Will Matt Moore Be a Regular All-Star Selection for the Tampa Bay Rays?

Tyler Brooke@TylerDBrookeSenior Analyst IIJuly 17, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 01:  Matt Moore #55 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on July 1, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Matt Moore was chosen to represent the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2013 MLB All-Star Game.

Based off of what he's shown so far in his short time in the majors, there's likely to be plenty more appearances for the young left-handed pitcher.

Moore's journey to the Rays was a relatively easy one.  He started out with the organization in 2007, climbing up through the farm system while never having an ERA over 3.40.  He made his MLB debut at the end of the 2011 season, pitching 9.1 innings in three games.

The 2012 season was where Moore finally got a chance to show off his stuff.  He started 31 games while pitching 177.1 innings with an 11-11 record and an ERA of 3.81.  Those numbers were solid for a pitcher in his first full season in the majors, but he has looked even better this season.

Through his first 19 starts, Moore has gone 13-3 with an ERA at 3.44 in 107.1 innings.  His ERA would be lower, but three very bad starts from June 4 to June 14 gave him his only three losses of the season. 

Take out those three starts and Moore's ERA drops all the way to 2.08.  Moore has certainly turned it around since his June slump.  In his last five starts, he has gone 5-0 with an ERA of only 1.91 while collecting 40 strikeouts in just 33 innings pitched.  Batters have only been hitting .161 against him during that span.

So, why has Moore improved so much this season compared to last season?

When you see a pitcher showing signs or improvement, the gut-check thing to look at is whether or not his velocity has gone up.  When it comes to Moore, however, his velocity has actually gone down from 2012 (h/t Brooks Baseball)

The fact that Moore isn't throwing as hard is in no way a bad thing.  He's apparently found his comfort zone, and his command has improved nicely.  He's finding his spots, and he's leaving few pitches over the plate for players to swing at.

As you can see from these zone profiles provided by Brooks Baseball, the location of Moore's pitches has changed considerably over just one season.

His 2012 campaign featured a lot of waist-high pitches, as he had over 15 percent of his pitches at that level, with nearly six percent straight down the middle.

This year, he has developed a trend of pitches down low and even out of the zone.  You can see that the highlighted trend of pitches essentially all point to the same area, with around 20 percent of them below the strike zone.

Moore's location has helped him out quite a bit.  He's gone from walking 4.11 batters to 4.61 batters per nine innings, and has also struck out more batters, going from 8.88 to 9.06 per nine innings.

Batters have also struggled much more in getting under Moore's pitches with Moore allowing only 0.67 home runs per nine innings this year compared to 0.91 last season.

The biggest change has been in opponents' batting average against him. His WHIP has gone from 1.35 a year ago to 1.29 this season and batters are only hitting .209 against him in 2013 compared to .235 in 2012.

It's clear that Moore is showing all of the signs of development that you want to see from a young pitcher, but the question will be if he can do it for an extended period of time and have a long career.

I spoke with Bleacher Report's "injury expert" Will Carroll and asked him about what he thought about Moore.  Carroll had this to say:

Pretty solid. Like most Rays pitchers, he's very consistent. Works on commanding his fastball a lot. What's interesting is while his fastball is down a bit, his changeup is bang on. The lack of separation between them should be an issue, but the way the change moves is ridiculous. It's almost a screwball.

I'd call him an average to below average risk on a team with a ridiculously good track record of keeping pitchers, even young pitchers, healthy. He's the lowest of yellow risks, based almost entirely on his age.  He's David Price's Mini-Me, basically.

As long as Moore can stay healthy, there's no doubt that the Rays have another great pitcher for the future. 

He was able to get his first All-Star nod this season, and there will be plenty more to come in Moore's future.