To say that Andrew Moore was knocked around in his first taste of big league action would be an understatement. Through his first 38.1 big league innings, hitters roasted him at a .282/.309/.562 clip - that .280 ISO keeps company with names such as Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, Charlie Blackmon, and Justin Smoak (...sigh). He gave up at least one home run in each of the six starts he made, his ground ball rate was a lowly 26.8%, and while the lack of walks was encouraging, Moore struggled to put hitters away and miss bats, sporting a K% of just 10.5%.
Against right-handed hitters, Moore's primary offspeed pitch is a slider, which has been... not very effective. Batters are hammering it for a 194 (!!!) wRC+, which is complemented by a .308 ISO. Taking a peek at the pitch's season chart, it's not difficult to see why:
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Moore has only thrown one slider against lefties all year! Unfortunately, he has not been able to command it at all against righties. They're whiffing on it just 7.5% of the time - an astoundingly low percentage for a slider. While Moore has used his slider less often than his other pitches, it has been so ineffective that it should rarely be thrown, if at all. In its current state, it is not a major league pitch by any means, and hitters have figured that out quickly.
On Wednesday, though, Moore pitched arguably the best start of his young career, holding the Astros - the best hitting team in baseball - to just two runs over six innings. He generated eleven swinging strikes, and didn't give up any home runs - a first for him in a start.
Well, I'll be! Moore threw only six sliders out of eighty total pitches. He didn't get any whiffs on it - in fact, only one of them was swung at, and it turned into a ringing double off the bat of Alex Bregman. The reduced usage here is nice to see, though, and is paramount to Moore's success going forward.
Moore leaned heavily on his fastball and changeup on Wednesday - sixty-four of his pitches were of this variety. His curveball was also effective, though - even though he didn't get any swings-and-misses on it, Moore used it to set up the high fastball very well, especially in this sequence to Marwin Gonzalez in the second inning:
Yep, that fastball was about eighteen inches above the top of the zone, and Gonzalez swung wildly through it. Moore painted both corners for strikes one and two with his change and curve, pitching backwards very effectively.
Moore generated seven swinging strikes from his fastball on Wednesday, the most out of all of his starts. He lived at the top of the strike zone with it all game, and coupled with the fact that he left the majority of his offspeed pitches down, it worked to great success.
The two runs came from a Marwin Gonzalez (who else?) double in the fourth inning. On a 1-1 count, Moore left a curveball way up in the zone, and Gonzalez didn't miss it:
I love the idea of throwing a curve here. Moore and Zunino had used a very similar sequence to strike Gonzalez out his first time up, and with runners on first and second, a buried curve could potentially get them a double play to escape the threat.
Sure enough, Zunino set up at the knees:
But alas, the pitch ended up here:
Ouch. This ball missed being a home run by about two feet, banging off the wall in right-center. Fortunately, Moore worked out of further trouble, getting old man Carlos Beltran out on a first-pitch popout, then deftly picking off Gonzalez at second.
Andrew Moore is still very much a work in progress. He desperately needs a true out pitch against right-handed hitters, he needs some way of generating ground balls consistently, and most of all, he has to get the dinger problem under control. But his outing on Wednesday was very encouraging, and showed several examples of his touted pitching smarts and tactics, even without overwhelming stuff. The changeup already looks like a solid weapon against left-handed hitters (14% whiff rate!), and if he can continue to throw it in conjunction with the high fastball and occasional curve, he stands a good chance of breaking through into the big leagues. Moore has started to make the adjustments he needs to, and is definitely someone to keep an eye on in the final few weeks of the season.