with a 1-0 record and a 0.90 ERA over 10 innings, posting an 8:3 K:BB.

    While both arriving at the age of 22, Price and Moore were very effective during their brief auditions, earning a spot on the Rays playoff rosters and limiting opposing hitters during October.

Rookie Seasons

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    After a dynamic introduction to baseball in 2008, David Price began his rookie campaign in 2009. Expectations were high, as he was ranked as the No. 2 prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the start of the season (Matt Wieters was No. 1).

    For service-time requirements, Price did not make his first start until May 25 against the Cleveland Indians. He struggled with his command most of his rookie season, posting a 1.35 WHIP while walking 54 in just 128.1 innings.

    Overall, Price was 10-7 with a 4.42 ERA, posting a 102:54 K:BB over those 128.1 innings.

    After his dynamic introduction to the bigs in 2011, Matt Moore began his rookie campaign in 2012. Expectations for Moore were also high, as the lefty was ranked as the No. 2 prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the start of the season (Bryce Harper was No. 1).

    Matt Moore did not spend any time in the minors in 2012, starting the fourth game and the 158th game of the season, making 31 starts for the Rays. He, too, struggled with command in his rookie season, posting a 1.35 WHIP while walking 81 in 177.1 innings.

    Overall, Moore was 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA, posting a 175:81 K:BB over 177.1 innings.

    The eerie number two rankings by Baseball America, similar WHIPs and walk rates (4.1 for Moore and 3.8 for Price) and process of development by the organization, show an interesting trend for the club's powerful, left-handed duo.

Rookie of the Year Voting

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    In 2009, David Price was left off each ballot for the Rookie of the Year award. Andrew Bailey, Elvis Andrus, Rick Porcello, Jeff Niemann, Gordon Beckham and Brett Anderson were the only players who received votes, so Price was left out to become a guy with potential who didn't reach expectations in his rookie season. Bailey was very, very good for Oakland, posting a 1.84 ERA and saving 26 games for the Oakland Athletics.

    In 2012, Matt Moore was left off of each ballot for the American League Rookie of the Year award. Mike Trout, Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish, Wei-Yin Chen and Jarrod Parker received votes, while Moore became just another guy, even with the high expectations and somewhat successful campaign. Clearly, Mike Trout deserved the award, even if Moore went 20-5 with a 2.40 ERA, as the Angels outfielder had one of the greatest seasons in history, not just for a rookie.

    While David Price was left out of voting, he clearly has moved on.

    Will Matt Moore do the same?

The 2007 Draft

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    The MLB Draft is a tough process for organizations to thrive with. While a football team can draft Andrew Luck and go from 2-14 to a playoff contender, or the Cleveland Cavaliers can become a contender in the NBA with LeBron James, it doesn't work that way in baseball. Matt Bush failed the San Diego Padres, Brien Taylor failed the New York Yankees, Bryan Bullington failed the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the list goes on and on.

    There are years where teams get lucky and a guy like Tim Lincecum falls to the 10th pick in the 2006 draft or Mike Trout falls to the 25th pick in the 2009 draft. There are also years when teams get lucky and get more than one impact player in a given draft. 2007 was that year for the Tampa Bay Rays.

    With the No. 1 overall pick, the Rays selected David Price out of Vanderbilt and with the No. 245 overall pick, the club selected Matt Moore out of a New Mexico high school.

    It is hard to find teams that find two aces in a single draft, but the Rays may have done so. While Price was able to make an impact sooner due to his collegiate experience and more advanced age and stuff than Moore, the results that Moore put up in the minor leagues show the potential that he still has in his left arm.

    While they didn't arrive in Tampa at the same time, Price and Moore should be able to make an impact in the same rotation for a few years going forward, or at least until Price prices himself out of the tiny Tampa budget.

What to Expect Going Forward

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    David Price was 10-7 with a 4.42 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in his 2009 rookie season. Since then, it has, mostly, been effective and dominant.

    Since the start of the 2010 season, David Price is 51-24 with a 2.93 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and a 611:201 K:BB in 644 innings. He has been an All-Star in each season, finishing second in Cy Young voting in 2010 and being named as a finalist for the award in 2012.

    The story for Matt Moore is still to be written. If Matt Moore is the pitcher that he was from the beginning of June through the end of August, when he was 9-3 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and a 94:41 K:BB in 99.2 innings (16 starts), then the Rays could have a dynasty led by a tremendous pitching staff. However, they need someone other than Evan Longoria to show up offensively, as Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez and Luke Scott are not enough to get this team over the hump.