Last night after the game, Joe Maddon spoke about Matt Moore’s struggle with commanding his fastball…
“I think a lot [his pitch count] has to do with commanding the fastball where he wants to. They were kinda strikes, but they weren’t exactly where he wanted them to be strikes…I think the real key is to be able to throw the fastball where he wants to with a little more consistency.”
Like most pitchers, Moore throws two fastballs, a four-seamer (typically harder/straighter), and what appears to be a two-seamer* (typically slower, more movement). Moore averages about 95 mph with both pitches. And both have a ton of natural movement, getting 10″ of horizontal movement with the four-seamer, and a whopping 13″ with the two-seamer. For comparison, James Shields gets just 5″ of break on his four-seamer, and 8″ on his two-seamer.
The problem is, Moore gets so much movement on his fastballs (especially his two-seamer), that he at times has trouble controlling that pitch.
Here is an example from last night of a two-seam fastball. Notice the direction the ball is traveling as it leaves his hand, and the direction it is traveling as it reaches the mitt, which is now located in the other batter’s box…
First of all, wow. That’s just nasty stuff when it is traveling 96 mph. But more importantly, if that pitch has half as much movement, it probably catches the outside corner, or at least looks a lot more tempting to the hitter.
As Maddon pointed out, a big problem is commanding that movement in the strikezone. But he also struggled just keep the pitch in the zone. Only 48 of his 70 fastballs were strikes. And less than half (9 of 19) of his two-seamers found the strikezone.
If Moore cannot harness this pitch, we see two possible solutions: 1) Abandon the two-seamer. His four-seamer already has more natural movement than a lot of pitchers’ two-seamers; or 2) Take 2-3 mph off the pitch, which in turn will deflate some of the movement.
Otherwise, it will get to the point where Moore is just guessing where the pitch is going. And when that happens, he becomes Victor Zambrano. And that’s not good for anybody.
* As was mentioned in the comments, I have heard that Moore only throws a 4-seamer. However, there are clearly two different fastballs being thrown by Moore, and if it is not the seams, there is something else he is doing differently on the fastballs that have a lot more sink and horizontal movement.