Thinking about Jamie Moyer

ATLANTA - APRIL 22: Starting pitcher Jamie Moyer #50 of the Philiadelphia Phillies pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on April 22, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

 I've been getting some questions recently about Jamie Moyer, which may seem odd given that my main focus is prospects and Moyer is the polar opposite of a prospect. But he's an interesting historical study certainly.I first did a prospect retro (called a Nostalgia Prospect at the time) for Jamie Moyer back in 2006.

Four years later, and he's still out there pitching at the age of 47. Keep in mind that Moyer was born a year before John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Here is the history of how Jamie Moyer developed as a prospect:

Jamie Moyer was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the sixth round of the 1984 draft, out of St. Joseph's University. The Cubs assigned Moyer to Geneva in the New York-Penn League after he signed. His pro debut was excellent: 9-3, 1.89 ERA in 14 starts, with a 120/31 K/BB in 105 innings. He allowed only 59 hits. Moyer's K/IP and H/IP marks were those of a power pitcher, but his style was finesse: mediocre fastball, decent breaking stuff, excellent changeup, sharp control. College-trained pitchers with this style usually have a pretty easy time in the low minors, so Moyer's early pro performance was not a guarantee of success at higher levels. I would probably have rated him as a Grade C+ prospect pending higher level data.

Moyer began 1985 with Winston-Salem in the Carolina League, making 12 starts with an 8-2 record, 2.30 ERA, and 94/22 K/BB in 94 innings. Excellent numbers. Promoted to Double-A Pittsfield at midseason, he went 7-6, 3.72 in 15 starts. However, his K/IP ratio declined sharply: 51/32 K/BB in 97 innings. The strong drop in K/IP was an indication that his approach was not as effective against more advanced hitters, a sign that further adjustments would be needed. Given the K/IP decline, I would have left him at Grade C+ in all likelihood.

Moyer returned to Pittsfield in `86, going 3-1, 0.88 in six starts. His K/IP went back to previous standards, 42 in 41 innings. Moved up to Triple-A Iowa, he went 3-2, 2.55 in six starts but his K/IP slipped back again, to 25 in 42 innings. Moyer moved up to the Cubs for half the season, going 7-4, 5.05 in 16 starts with a 45/42 K/BB, allowing 107 hits in 87 innings. He pitched well at times but was also overmatched at times. His component ratios were not very good at all. I remember thinking at the time that he needed additional Triple-A exposure.

The Cubs had Moyer in the rotation in `87 and `88. He won 12 games but with a 5.10 ERA in `87. He won just nine in 30 starts in `88, but actually pitched better with a 3.48 ERA and much improved components, cutting his walk rate in half. Nevertheless, the Cubs seemed frustrated with him and he was traded to Texas.

Moyer struggled with injuries and general inconsistency for the next few years, but found new life with the Mariners in the mid-90s. He has been a very successful pitcher for a decade now, continuing to win despite a loss in velocity because of guile, location, movement, and trickery.

As a prospect, Moyer was a classic example of the college-trained finesse lefty, dominating the low minors, but having some problems in his first exposure to advanced hitters. The collapse in his strikeout rate when first reaching Double-A is typical for this type of pitcher. The thing is that many guys like this fail to adjust their game. Moyer did, turning an 85 MPH fastball and a changeup into a 200+ win career.

Let's look at some historical context for Moyer.

SIM SCORES:  Dennis Martinez, Tommy John, Jerry Reuss, David Wells, Kenny Rogers, Frank Tanana, Jerry Koosman, Burleigh Grimes, Waite Hoyt, and Red Faber.

PECOTA Comps: Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough, Tommy John, Nolan Ryan, Hoyt Wilhelm, Jesse Orosco, Satchel Paige, Randy Johnson, Gaylord Perry, and Jim Kaat.

Note that Moyer's age breaks the comp systems, which aren't used to looking at 47 year old players. I had go way down the lists to find names.

An odd mixture of names, isn't it....a pair of fireballers who lasted forever (Ryan, Johnson), several knuckleballers, and a few crafty types like Moyer.  Grimes, Hoyt, Faber, Niekro, Perry, Ryan, and Paige are all in the Hall of Fame, and both Kaat and John are worthy candidates.

Which leads me to this question.  Few people think of Jamie Moyer as a Hall of Famer, but the guy has won 262 games. He's never been a superduper star pitcher, but he did win 20 games twice and has had some very fine seasons. Let's say he gets to 270-275 wins before hanging it up. He'll finish with over 4,000 innings with an ERA + of 105 or so. Will his incredible longevity be enough to get him into the Hall someday?

My instinct says no....if Bert Blyleven, John, and Kaat are having trouble, Moyer won't get in. But it's been a tremendous run, has it not? I root for Moyer and would put nothing past him.

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