Matt Moore started this season as baseball's top pitching prospect and was playing AA ball in July, yet on Friday night he will start Game 1 of the ALDS against the defending American League Champion, Texas Rangers. So I beg to question why a team with starters David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, and Jeff Niemann, would start a 22-year old, who has only started one major league game, against baseball’s best offense. While, the Rays’ hand is slightly forced, because they had to pitch Shields, Hellickson, and Price in order to slip into the playoffs, in the last series of the season, giving such an untested rookie the ball in the biggest game of their season is shocking to say the least.
Moore has started 28 games this season; 18 starts at Double-A, 9 starts at Triple-A, and only one at the major league level. His record across the three levels is 13-3 with all three loses coming in Double-A. His numbers have actually improved as he has risen up the levels of the Rays’ organization. His K/9 has been ridiculous, 11.52 at AA, 13.5 at AAA, and 14.5 in the majors. In Moore’s only major league start, he threw 5 shutout innings and struck out 11 Yankees in New York. With a FIP of 2.17, Moore looks as talented as any other major league starter. Moore has shown he has some of the nastiest stuff in the world, but is there any sense in his second major league start coming in Texas, in Game 1 of the ALDS.
It will no doubt be tough for Moore to calm his nerves in such a pressurized setting, but if he can give the Rays a chance to win, and somehow steal game 1 against Rangers’ ace C.J. Wilson, then the Rays would have a real chance at reaching the ALCS. Moore’s first Major League start was as pressurized as a regular season game can get, on the road in the Bronx, in a must-win start in September. In that start Moore performed beautifully, and continued to show he has every right to be a major league starter right now. Moore draws comparisons to John Lackey and Ubaldo Jimenez taking the league by storm in 2002 and 2007 respectively. Yet neither of those two starters had as good of numbers as Moore does (albeit such a small sample size for Moore). It would not shock me even in the slightest if the 22 year-old lefty comes out firing his 97 mph fastball, and cripples the Rangers’ bats, in a way no one is expecting, and if he gets a chance to start multiple games this postseason, change the entire dynamic of the 2011 playoffs.