Matt Moore struggled for his second straight start on Sunday after starting the season with so much promise. Some pointed to the decrease in velocity of his fastball. But evidence suggests it is Moore’s breaking ball that is the biggest reason to be concerned.
NOTE: Matt Moore throws what he calls a curveball. It is really more of a “slurve” as it acts more like a slider. As a result, the computers call it a slider. I have always called a “two that is three-curious.”
First, let’s look at Moore’s velocity by start. We see a small dip in fastball velocity, but nothing that looks overly-alarming (keep in mind while looking at these that Moore only threw 11 pitches in his 11th start, which was a rain-shortened outing)…
More alarming is how often he is using his pitches. Notice the sudden dip in how often Moore threw his breaking ball in his last two starts…
So why has Moore stopped throwing his curve/slider? If it were one start, we would guess that it was just the gameplan for that opponent. But two straight starts is a pattern.
The other possibility is that Moore lost his “feel” for the pitch and wasn’t throwing it well. Let’s take a look at the movement on his breaking ball from each start (for those familiar with pitchf/x data, we have converted these to absolute values)…
Let’s ignore the 7th and 8th start where the data looks a little funny. Instead, notice how the vertical movement in his last four starts compares to his first six starts. In short, Moore is getting much less break on his breaking ball.
So the next question is “why?” The optimist will say it is just a mechanical issue and as soon as it is fixed, it will once again be a dominating pitch and Moore won’t be afraid to throw it.
The pessimist will say Moore is afraid to throw the pitch as he normally would because there is discomfort when he tries to throw a breaking ball. In other words, maybe Moore is not “snapping” the curve with the same authority, which would lead to less break.
At this point, only Moore knows the answer to that question. But it is something worth keeping an eye on. And until Moore is able to rediscover his breaking ball, we are going to see more bad outings.