Matt Moore and the 10 Best Postseason Pitching Debuts in the Wild Card Era
You have to admire Joe Maddon's stones.
The guy had guts to start a 22-year-old rookie in the first game of the 2011 ALDS who had made just one previous start and had a grand total of nine innings of MLB experience.
But Maddon's guts were exceeded by those of the young lefty he sent to the hill Friday night.
Matt Moore pitched seven dominating innings against one of the league's best offenses in their home park, and looked like he had been pitching in the Majors for years, instead of weeks.
Moore's final pitching line was 7 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 6 K.
These magnificent stats would be great for any pitcher making his postseason debut, but they are downright ridiculous for a guy who three weeks ago was pitching in Triple-A.
So how does Moore's postseason debut stack up statistically in baseball history?
The answer might surprise you, and I'll answer it soon enough.
For now though, let's take a look at the 10 best postseason pitching debuts in the Wild Card era.
10) Cliff Lee: Philadelphia Phillies (10/7/09)
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He made an immediate impact for his new team in his postseason debut in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Colorado Rockies.
The lefty hurled a complete game for the Phillies while giving up a lone run.
His final line: 9 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 5 K, 0 BB.
This would be the beginning of a brilliant run of postseason pitching that has made Lee one of baseball's most successful starting pitchers in October.
Lee's current postseason stats are very impressive.
10 GS, 7 W, 2.13 ERA, 76 IP, 54 H, 8 BB, 80 K.
With fellow aces Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt, Lee will look to add to his playoff resume in 2011 by doing his part to deliver another World Series victory to the Phillies in his second stint with the club.
9) Jon Garland: Chicago White Sox (10/14/05)
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The 2005 Chicago White Sox won the World Series on the strength of some absolutely fantastic starting pitching.
Jon Garland was a huge part of the staff's postseason dominance, and his first ever October start in Game Three of the ALCS gave the White Sox a 2-1 series lead.
Against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, on the road, Garland's only blemish was a two run HR to Orlando Cabrera.
He finished his huge debut with a pitching line of 9 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K.
He would go on to pitch Game Three of the World Series earning a no-decision in a game that the White Sox would eventually win in 14 innings.
8) Matt Moore: Tampa Bay Rays (9/30/11)
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Moore's numbers from his postseason debut may only earn him the eighth spot in these rankings statistically, but that hardly tells the whole story of how impressive his start was.
When you consider that he was only making his second ML start, and was doing so on such a big stage, the numbers seem to magnify themselves.
7 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 6 K.
One of the hits he gave up, (both were to Josh Hamilton) was on a ball that should have been caught by Matt Joyce who seemed to have a difficult time initially tracking the ball due to the late afternoon shadows.
Other than that, he simply dominated a Rangers lineup that has the ability to crush any opposing pitcher, and did so with a poise belying his young age.
7) Fausto Carmona: Cleveland Indians (10/5/07)
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Carmona's first foray into the postseason had him facing the vaunted New York Yankees in Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS.
He was more than up to the challenge dominating the Bronx Bombers by hurling a complete game 2-1 victory.
Carmona's line: 9 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
The young sinker-baller was in his first full year as a starter after a failed attempt at closing as a rookie the year before.
Unfortunately, it was his only good start of the postseason as he had two disastrous starts in the ALCS against the eventual World Series winning Boston Red Sox.
Still, Carmona showed how good he can be when everything is clicking, and his great start was key in helping the Indians advance to the ALCS.
6) Jonathan Sanchez: San Francisco Giants (10/10/10)
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Much like Fausto Carmona, Sanchez has had many issues with his command throughout his career.
In his first ever postseason start against the Atlanta Braves last season though, he was in complete and utter control.
The Braves couldn't touch his stuff that night, as Sanchez recorded 11 strikeouts and yielded only two hits in 7.1 innings of work.
His brilliant outing gave the Giants a 2-1 series lead, and served as a preview of just how scary and deep the San Francisco staff would be on their way to a World Series Championship.
Sanchez would not equal the success of his rotation mates Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner for the rest of October, but his brilliant effort may have been the turning point in the Giants postseason that sent them on the path to October glory.
Final line: 7.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 11 K, 1 BB.
5) Mark Prior: Chicago Cubs (10/3/03)
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The eventual fate of the 2003 Cubs has been well documented, as has the unfortunate injury ruined career of Mark Prior.
But in Game 3 of the NLDS, Cubs fans still had high hopes that 2003 was their year, and Mark Prior was the best young pitcher in baseball.
Many thought he was on the way to a Hall of Fame career, and after a brilliant 18 win campaign in his first full season, Prior faced off with the great Greg Maddux in his first ever postseason start.
Not only would Prior best Maddux and lead the Cubs to a 3-1 victory, but he did so in such dominating fashion that it appeared that the Cubs could ride his right arm all the way to the World Series.
On that chilly night in Chicago, Mark Prior restored the faith of Cubs fans everywhere, and turned in one of the most impressive postseason debuts in recent memory.
His dominant start serves as a microcosm of what could have been....for both the Cubs...and himself.
Prior's final line: 9 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 K.
4) Bobby Jones: New York Mets (10/8/2000)
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Bobby Jones had a pedestrian career at best, winning 89 games with a lifetime ERA of 4.36.
After a great campaign in 1997, Jones career began to fall apart due to numerous injuries, and he was never quite the same pitcher again.
His 11 wins and 5.06 ERA in 27 starts in 2000 hardly inspired confidence of a dominant outing in his postseason debut.
But Jones would have the best start of his career in Game 4 of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants.
A complete game one-hit masterpiece would be Jones crowning achievement, and despite his mediocre career, it would earn him a place in Mets fans hearts forever.
His dominant outing would win the series for the Mets and helped shepherd them to their eventual World Series matchup with the New York Yankees in the Subway Series.
Final Line: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
3) Kevin Millwood: Atlanta Braves (10/6/99)
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Nobody will argue that the Braves didn't have the most dominating pitching staff of the 1990's.
When discussing their embarrassment of pitching riches in the decade, the names Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, and Avery are the names most oft-mentioned.
But in 1999, after a brilliant 18 win season, 24-year-old Kevin Millwood may have had the best ever postseason start of any Braves pitcher.
That's saying something.
Millwood bested the Houston Astros 5-1 in Game 2 of the NLDS, and officially arrived on the scene as the next great Braves hurler.
Millwood has won 163 games in his 15 year career, but has had very little postseason success since his awesome October debut.
Final Line: 9 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K.
2) Tim Lincecum: San Francisco Giants (10/7/10)
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Nobody has ever doubted the enormous potential and talent of Tim Lincecum, but going into the 2010 postseason the jury was still out on how he would perform on the big stage for the first time.
Lincecum answered that question in the opening game of the NLDS with a dazzling 1-0 complete game shutout of the Atlanta Braves, and emphatically announced the presence of the Giants as serious World Series contenders.
The Freak had a marvelous 2010 postseason, winning four games while posting a 2.43 ERA, and leading the Giants to their first World Series victory since 1962.
But it all started with his brilliant debut, which may have earned the top spot in these rankings if not for the performance of a pitcher 24 hours before.
Final Line: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 14 K.
1) Roy Halladay: Philadelphia Phillies (10/6/10)
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Going by game score, Tim Lincecum's performance would earn the top spot in these rankings (96) over Halladay's no-no (94).
But anybody who throws a no-hitter in his postseason debut is going to get the top spot, no matter what the numbers say.
Halladay, like Lincecum, still needed to prove that he was not only a great regular season pitcher, but that he could dominate in the postseason as well.
What else can you say?
Quite simply one of the best postseason performances ever.
Debut or not.
Final Line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K.
Where Does Matt Moore's Debut Stack Up All-Time?
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According to Baseball Reference, his game score of 77 ranks his debut as T-56th in baseball history, a fact that genuinely surprised me.
I thought for sure it would be much higher.
However, as stated before, the numbers don't tell the whole story.
When you look at his age, the fact that it was only his second MLB start, and the dramatic fashion in which the Rays reached the postseason, his awesome debut seems even more monumental.
The gall of Joe Maddon to start him over Wade Davis or James Shields on short rest, was a high risk/high reward gamble that paid off handsomely for the Rays, and has set the tone for their postseason.
Like Livan Hernandez for the Marlins in 1997, and Madison Bumgarner for the Giants last year, Moore has the potential to be a rookie X-factor for the Rays this October.
Rays fans have known about Moore for quite some time, but last night was probably the first time most people had actually seen him pitch. This wasn't just a postseason debut, it was more like a coming out party for the future ace of the Rays staff.
Moore's performance puts the Rays in a great position to win this ALDS, and Joe Maddon now has four bona-fide starters to trot to the hill throughout this postseason.
With James Shields, David Price, and fellow rookie Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays have arguably the deepest rotation of all the American League playoff teams.
Like the San Fransisco Giants last season, the Rays could be poised to ride their young arms to the World Series.
So Moore's start was not only an announcement of his arrival as a pitching force, but it also instantly made the Rays a serious threat to advance deep into the 2011 postseason.
I don't think anybody would be surprised if this was just the beginning to a brilliant October for Matt Moore.
Even if he struggles in his next start should the Rays advance, he has officially arrived as the next dominant left-hander in MLB.
And regardless of how far his team goes this postseason, it is a start that Rays fans will never forget.