Thursday, July 17, 2008

A little Jamie Moyer love

I first saw Jamie Moyer when I bought my first pack of Topps baseball cards in 1987. I went through my collection a few years ago and came across that same baseball card. It was not in great shape but the picture with his Cubs hat virtually floating on top of his head was exactly as I remembered it. Moyer also sported a mad flat-brim two decades before flat-brims became cool.

Moyer will be 46 in November. He has a 112 ERA+. That’s plenty good to be an effective starter in the majors. In fact, he’s easily the second best pitcher on Philadelphia’s staff and it certainly isn’t a fluke. Moyer learned to survive a long time ago by varying the speeds of his pitches and, equally important, locating them. His fastball tops out in the low 80s which is among the slowest in the league. As a result, there doesn’t appear to be any physical limitations to Moyer playing until he’s 50 unless his arm falls off. Moyer seems to realize this. He has repeatedly stated that he plans to pitch as long as possible. He recently reiterated this in an article on by saying "I am not at the end...This isn't my last year."

Moyer won eight games before the All-Star break this year. It’s reasonable to assume he’ll win approximately six games after the break. That will give him 244 career wins. If he intends to play four or five more seasons, he’ll have a legitimate shot at 300 career wins. It’s unlikely that Moyer will last that long but not out of the question. I wrote a similar post about Julio Franco (who was 48 at the time) last year and he was released this season ending his career. The difference between Franco and Moyer is that Moyer is a workhorse who has been thriving with the same repertoire of pitches for the last 13 years. Franco was just a part-time player over his last eight seasons. At least half the teams in MLB would love to have Moyer on their staff.

I realize that I might be getting ahead of myself just a bit here, but, in the highly unlikely event that Moyer hangs around long enough to reach 300 wins, Hall of Fame voters would be faced with the most difficult decision of their voting lives. No pitcher has ever been kept out of the HOF with at least 300 wins. Conversely, no pitcher has ever made the HOF with an ERA over 4.00 (Red Ruffing has the highest ERA among HOFers at 3.80). It’s not as if his numbers are awful. He has been one of the best pitchers in the majors over the past 13 years. He has the 6th most wins in the majors since 1996 behind only Greg Maddux, Andy Pettitte, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, and Tom Glavine. He has pitched the 4th most innings since 1996 behind only Maddux, Glavine, and Mussina. He is 179-108 since ’96 with a .623 winning percentage. He has also led the league in age three times. Still, I don’t think there’s any doubt he would be the least qualified pitcher in the HOF if that ever happened. I wonder if the members of the 300 win-club are rooting heavily against Moyer’s membership.

Back to reality. Moyer is the last active player from the 1987 Topps set (Greg Maddux was in the ’87 Topps Traded set). There is something comforting about Moyer keeping the candle burning from the first baseball pack I ever opened. As long as he’s pitching, I’ve got a direct link to my seven-year old self. As I did for Julio Franco and Brett Favre, I’m urging Jamie Moyer to play forever. Luckily for me, I get the feeling that he might actually do it.

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