CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Under The Knife: Medic... (05/14)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Feel... (05/13)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Today: The ... (05/17)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (05/14)

May 14, 2009

Prospectus Today

Moyer at 46

by Joe Sheehan

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Last night, Jamie Moyer threw his sixth non-quality start in seven outings, giving up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings on eight hits, four going for extra bases, while striking out just one man. The outing pushed his ERA up to 8.15, which in a year that's seen some ugly numbers is the highest in baseball among the 96 pitchers qualified for the ERA title (one inning per team game). Moyer does have three wins, largely because the Phillies like to score a boatload of runs when he's on the mound. In his wins, the team has put up nine, 11, and 13 runs, and they've scored an average of 6.6 runs per nine innings while he's in the game. That's fantastic run support, and he's needed every inch of it just to be 3-3.

It's not just the runs allowed that are scary. Moyer has yet to look effective for extended stretches of pitching. In seven outings, he has just eight 1-2-3 innings. His longest stretch of consecutive batters retired is eight, oddly enough last night against the Dodgers before things fell apart. He's had two other stretches of six in a row. While his last three starts have been shockingly bad-19 runs in 12 1/3 innings-his first three weren't anything to get excited about: 12 runs in 17 innings. He's struck out 19 men and walked 13, while allowing a whopping 11 homers. Even his one good start, in which he allowed a single run in six innings to the Marlins on April 26, wasn't that impressive; he pitched out of a number of jams, and since I watched that game I'll offer subjectively that home-plate umpire Jerry Layne helped him out a lot that day.

The places where we might look to find bad luck are not particularly out of whack. Moyer has allowed a .333 batting average on balls in play, which is a little inflated, but not enough to drive his ERA into the eights. He is getting a bit unlucky on fly balls, which have gone out of the park 18.6 percent of the time against a career mark of 10.5 percent. His HR rate is more or less double what it "should" be, which is affecting his ERA. That he's allowing more fly balls isn't helping; Moyer isn't the kind of pitcher who can make mistakes up in the zone and stay in the league.

Now, writing off Jamie Moyer is a risky thing, given that he probably could have been a high school teacher by age-30 based on where his career was at 28. Still, the limited track record for pitchers of his advanced age shows that rapid declines aren't uncommon. Tommy John, as close a comp for Moyer as you'll find in MLB history, wiped out at 46, posting a 5.80 ERA and 18:22 K/BB in 10 starts. Charlie Hough, who like Moyer had been effective in his forties, saw his ERA jump to 5.15 in the strike-shortened 1994 season and never came back. Nolan Ryan's last effective season was at 45, and at 46 he made just 13 starts with a 46:40 K/BB in 66 1/3 innings, a massive loss of effectiveness. Jack Quinn basically became a reliever at 46. Knuckleballer Phil Niekro is the only effective 46-year-old starter in major league history.

I'd like to be wrong about this. Jamie Moyer's storyline last October was one of the highlights of the World Series for me, and I'll never forget the sight of him on the field after the Phillies won the Series, family in tow, a Pennsylvania native celebrating a championship not far from where he grew up, in the city where he went to college. He had a look on his face that night, joy to be sure, but also peace, contentment, a look that made me think he was going to walk away from the game a World Series hero.

I would never say that he shouldn't have come back. I'm 38 years old, never played past Bronx Federation ball save for a year in the MABL, and I miss it every day. If I could play baseball well enough to get paid for doing so in the major leagues, you'd have to bring in light infantry to tear the uniform off me. So I understand and respect Moyer's decision to play at 46. It does look, however, like batters are stating their case on the matter, just as they did with John, just as they did with Ryan. Even if 8.15 is an inflated number, there's little in Moyer's first seven starts to indicate that he has enough left to be in the rotation for a team trying to win a championship.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

12 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

ScottyB

The Phillies seem to me the perfect example of needing to be BOTH good and lucky to win it all. They've essentially returned the same team from last year, and so many pitchers on their team have fallen down to earth hard- Lidge, Myers, Moyer, Blanton, etc.

May 14, 2009 11:36 AM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

This article is just screaming for some pitch fx data. It's not like he had much velocity left to lose, so what changed? Movement? Location?

May 14, 2009 12:48 PM
rating: 5
 
Nathan

Agreed. It certainly seems likely that Moyer is done, but pitch fx data could help confirm it, while also showing us something about what changes in movement and location correspond with sudden loss of effectiveness.

If somebody cloned a new arm for Moyer to let him stay in the bigs, would that be treated as a PED?

May 14, 2009 15:20 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Moyer's been counted out before and come back, and he's still owed a fair chunk of money so I doubt he'd be outright released. At worst, I think he might get moved to the bullpen.

Maybe he's tired from having to pitch into November last year... pitch fx might show some possible indicators of exhaustion. He could also just be going through the kind of funk that all pitchers go through.

May 14, 2009 16:41 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Oh, and I forgot to include that I agree with you Nathan. If velocity is not an indicator of pitching success, then the idea that Moyer has little velocity means that other factors that might depend more on pitcher success such as location, horizontal movement, vertical movement, etc might be easier to identify and correlate to pitching effectiveness.

May 14, 2009 16:42 PM
rating: 0
 
Evan
(47)

His 7.02 tRA tells us he's not just getting unlucky with batted ball results. He's giving up enough line drives that he's not throwing quality pitches.

May 14, 2009 18:28 PM
rating: 0
 
birdfan1976

Well said, Joe; well said.

May 14, 2009 21:26 PM
rating: 0
 
havybeaks

I completely agree - good job, Joe.

May 15, 2009 10:41 AM
rating: 0
 
saigonsam

I guess we have reached the point of the season when Joe stops railing about small sample size and now starts making conclusions....

May 15, 2009 01:48 AM
rating: 3
 
fieldofdreams

You may well be right, but after all your (justified!) screaming about drawing inferences from small-sample sizes I'm surprised you found this worthy of an article.

May 15, 2009 07:27 AM
rating: 2
 
JayhawkBill

We're overlooking the comparable pitcher who offers the most hope: Jack Quinn, who also started six or seven games (accounts differ) at age 46 for a Philadelphia team, the 1930 Philadelphia Athletics. Jack Quinn was shifted to the bullpen to become a Depression-Era equivalent to a closer, finishing 16 games and earning six saves, had they been counted. The next year, at age 47, he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and earned enough MVP votes to finish 17th, not a bad showing for a guy two decades older than the average MLB pitcher of his day. Here are his WARP3 totals by age in 1930-32:

Age WARP3

46 1.1
47 1.8
48 2.3

Jack Quinn pitched effectively through his age 48 season, but he posted an ERA over 4.00 at age 49 and left after 14 games that year.

***

Seriously, though, Jamie Moyer was doing adequately until he gave up 14 runs, six on home runs, in 6.2 IP his last two starts. In both of those games there was a strong wind blowing out to CF. Any pitcher is likely to see his ERA inflated in such conditions. Moyer had an ERA of 5.65 entering those two games, and a 5.65 ERA, while sub-par, is probably better than replacement-level this season.

I see two other reasons for hope:

1) Moyer's HR/FB rate over the whole season thus far is 22.9%, roughly double what one would expect. It's unlikely to stay that high.

2) Moyer has actually lowered his LD% allowed this year relative to 2008, but he's being killed because his fielders are allowing opposing hitters a .353 BABIP on ground balls. Maybe the ground balls are being hit harder than usual, but .353 is around a hundred points higher than MLB norms, and over his career Moyer has allowed only a .212 BABIP on ground balls. Furthermore, in seven 2009 games featuring plenty of opposition baserunners, his defense has turned only two double plays to support him. I'd expect a big change in hits allowed once Moyer's past the current period of flukishly bad infield defense.

An ERA of 8.15 after 35.1 IP is bad, but Chien-Ming Wang will probably have an ERA at least that high if and when he reaches 35.1 IP, so Moyer's not the only well-regarded MLB pitcher struggling that badly this season. Yes, one could say that Wang has better comparables, but it's possibly more accurate to say that Moyer has NO comparables: Niekro, Wilhelm, Paige and Ryan wouldn't even count if there were any reasonable number of guys who'd at least tried to start in MLB at age 46.

I expect Jamie Moyer to be better than replacement level from this point forward. I don't know that he'll be enough better to pull his overall season stats back within normal levels for MLB starting pitchers, and I don't know how long MLB GMs will give a guy Moyer's age a chance to pitch if he struggles. Still, I think I remember reading that MLB fans of every team are supposed to be entitled to hope and faith, so I'm not yet giving up hope on Moyer.

May 15, 2009 10:57 AM
rating: 2
 
brucegilsen
(999)

A better title would have been James at 46, a play on the old tv show James at 15.

Jun 03, 2009 19:31 PM
rating: -1
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Under The Knife: Medic... (05/14)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Feel... (05/13)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Today: The ... (05/17)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (05/14)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, May 29
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, May ...
Fantasy Rounders: San Diego's Marine Player
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: Context is King
Premium Article Daisy Cutter: How the Kipnis Got His TAv
Premium Article What You Need to Know: Another Day, Another ...
Premium Article Release Points: Where Have You Gone, Stephen...

MORE FROM MAY 14, 2009
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Ranging Far Afield
Premium Article Under The Knife: Medical Mysteries
Premium Article Wait 'Til Next Year: Trimming the Field
Premium Article You Could Look It Up: Roster Crunches

MORE BY JOE SHEEHAN
2009-05-19 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Texas Leather
2009-05-18 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Play
2009-05-17 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Balance of Power
2009-05-14 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Moyer at 46
2009-05-13 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Feeling Byrnes'd
2009-05-11 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Report from Camden Yards
2009-05-07 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Manny's Return
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS TODAY
2009-05-19 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Texas Leather
2009-05-18 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Play
2009-05-17 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Balance of Power
2009-05-14 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Moyer at 46
2009-05-13 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Feeling Byrnes'd
2009-05-11 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Report from Camden Yards
2009-05-07 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Manny's Return
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2009-05-15 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: Mid-May Madness