Andrew Moore burst onto the scene with his MLB debut against the Tigers on June 22nd of 2017. Moore worked his way through seven innings of three-run baseball, scattering six base hits without walking a batter. He followed up his strong performance with two more admirable efforts, showing plenty of promise heading into the second half of the season.
He was dealt a loss in his next start, but worked his way through eight innings, again only allowing three runs. His third appearance was the shortest to that point in the season, but was another quality start, as he lasted six innings and gave up another three runs.
What jumped out immediately about Moore was his consistency. He allowed three runs in each of his three starts, pitched deep into ball games, and was reluctant to hand out free passes. Moore faced nearly 70 hitters before walking his first opponent.
His first stint in the bigs didn’t come without difficulty, though, as he was punished by the long ball for the majority of the season. Andrew allowed at least one dinger in each of his first six starts, and ran a 2.1 HR/9 for the season, the 12th highest among pitchers with at least 50 innings of work in 2017.
Moore’s profile is one that would typically be subject to home run problems. His 49-percent fly ball rate was the 15th highest of pitchers with 50-plus innings pitched. It wasn’t like his pitches were getting obliterated, though. His hard contact rate on fly balls surrendered was actually below league average, and the average distance of his homeruns allowed was 391 feet, also below league average. This picture, overlaying homers allowed by the Mariners rookie at a hybrid of every MLB park, shows that while four or so were legitimate wall scrapers, all of them likely would have left the yard anywhere.
Moore mentioned on the hot stove podcast this week that the game sped up for him a bit last year. It’s hard to blame a kid that was drafted just two years earlier for facing some hardship his first season of Major League Baseball; however, Moore is a driven and meticulous worker. He’s trained with Driveline since high school, watches what he eats carefully (no alcohol, and he works with a nutritionist to monitor his diet), and overall maintains the kind of routine that breeds consistency no matter what adversity he faces.
As Moore began to settle into the majors, he made a couple pivotal adjustments to help change his fortune during the final couple months of the season. Incidentally, he lowered his FIP to a much-improved 4.10 mark. If you analyze his starts before August and compare them to his starts after August, his zone profile jumps out as a big difference. Notice first, that he misses much less frequently in the middle of the zone with his changeup towards the end of the season.
His ability to keep his changeup down in the zone yielded much better outcomes with that pitch. Opponents posted a .280 ISO against Moore’s change prior to August, but Moore chopped that number to .083 from that point forward.
Then take a look at his fastball.
Notice that pitches tended to live higher in and above the zone in the latter half of the season. The eye level of his fastball, his most frequently thrown pitch, is much higher than that of his changeup, his best swing and miss pitch. The result of this contrast was higher whiff rates for both pitches, especially for his fastball, yielding a 6.04 K/9 over the final two months of the season.
Moore’s ability to adjust on the fly during his first season in the bigs is very encouraging. Without changing his M.O. of being a fly ball pitcher that pounds the zone, Moore was able to mix things up enough to be an effective arm for the Mariners down the stretch. With two starting pitchers out of options, and three other starters that are locks for the big league roster, Moore is on the outside looking in for the final spot in the rotation; however, he will likely be the first to get the call to the bigs when reinforcements are necessary. Moore’s relentless work ethic and willingness to adjust on the run point towards a bright future for Seattle’s 23-year-old hurler.