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Matt Moore (3 games in the major leagues) will start Game 1 for the Rays

Posted by Andy on September 30, 2011


The Rays have opted to have rookie Matt Moore start Game 1 of the Division Series against the Rangers. (h/t to LoHud Yankees Blog for the link)

Holy wow! Moore has made only 12 appearances above double-A in his career, including 3 in the last few weeks at the big-league level.

With Moore about 22 years and 100 days old, there have been roughly 70 starts in the post-season by younger pitchers. Very few of them have been in Game 1 of a series, with notably exceptions such as Fernando Valenzuela in Game 1 of the 1981 NLDS, Rick Ankiel in Game 1 of the 2000 NLDS, as well as starts by Clayton Kershaw, Ralph Branca, Don Gullett and, of course, Dwight Gooden.

But I wonder how many pitchers have made a post-season start with so few appearances in the big leagues?

This event relates, I think, the the Rays having such a stockpile of young pitching. If Moore does well and the Rays make it far in this post-season, it will be remembered as his coming-out party.

I'm starting to think that the 2011 playoffs are going to be the best we've seen in a long time. The way I see it, a very strong case can be made that any of 7 teams have a great shot at making the World Series, with the Cardinals being the only exception. The American League, in particular, is wide open.

44 Responses to “Matt Moore (3 games in the major leagues) will start Game 1 for the Rays”

  1. The Original Jimbo Says:

    I don't understand the choice. There was an off day. Did they wear out all their regular pitchers with the stretch drive?

  2. aweb Says:

    Why not the Cardinals? They have good starters and a good offense. Shut down Phildelphia's inconsistent offense a few times, and they could easily win the series.

  3. Ryan Says:

    According to the article I read, Shields will start game 2 and game 5 if necessary - there's an off-day in between. Moore isn't that crazy of a choice - he's effectively their #4, but they used their #1 (Price) in game 162.

  4. big al Says:

    cards lead the NL in batting .273, runs 762, hits 1513, obp .341
    and won more games than brave atlanta, would they of had no chance

  5. Andy Says:

    I didn't say the Cardinals had "no chance". I said a great argument can be made for the other teams. The Cardinals could get to the World Series, for sure, but a lot of things would have to go just right for them, starting with significantly substandard performances from each of the Phillies' top 3 starters.

    As for the choice of Moore, it puts all the Rays' starters back on regular rest. I presume Maddon opted for this rather than to start each guy early. It also shifts his #1 to line up with Texas' #2, etc. Not a bad thing. The choice of Moore, specifically, over Wade Davis, is the particularly interesting thing. There is probably a lack of scouting information on Moore, which helps.

  6. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    With the way the end of the season went, nothing would surprise me at this point...

  7. Timothy P. Says:

    @2 Agreed! The St. Louis Cardinals are the best team in baseball right now, and they have the master at the helm, all time greatest baseball manager, genius, and animal lover Tony LaRussa.

  8. Minor Leaguer Says:

    By my calculation, Moore will be the most inexperienced starter to start a Game 1 of a postseason series. Only 9 first-year pitchers have ever started a game 1, and among them the least experienced was Seattle's Bob Wolcott, who had 7 games pitched and 6 starts before he started Game 1 of the 1995 ALCS against the Indians.

    I found it by going to Pitching Game Finder > Postseason > Series/Game: Game 1 > In player's first 1 career gm. That gives a list of the 126 starters who made their first career postseason start in a Game 1. Then I went to Pitching Season Finder > Selected to only find players in that saved report > First season of player's career to find the debut date of the 126 pitchers. Those two charts were copied into Excel and an IF statement was setup to check which of the 126 had debuted in the year they started Game 1.

    I'm not sure if there's an easier way to have done it.... I would have checked for the most inexperienced starter to pitch any postseason game but I had trouble with saving tables to URL last night. (Request kept on failing)

  9. Larry R. Says:

    I will never question Joe Maddon ever. If he says Moore is the man then he's the man.

  10. jiffy Says:

    @7 Tony LaRussa would probably agree with you but he's busy right now driving drunk and instructing his pitchers to throw at people's heads.

  11. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Moore has made only 3 appearances above double-A in his career, all coming in the last few weeks at the big-league level.

    He made 9 starts in AAA.

  12. nightfly Says:

    I suppose this means that Matt Moore would have started game #163, with Shields then going on games 1 and (if necessary) 4 of the ALDS. Interesting.

    Of course, it would have been no surprise to see the Sox counter Moore with Al Nipper or Luis Tiant in the playoff game. (Just not Mike Torrez.)

  13. BSK Says:


    KLaw talked about this in his chat and, if I understood correctly, he would agree with starting Moore because of the upside. If Moore is on, he gives you a GREAT chance to win. If not, you hook him early and go with the pen. I don't know if the same can be said of Davis, who likely doesn't have the same "on" as Moore and might be given more leeway because of his experience. I like the move. A gamble, but why the hell not? They're playing with house money and Moore has done nothing to show he can't get Major League hitters out.

  14. Ray Says:

    Once upon a time there was a rule that said if a player was not on the 25 man roster on August 31 (with an exception for players on the DL) they were not eligible for the post-season. Obviously that rule went away (except for players on other teams' 25 man roster on August 31) but when did that happen? I remember Francisco Rodriguez was in the same situation for the Angels when they won the World Series, but I thought the Angels got an exception for him because theoretically he was replacing a player who went on the DL. Has the requirement been eliminated (it was a sham anyway)?

  15. Wine Curmudgeon Says:


    Why not Bill Lee?

  16. Andy Says:

    That rule still exists--the players eligible for post-season play are those on the 25-man roster at the end of August, plus any on the disabled list or other restricted list at that time. However, when the post-season series starts, substitutions are allowed for injured players. So if the Rays have a player they can claim is injured, Moore can be put on the roster in his place.

  17. Andy Says:

    According to this report:

    Moore specifically replaces RHP Alex Cobb, who is on the DL.

  18. John Autin Says:

    Maybe Maddon was influenced by the career pitcher-vs.-batter records of his other fully-rested options.

    Jeff Niemann vs. current Rangers: .341 BA/1.053 OPS in 89 PAs.
    Wade Davis vs. current Rangers: .424 BA/1.182 OPS in 66 PAs.

    Small samples against any one hitter -- only Beltre/Niemann have faced off as many as 20 times -- but if you give those numbers even a little weight, on top of the fact that Niemann/Davis are Tampa's #4/5 starters for a reason, and both are somewhat HR-prone (not a good trait in Arlington), it seems a logical choice.

  19. nightfly Says:

    @15 - heh, I always just had a soft spot in my heart for El Tiante. It helps that he was a hell of a pitcher most years.

  20. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Andy @17, I'm embarrassed to admit I'd never heard of Alex Cobb. Not a bad prospect either, is he?

    From our trivia department, a fellow named Herb Cobb was the only Cobb to have played in the majors since Ty Cobb's retirement in 1928 (Herb had a cup of coffee in 1929). Then, in 2011, we see the debuts of Alex Cobb and the Rockies' Charles Cobb Blackmon.

  21. John Autin Says:

    I'll add that Moore surely faced more pressure in his 1st big-league start than he will in Game 1. On Sept. 22, Moore made his starting debut in front of 40,000 in Yankee Stadium. The Rays had lost the first 3 games of that series and were 2.5 games behind Boston with 7 and 6 to play, respectively. New York did rest a few regulars, but Moore was dominant, fanning 11 in 5 scoreless innings.

    Maddon is a sharp cookie. Game 1 in Texas may be the lowest leverage he could get for Moore's postseason debut. After ending the year with 10 pressure-packed games in 9 days and a wild 12-inning finale, no one would be surprised if the Rays came out flat in Game 1. But starting Moore is a ballsy move that infuse his team with a sense of bravado.

    And no matter what happens, Maddon has Shields in Game 2, who has an excellent record against Texas overall and in Arlington.

    I sure wish there were more skippers like Maddon in our game.

  22. Andy Says:

    If there were, JA, then we wouldn't appreciate him. We don't, for example, wish that baseballs were manufactured to more exacting standards. In any one given year, they are all just about identical.

  23. Zim Says:

    I also said Holy Wow when I heard this, just assumed it would be Davis or Niemann. How do the Rays keep coming up with such great young pitching??? If Moore shines, it will remind me of another great young arm they trotted out of the pen a few years ago in David Price.

    So are they done sheltering Hellickson now or will they shut him down, because he has reached 180 IP for the season?

  24. Andy Says:

    I haven't heard of any intent to shut Hellickson down, but it's an interesting question given how much pressure the Rays were under in September. Use the guy now and try to win the World Series, or hold him back for future years? I say you have to use him in regular fashion...winning the Series is the goal.

  25. Ed Says:

    Over on ESPN, David Schoenfield reports that only six starters with fewer than 5 wins on the season have started game one of a series.

    Scroll down to #40 for the details:

  26. topper009 Says:

    The Cardinals (6-3) and Mariners (2-1) are the only teams in the majors to have a winning record against Phily.

    @21, I agree, too many managers are so in love with veterans and guys that have been there before that they chose experience over talent. This has been happening all season with the Brewers and it has been extremely frustrating.

  27. topper009 Says:

    The real AL MVP should be to whoever is pulling the trigger in the Rays draft room and keeps finding all these young studs

  28. Doug B Says:

    "I'll add that Moore surely faced more pressure in his 1st big-league start than he will in Game 1."

    That might be a bit of a stretch.

  29. ‘Vedi Napoli e poi muori’ » Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog Archive Says:

    [...] as the Rangers open their AL title defense against Matt Moore and the Tampa Bay Rays (see Andy's thread on the choice of Moore to start game 1). No one's had 3 straight multi-HR games since 2003 (Jeff [...]

  30. John Autin Says:

    @28, Doug B -- I stated my case. What's yours?

  31. Matt Says:

    That non-HOFer Johnny Damon is at it again. 2-run HR in 2nd by Damon. Wilson giving up only his 3rd HR to a lefty this year.

  32. bluejaysstatsgeek Says:

    I just crunched some numbers for the probabilities of winning each series and I have only one series with a favourite, DET 52% over NYY 48%. All the others are really close: TEX 50.5% over TBR 49.5%, MIL 50.17% over ARI 49.83% and STL 50.1% over PHI 49.9%. I chose TBR over TEX on a Maddon effect and ARI on a Gibson effect.

  33. Johnny Twisto Says:

    What numbers are you crunching?

    Anyone can win a series but it's hard to see how STL could be favored.

  34. Adam Says:

    I already thought that Joe Maddon was a genius, but after the way that the game is unfolding tonight all I can say is "Wow!"

  35. bluejaysstatsgeek Says:

    @33, Johnny:

    For offense, I used the league run environment scaled by team OPS+ to get offensive potential in runs per game. For runs allowed, I used a weighted average of the ERAs (! - see below) of the pitchers based on my subjective guess of the relative innings pitchers would log in the series. So for each team, I have their opponent-neutral expected runs scored and allowed. To get the runs that Team X would be expected to get against Team Y, I took a weighted average of Team X's expected runs for and Team Y's expected runs allowed. I fed these into the Pythagorean expectation to get a site-neutral win expectation. I adjusted individual game win expectations by adding 2.5% to the home team and subtracting 2.5% from the visiting team and then computed the probability of each possible series result, which I can post, but they are also posted in a thread at Bluebirdbanter.

    Philly has an anemic offense and St. Louis has about league-average pitching. I have Philly scoring an expected 3.78 rpg against St. Louis. The Cardinals have an AL-like offense scoring 4.7 rpg but they're facing the best pitching staff in the NL, and I have their expected rpg at about 3.84. That 0.06 run differential is a virtual tie.

    On my use of ERA: I eye-balled the ERA, RA and they seemed to correlate well, when I did these calcs today. I was rushing to meet a posting deadline and the eye-ball test was flawed. Looking at them more closely, STL allowed a lot more unearned runs than PHI, 84 to 34, which is about .30 rpg. That is likely big enough to swing it back to PHI as the favourite. Likewise the TBR defense compared to the TEX defense is worth an additional 0.20 rpg advantage to TBR. These defense effects were not factored in.

  36. John Autin Says:

    @35, BJSG: "Philly has an anemic offense"
    -- The Phils scored 0.27 R/G above the league average for the year, and were at the league average in OPS+. They were 4 points above average in OBP, the most important single component.

    "St. Louis has about league-average pitching."
    -- How much wiggle room is in that word, "about"? Their ERA+ was 97, 11th in the NL. Their raw R/G was also worse than league average.

    Season run differentials put Philly at an expected 103 wins, the Cards at 88. Do the Cards have a top-heavy rotation that might make their expected postseason pitching performance better than the regular season? They do not; no STL starter reached 110 in ERA+. The Phils have the 3 best SPs in the series.

    And because of their stretch drive, the Cards don't have their rotation set optimally. Kyle Lohse starts Game 1, and apparently Carpenter will go on 3 days' rest in Game 2. The Phillies are weaker against LHPs, but the Cards will start no more than 1 LHP in the series.

    Can I get a bet down on the Phils at even money?

  37. Timothy P. Says:

    @10, Mr. Snark - I don't think getting a DUI disqualifies someone from being a genius. And that idiot Marty Brennaman has no proof that LaRussa instructs his guys to throw at peoples heads. Grow up son.

  38. Chuck Says:

    "There is probably a lack of scouting information on Moore, which helps."

    No such thing.

  39. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I think Andy and Chuck are both right. Certainly other teams do have a book on Moore and know a lot about what he can do. But, I'd guess a lot of that scouting has been while assessing Moore as a potential trade target, which may have a slightly different focus than scouting him as an opponent to be faced in the postseason. Also, most of that scouting would have taken place in the minor leagues. So if in the minors he could get more swings on breaking balls in the dirt, get away with hanging more changeups due simply to the change of speeds, it doesn't necessarily tell the Rangers (or whoever) how he'll adjust to major league batters.

  40. Chuck Says:

    "But, I'd guess a lot of that scouting has been while assessing Moore as a potential trade target.."

    Moore is as untradeable as any minor leaguer; if the Nationals called and offered Bryce Harper even up, it would be the Rays who hung up first.

    "..which may have a slightly different focus than scouting him as an opponent to be faced in the postseason."

    Absolutely true, because you're not only scouting a player for what he does on the field, but how that ability would fit into your own organizational needs.

    "Also, most of that scouting would have taken place in the minor leagues. So if in the minors he could get more swings on breaking balls in the dirt, get away with hanging more changeups due simply to the change of speeds, it doesn't necessarily tell the Rangers (or whoever) how he'll adjust to major league batter."

    Mostly true.

    Once it became clear a couple of weeks ago the Rays had a chance to get back in it, Rangers scouts began following Tampa, and there were two ML scouts in the stands watching Moore's first start.

    There's not a pitcher in the major leagues who couldn't strike out Josh Hamilton, just like there's not a major league pitcher Hamilton couldn't take deep.

    At the ML level, scouts aren't looking at stuff as much as they are at things like patterns, stress levels, etc.

    The stuff Hamilton and the rest of the Rangers would want to know is at what point would Moore be most likely to throw a changeup, or is his curve better from the windup or from the stretch, things like that.

    It's absolutely to the pitcher's advantage to be facing a team for the first time than for a hitter to be facing him for the first time, which is why Maddon made such a good call on this.

    And let's understand something here.

    All Moore lacks is major league experience.

    As a pitcher; stuff, poise, delivery, mechanics, etc, he's better than David Price.

    Right now.

  41. Andy Says:

    Good stuff Chuck, thanks.

  42. Chuck Says:

    You're welcome

  43. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Moore is as untradeable as any minor leaguer

    That's true now, but it doesn't mean other teams weren't keeping an eye on him, even before they had any thought he might face them in the 2011 postseason. I'm not saying the Rays would have ever considered moving him, but I'm sure other teams are always looking at guys they might be interested in acquiring. And Moore's stock is a lot higher right now than it was just a year ago; he was a very good prospect to begin the season, not a guy on the verge of leading a major league team through the postseason.

  44. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Moore is as untradeable as any minor leaguer; if the Nationals called and offered Bryce Harper even up, it would be the Rays who hung up first.

    Actually, I wonder about this. There would probably be a natural inclination to hold on to their own guy. But the Rays have pitching depth. They could use a big bat. Harper probably won't be a quality major league hitter next season, but by 2013 he should be. Unless the Rays are convinced Moore will be an ace (and he may well be), perhaps this would be a trade to consider.

    Of course, the Rays, unconvinced of their financial stability, probably want to stay in win-now mode while they can. So if Moore seems ready to help them now (as he has been so far), use him, and worry about the 2013 offense in 2013.

    It does seem like some pitchers are able to shut down teams as soon as they reach the majors. They may burn out quickly, but for a while they can be as good as anyone. Whereas even if Harper is destined for stardom, he may not became a real game-changing hitter for another 3-4 years or more.