|Matt Moore handles the White Sox for his 11th win of the year. (Getty Images)|
CHICAGO -- It seems so obvious now. Mike Trout is the best rookie in the American League, and maybe even the best player.
It seemed so obvious this spring, too.
What went wrong?
Perhaps nothing. Moore didn't get hurt, and he didn't have an awful season. He didn't even have a so-so season.
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"I think he's had an excellent first year, not just good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said Saturday, after Moore's final start of the regular season. "If he had not done what he did last year, we'd be talking glowingly about him."
Realistically, we still should. Moore just turned 23 in June, and there were times this year he looked every bit as dominating as he did in the short tease we got last September and October.
It happened again Saturday, when he set the first 13 White Sox hitters down in order in what became a 10-4 Rays win.
If this is it (Moore could theoretically make another appearance in relief, and would be in line to start if the Rays need a Game 163 on Thursday), then Moore finishes his first full season with an 11-11 record and a 3.81 ERA. He finishes with nearly a strikeout an inning (175 in 177 1/3 innings).
He struggled in his three starts before Saturday, and even on Saturday, Maddon pulled him after just 77 pitches (and with only one hit allowed) because he noticed a drop in velocity. Maddon and Moore both said with conviction that there is no health issue, and Moore said that there has been no health issue at all this year.
There's no real reason to doubt them, and every reason to believe that Moore has simply gone through what plenty of young pitchers have, the experience of learning how a full big-league season can wear you down.
The same thing seems to have happened to Chris Sale, the White Sox rookie who faced Moore on Saturday. The Sox have tried hard to keep Sale from wearing down, but he looked like a tired pitcher on Saturday.
As Maddon pointed out, Moore's 23-year-old season compares favorably with David Price's 23-year-old season. Price was a September/October sensation just after turning 23, and the next summer his numbers were good but not spectacular (10-7, 4.42, 102 strikeouts in 128 1/3 innings).
Maddon was also raving about another kid Saturday. Chris Archer just turned 24 last week, and he has been impressive in a few appearances this month. Archer is the right-hander the Rays got from the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal.
"This guy's going to be so good," Maddon said.
Rookie of the year, anyone?