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Goodbye, Jamie Moyer?

June 3, 2012

I almost didn’t post my usual Sunday statistical article, but then I remembered the recent release of Jamie Moyer by the Colorado Rockies. Jamie Moyer deserves his own post.

Moyer, 49, started the year as a non-roster invitee to the Rockies’ spring training camp. In order to make the 25-man roster, he needed to show management that he had fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of 2011. This bears repeating: He underwent elbow reconstruction surgery at 48 years old, then kept playing professional baseball.

Moyer was brilliant against the admittedly inferior competition of spring training, striking out 16 batters in 18 innings and posting a 2.50 ERA. That, plus the good press that comes with having a 49-year-old pitcher, plus the Rockies’ depleted starting rotation, compelled the organization to keep Moyer for the regular season. And thus Moyer began the quest to become the oldest player to win a game in the Major Leagues.

Not that one win would be enough for Moyer. He obviously believes he can still be successful, and in the article above he expressed the desire to keep playing with another team. But his first win of the season would put him in the record books, and any subsequent wins would re-break the record, so, even if he didn’t frame it that way, he wanted that record.

That first win came on April 17 against the San Diego Padres at home. Moyer pitched seven innings, allowing two runs (none earned), walking two and striking out one (Cameron Maybin, swinging). He kept his 79-mph fastball down, getting 13 ground outs—three of them double plays—to six fly outs. He came out after an efficient 87 pitches, 54 of them strikes.

He wouldn’t get another win until almost exactly a month later, on May 16 against the Diamondbacks. Moyer somehow struck out five batters in 6.1 innings without a pitch in his repertoire above 80 mph. It was a more complete display of Moyer talents; he even drove in two runs with this rope to the right side. Young Paul Goldschmidt could not place a tag on the spry Moyer, who in that moment broke another record, becoming the oldest player to record an RBI.

Those would be the only two wins for Moyer with the Rockies. In his most recent start, he gave up four home runs to the Reds in Cincinnati, the easiest place to go yard in the league.

Moyer didn’t exactly pitch well (53.2 IP, 36 K, 18 BB, 5.70 ERA), but how did he do compared to the other old pitchers of history? I used the Play Index tool at baseball-reference.com to look at all seasons for pitchers older than 46, sorted by ERA+.

Player ERA+ Year Age G W L SV IP BB SO ERA
Hoyt Wilhelm 160 1969 46 52 7 7 14 78.0 22 67 2.19
Jack Quinn 145 1931 47 39 5 4 15 64.1 24 25 2.66
Kaiser Wilhelm 130 1921 47 4 0 0 0 8.0 3 1 3.38
Hoyt Wilhelm 127 1971 48 12 0 1 3 20.0 5 16 2.70
Hoyt Wilhelm 126 1970 47 53 6 5 13 82.0 42 68 3.40
Satchel Paige 119 1953 46 57 3 9 11 117.1 39 51 3.53
Jack Quinn 116 1932 48 42 3 7 8 87.1 24 28 3.30
Jack Quinn 107 1930 46 35 9 7 6 89.2 22 28 4.42
Phil Niekro 99 1985 46 33 16 12 0 220.0 120 149 4.09
Phil Niekro 96 1986 47 34 11 11 0 210.1 95 81 4.32
Jack Quinn 86 1933 49 14 0 1 1 15.2 5 3 4.02
Nolan Ryan 86 1993 46 13 5 5 0 66.1 40 46 4.88
Jamie Moyer 85 2009 46 30 12 10 0 162.0 43 94 4.94
Charlie Hough 85 1994 46 21 5 9 0 113.2 52 65 5.15
Jamie Moyer 84 2010 47 19 9 9 0 111.2 20 63 4.84
Jamie Moyer 80 2012 49 10 2 5 0 53.2 18 36 5.70
Hoyt Wilhelm 74 1972 49 16 0 1 1 25.1 15 9 4.62
Phil Niekro 72 1987 48 26 7 13 0 138.2 66 64 6.30
Hod Lisenbee 69 1945 46 31 1 3 1 80.1 16 14 5.49
Tommy John 68 1989 46 10 2 7 0 63.2 22 18 5.80
Jesse Orosco 55 2003 46 65 2 2 2 34.0 21 29 7.68
Satchel Paige 1965 58 1 0 0 0 3.0 0 1 0.00
Nick Altrock 1924 47 1 0 0 0 2.0 0 0 0.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/3/2012.

Not the best, and certainly not as impressive as 58-year-old Satchel Paige, but okay. It should be noted that Wilhelm and Niekro were knuckleballers, which made it easier for them to pitch into their late 40s.

I’m tired. The end. But maybe not for Jamie Moyer, though he might be reduced to a long reliever or lefty specialist.

***

This is a song that came out in Moyer’s rookie year. Hurry to listen because someone makes sure to take Prince’s music off YouTube quickly.

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