Matt Moore Performance Reminiscent of Marty Bystrom

In case you missed it, Joe Maddon, the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, took a huge gamble in game one of the American League Division Series, starting rookie Matt Moore. A rookie starting in the postseason is hardly rare or risky but for Maddon to call Moore's number in game one of the postseason despite the fact that Moore, a mid-September call-up, had only started one big league game in his entire career is unprecedented and remarkably bold. In fact, no pitcher in history has started game one of the postseason with only one major league start under his belt.

The move was largely out of necessity but Maddon had other options and the reality is that there was no way to know how Moore would hold up under the bright lights.  Maddon's move was risky and widely criticized.  Well, after 2-hitting the Rangers on the road for seven innings in a decisive game one victory, it is clear that Maddon's gamble to go with Moore paid off. 

Consider this - Moore is the youngest pitcher in AL history to win his first postseason start and it wasn't just a quality start - he was dominant.  I know that sometimes a new pitcher has an advantage over the oppostition because the scouting report isn't as thick. However you have to be thoroughly impressed with his moxie and even if the Rays don't win this series, I think that Matt Moore will be the odds on favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2012.

Moore's performance and the situation surrounding his big game one start got me thinking - is there anything comparable to what he's done in baseball history.  I consulted with Hersh and he threw out the name Marty Bystrom.

On September 10, 1980, Bystrom, at the ripe age of 21, made his first career start for the Philadelphia Phillies.  He would make five more starts that season, going 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA.  Dallas Green made the decision to use Bystrom as the fourth starter instead of Bob Walk, the pitcher with the most unfortunate birth name in history, for the postseason run.  Walk, a rookie as well, had compiled an 11-7 record over the course of the season with a 4.57 ERA.  The decision to bring up Bystrom was made largely because of the implosion of Randy Lerch.  Lerch had a few good seasons for the Phils leading up to that memorable championship season but struggled immensely in 1980 - with a 4-14 record and a 5.16 ERA, it was easy to see why Green felt compelled to go with Bysrom, despite his lack of experience.

The hope was that the Phillies, who had been picked by Sports Illustrated to finish last in the NL East (much like the Rays, who were picked no higher than third by almost every media outlet), could get through the short NLCS against the Houston Astros without having to turn to Bystrom but, as luck would have it, the Phillies would have to turn to Bystrom for the decisive game five for a chance to go to the World Series.  Bystrom pitched well - giving up two runs (one earned) in a ten inning classic.  The Phillies would win that series and move on to the World Series against the Royals.  Bystrom would pitch one more game in the World Series, game five against Larry Gura.  The Phillies would win behind a two-run ninth inning comeback.  Bystrom gave up three runs in 5 laborsome innings of work.

The comparison between what Bystrom did in 1980 and what Matt Moore did in this postseason is like comparing a Ferrari to a Fiat.  While both cars are foreign and begin with the letter "F," it's pretty clear that one is superior to the other.  What Moore did is historic and Maddon's gamble is up there with Tommy Lasorda's decision to pinch-hit with Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series but for one moment, it's nice to remember what Marty Bystrom did for the Philadelphia Phillies and who knows, maybe Matt Moore's historic outing will vault the Rays to the same fate as those 1980 Philadelphia Phillies.

1 comment:

  1. In 1980, Marty Bystrom appeared to have an unlimited future. In 1981, he outduelled that year's wunderkind, Fernando Valenzuela. In mid-season, major league players went on strike. Bystrom came back from the strike overweight and out of shape, and never pitched effectively again. His lifetime record


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