The 5.52 ERA that Matt Moore posted in 2017 with the San Francisco Giants is every bit as unsightly to him as you might think, and it turns out that carrying such a statistic is a heavy burden, too.
It’s heavy enough to push him through his off-season workouts and into spring training ready to make amends for the worst season of his career. The left-hander expects to bounce back, and the Texas Rangers are betting that he does.
They acquired the left-hander Friday night for two minor-leaguers, and on Monday he said in a conference call that he knows how he fell into the trap that led him to the highest ERA by the 58 qualifying starter in the majors and what it might take to get out of it.
Moore got away from what makes him successful by trying to do too much for a faltering Giants team, and then fell too much in love with a cut fastball that wasn’t consistent enough to save his season.
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As such, he has an open mind when it comes to 2018.
“We haven’t had conversations if it’s certain pitches that are going to be used more or less, but I think at certain times last year I did get a little happy with certain pitches here and there,” Moore said.
“After we get talking to everybody with what our plans going to be, in general the pillars are just getting ahead and making sure that I’m getting lefties out and limiting the walks.”
His first pillar helped lead to the third, and he shares those two goals with the Rangers. The 2017 Rangers struck out the fewest batters in the majors and allowed the third-most walks in the American League.
Moore, who will make $9 million in 2018, has never been Greg Maddux when it comes to limiting walks, but he understands the repercussions. So do the Rangers after last season, when their 1,493 strikeouts at the plate were a club record.
“There were two areas on both sides, offensively and defensively — the ability to command the strike zone in the batter’s box, the ability to command the strike zone off the mound,” manager Jeff Banister said last week at the winter meetings.
“So when you look at it, one of the first things you can do is go out and profile guys out that you feel are better in that department. So, yeah, we feel like we’ve done some of that.”
Moore would be one of four lefties in the rotation, along with Cole Hamels, Martin Perez and Mike Minor. It isn’t written in stone that Doug Fister will be the only right-hander.
Righty Matt Bush is trying to make the jump from the bullpen to the rotation, and said that his preparations are going well. He will throw next week for the first time since having shoulder surgery in October, but said that it already feels noticeably better.
A reliever making the jump has to have the desire to take on the challenge, and Bush is willing to tackle it. It helps that he throws in the mid- to upper-90s and has two quality breaking pitches.
Should he impress enough this spring, Bush could push Minor, who was a reliever in 2017, into the bullpen.
“It’s very exciting, just the motivation of knowing the type of work I have to put in,” Bush said. “I love working hard in the off-season. I’ve been doing a lot of cardio work and trying as hard as I can every day. The challenge is very motivating.”
So is a 5.52 ERA.
“I know I’m not a 5 1/2 pitcher, and it puts a nasty taste in your mouth sitting on it all winter,” Moore said. “I’m going in there, and it’s something on my mind. I know that’s not who I am and that’s not the line we’re going to get this year.”