John Kruk reveals how Matt Moore is tipping his pitches
Rays pitcher Matt Moore is tipping his pitches, and that could explain why the Yankees hit him harder than any team had in two months. Former All-Star first baseman and current ESPN analyst John Kruk figured out Moore’s tell and revealed it on “Baseball Tonight” Wednesday.
Moore’s tell is pretty simple: When he taps the ball in his glove as he’s getting ready to pitch, he throws a fastball. When he doesn’t tap the ball in his glove, he throws an off-speed pitch. This trend holds true whether Moore is pitching from the windup or stretch.
I went back to watch the first two innings of Moore’s start against the Yankees — one where he allowed 6 runs (4 earned) and 8 hits over 6.1 innings. He hadn’t allowed that many hits since a July 2 start against the Yankees when he gave up 9 knocks. The 6 runs were the most he allowed since May 6, and the 4 earned were the most he allowed since a July 7 loss to the Indians when he allowed 5 in 4.2 innings. In every pitch where the telecast showed Moore’s hands before the pitch, Kruk’s analysis held true.
Below you can see an image of Moore pulling the ball out of his glove as he prepares to tap, which would indicate a fastball is coming:
The Yankees seemed to be aware of Moore’s tell, especially in the cases of Derek Jeter and Russell Martin.
If you go back and watch Russell Martin’s at-bats, you’ll see a guy who took three incredible ABs against Moore. He seemed to know what pitches were coming and he took advantage. In the second, he worked the count but popped out on a fastball he barely missed. In the fourth, he drove a fastball opposite field for a two-run ground-rule double (watch here). Martin broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth with a monster home run to left off a curveball (video here). It was a pretty punishing performance for a guy who was hitting below .200 entering the game.
Now you’re probably wondering why, if the Yankees knew what was coming, they didn’t destroy Moore and chase him from the game earlier. You’re probably also wondering why they struck out nine times if they were aware of the tell, which we’re guessing they were. The answer is pretty simple: Even if you have an idea of what’s coming, it’s still pretty darn difficult to hit Matt Moore.
First off, some hitters just react to pitches and don’t use tips even when they have them, so they wouldn’t be affected by the knowledge. Second, this tip only tells us one thing about the pitch that’s coming: you’re getting a fastball or off-speed pitch. A batter may know that a fastball is coming, but he doesn’t know its location. He can even know a fastball is coming, but since it’s coming in at 94 or 95 with movement, he may still miss it. Likewise, not only will a batter not know the location of an off-speed pitch if Moore doesn’t tap the ball, but he also won’t know if a change-up or curveball is coming. Not seeing Moore tap tells a batter one thing: wait back on a pitch, but they still won’t know exactly what is coming.
This highlight video at MLB.com shows the strikeout pitch for each of Moore’s nine Ks against the Yankees. If you watch it, you can see the trend unfold — A-Rod strikes out on a curveball, and there’s no tap; Granderson punches out on fastball, Moore taps; Andruw Jones whiffs on a changeup, no tap; Steve Pearce Ks on a fastball, Moore taps.
This was some rather fantastic analysis from Kruk, and we expect Moore to begin working on breaking his bad habit now that the word is out. Many athletes become analysts after their playing careers are over, and most are content to just yuck it up and trade off their reputation as a successful player. Very few actually deliver real hardcore analysis and attempt to crack codes the way Kruk did. We’ve mocked him in the past, and regardless of whether he was told about the tell or picked it up himself, Kruk should be commended for his outstanding work. This is the type of advanced insight that real fans want to see.
This is also an example of the next level of baseball. The game is so multi-faceted and has so many games within the game that players, coaches, fans, and media members can always be searching for new things to learn or uncover, such as this.