2013 Starting Pitcher Review: The Southpaws

Picking up where we left off we now turn to the two lefties in the rotation David Price and Matt Moore. Both guys saw stretches of very good pitching last year and also times when things weren’t going so well so let’s dig right into the data to see what that looked like starting with the summary:


Price was mostly one-pitch pitcher against lefties, though he would mix in the occasional breaking ball. He pounded the zone with the fastball while also being able to throw the curve for a strike with batters swinging around half the time on the former and around a third on the latter. Per 100 pitches the heater and the hammer (great AM radio team name, btw) were basically worth the same amount of runs so nice to see two very good options against lefties. Note that teams generally don’t put their lefties in the lineup for David with only 25% of his pitches against same-handers.

Against righties, he’ll still throw the breaking ball a similar rate of times, but he’ll lean on the change twice as often which means the fastball represents around two-thirds of his offerings. He can throw all three pitches in the zone with the fastball leading the way and the change up not all that far behind. Batters swing most often at the change, then the breaking ball, and finally the fastball. This is a bit of pitching backwards as batters are passive on the fastball that is often thrown for a strike and aggressive against the change up. Good things happen when you see stuff like this. The change was a devastating pitch by run values (and the naked eye) with the fastball still being better than average, but the breaking ball was not good in any way whatsoever.

Draysbay.com writer Chris Moran had an insightful look into Price’s pitch patterns and results prior and post injury last year that I would highly recommend. Part of Price’s resurgence can be put on his more limited use of the breaking ball which Chris capably shows, but with my analysis we’ll be able to see how his usage evolved much better over the course of the season. Before getting to that let’s look at this same stuff for Matt Moore to give an idea of how they compare and contrast:

More saw a slightly higher rate of same-handers, though the wiseness of that move is debatable. Moore will throw his secondary stuff more to same-handers, though he’s still throwing a ton of fastballs. The occasional change rarely saw the zone, and the breaking ball came into the called zone just below half the time with the fastball catching the zone around 55% of the time. That eight percentage point difference from Price might not sound like a lot, but with a similar number of fastballs thrown to lefties Price saw almost 60 more strikes with the pitch that sets up everything else. Batters swing less often at the fastball and the change up as compared to Price, but more often against the breaking ball, which grades out as a poor pitch against lefties with the fastball having similar success to Price.

Against righties, Moore eschews the fastball in favor of the change up quite a bit. He throws all three for strikes at similar rates with a decent uptick in zone rate on the change versus northpaws. Righties lay off the offspeed a little better with other rates looking comparable. His fastball is actually below average, but he makes up for it by having a very good change up and good breaking ball. Let’s move on to the breaking ball to lefties where we see different usage and results from our guys:

Price threw the breaking ball less and saw fewer swings as the season continued while seeing the pitch garner less favorable results. Not a lot of pitches here to look at so let’s move on to Moore:

A slightly bigger sample, but nothing to write home about. There’s an interesting hitch around the 130 point where his results got markedly better and continued mostly along at that new level over the rest of the season. It would be interesting to see if that was a mechanical tweak or what. We can see that he gradually reduced the zone rate on these pitches while seeing a small uptick in swings. How about the fastball:

The zone rate peaked around 70% before declining from these lofty levels, meanwhile, he mostly saw mirroring in the swing rate with some more and more convergence over the last quarter of the season. Prior to the injury we see how his run values were spiking, but post injury he was posting incredible values for the fastball and despite a prolonged stretch where batters showed a little improvement he was right back into the depths until closing out the season on a sour note. Here’s Moore:

Moore showed a similar stretch where his fastball was below average for a pretty long stretch, but other than that it was mostly pretty good. You can see how the zone rate started higher before leveling off in a trough and then mostly sat around 55% the rest of the season. His swing rates showed just as much variation as batters were very passive to start the year before amping up, then showing patience again, before getting hyper aggressive to close out the year. Let’s shift over to the breaking ball to righties:

The beginning and end of the year saw some pretty scary run values, but other than a good stretch in the back half he was mostly around league average. The best stretch seems to correspond with him throwing the pitch in the zone at a lower rate while batters continued to swing at previous rates. This success did not last, however. Here’s Moore:

Here’s where we see a drastic change in effectiveness. The breaking ball to righties started the season on a very strong and long stretch, before exploding into a non-usable pitch. He was able to come down from those lofty heights, but the pitch never really sustained itself as better than average again. It would appear that this pitch wasn’t really fooling anyone. It’s an inference, but it looks like when he threw it for strikes batters were able to handle it and when it was out of the zone they laid off. If he’s able to throw his other pitches for strikes then it may be beneficial to drop the zone rate on this pitch even more. Here’s the change ups:

Price’s change was a devastating pitch for most of the season, but for some reason the last quarter of the year just didn’t see the results as it was worse than average during this time. It’s really interesting that during the solid stretch he was able to steal strikes with the pitch, but as batters got more aggressive and Price got less aggressive within the zone. Perhaps Price lost some deception on the pitch or the command just wasn’t as solid. On to Moore:

Here’s Moore’s best pitch, but even here you can see that there were stretches where it was average or worse. That trough towards the end of the year shows massive success which may have been due to Moore going outside of the zone more while batters didn’t lay off until later in the year when the run values began to rise again. This pitch is going to be key for Moore if he wants to continue to show a marginal split. Lastly, here’s the fastball:

We should be accustomed to seeing wild oscillations over these larger samples and Price is no exception. He mixes several good stretches and a few great ones with the occasional lapse where the pitch is worse than average. Throughout the year he showed zone rates around 60% and even higher with the occasional dip down into the low-50’s with swing rates showing similar movement between 40 and 50%. And Moore:

Moore shows some less volatility, but when the heater isn’t working it really wasn’t working. He saw two bad stretches in the first half before closing out the year on a good note. It seems that he’s at his best when he’s able to attack the zone without seeing a ton of swings. His change up is so good that he really needs to be able to throw the fastball for strikes and let everything evolve off of that, but when batters are keying on that fastball the math becomes tricky. Pitching as game theory is the most fascinating thing about life.

About Jason Hanselman

Rays fan.
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