Matt Moore is a fantasy stud

On the surface, Matt Moore is having a solid season that is being supported by a little luck. He has posted a nice 3.60 ERA and league average 1.33 WHIP, but his xFIP (4.34) and SIERRA (4.06) leave something to be desired and raise an eyebrow for repeat success in 2013. Moore has flashed pretty good strikeout stuff (22.8 percent strikeout rate, 11.9 percent swinging strike rate), but has been equally liberal with the free passes (3.96 BB/9).

But Moore’s season numbers are pretty misleading; since the end of May, he has been a much different pitcher than what he showed at the beginning of the year:

First 9 Past 16
ERA 5.35 2.87
WHIP 1.66 1.21
K% 21.4% 23.5%
BB/9 5.2 3.5
K/BB 1.8 2.5

Moore’s ERA and WHIP numbers on the season have been elite the past three months; his overall season numbers have been inflated by a poor seven-week stretch to start the year. As you might notice, the big difference for Moore has been his walk rate. Over the past three months, Moore has thrown more first pitch strikes, and walked fewer batters. The results have been a slight uptick in strikeouts and a huge downtick in “big innings” allowed.

To be certain, Moore’s walk rate over the past three months has still been a tick above league average, but let’s be practical and put that into perspective. This is Moore’s rookie year in the AL East. He just turned 23 years old. He has plenty of room to grow, and his improvements in the walks department as the season has worn on is a positive sign.

Now to be sure, Moore’s minor league walk rates were hardly elite. In five seasons (497.1 innings), Moore registered a pedestrian 3.8 walks per nine rate. However, Moore’s wildness calmed down substantially as he matured as a prospect and moved up the ladder. His walk rate in Double-A was a much improved 2.5 walks per nine, and in Triple-A it was a still average 3.1 walks per nine. Oliver projects Moore’s walk rate to improve over the next six seasons, and from what Moore has shown us in the second half (2.9 walks per nine), next year could be the beginning of great things for this top three former prospect, who was ranked on par with the likes of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout last year.

Here is the real kicker question, however: What should keeper league owners do with Matt Moore next year? Certainly he is a guy to target in 2013, but should you keep him? Let’s ignore leagues where Moore was had at bargain prices this year; in those leagues the answer is an obvious yes. Focusing solely on leagues where Moore went at “hype prices,” the answer is a seemingly counter-intuitive no.

In leagues where Moore owners paid sticker price this year, it is likely that Moore produced slightly negative value. More over, hot prospect name brand prices limit potential value as a keeper and in legacy leagues with escalating costs, higher costs today limit “keepability” tomorrow (for example, I am in a “+$7” cost league that quickly eliminates the long-term “value” of keepers outside the superstars like Jose Bautista you got for $1 in year one). Outside experts leagues and the most intense leagues, and unless someone else owned Moore this season, it is highly unlikely they are paying close enough attention to his season to have noticed his recent dominance.

Most players in fantasy look at the end-of-season totals, not the month-to-month trends. That is not to say he will be cheap next year, but given what he’s done overall this season, he is likely to sell at a slight discount (at least compared to this year) in next season’s draft. Of course between now and then, articles like this may come out and render moot this argument, but at least right now, unless you got Moore at a steal of a price this year, why spend more money on keeping him than you have to?

Jeffrey Gross is an attorney who periodically moonlights as a (fantasy) baseball analyst. He also responsibly enjoys tasty adult beverages. You can read about those adventures at his blog and/or follow him on Twitter @saBEERmetrics.
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11 years ago

Moore has had similar seasons in his last 3 years, dodgy first couple of moths, followed by an insane last 4.

I don’t doubt Moore is a long term great player, but he seems to have consistently slow starts every year, so hoping he’ll carry his strong finish into next year should come with some misgivings.

Long term he is great value, just be weary of a slow start.