Change-UpMay 12, 2010
Jamie Moyer & The Hall of Fame
By Patrick Sullivan

On his Twitter feed last night, Tyler Kepner mentioned that Dallas Braden considered Jamie Moyer to be one of his heroes. Said Braden, "I don't know how old he is. He played catch with Jesus." I won't necessarily deify Moyer in this piece, but I do want to address the notion that Moyer gaining baseball's version of immortality - Hall of Fame enshrinement - is somehow preposterous.

I turned my attention to Moyer's Hall candidacy after I noticed a tweet in Peter Abraham's feed, expressing incredulity at the mere mention of Moyer for the Hall. And I agree with Abraham on one level. Moyer WON'T get any real consideration for the Hall of Fame, so Pete's right in that sense. But it's more interesting to talk about whether or not he deserves the honor, and that conversation means we need to compare him to some other Hall-eligibles.

Joe Posnanski, and you'll be shocked to hear this, wrote a phenomenal blog entry a number of weeks back. It compared Rick Reuschel to Jack Morris and the case Joe made was well-researched, meticulous, and entirely responsive to the core points upon which the pro-Morris crowd tends to base its case. In it, Poz was also careful to note that he didn't want to pick on Morris and that he thought Jack was a very good pitcher.

To even be considered seriously for the Hall of Fame is a great honor, and you have to be a tremendous player to reach such great heights. Jack Morris won 254 games in his career, and he had memorable postseason performances, including one of the greatest ever in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. He threw 240-plus innings 10 times — only 14 pitchers in baseball history did it more. Whenever I write one of these Morris pieces, it feels like I’m bashing his career, when that is not what I mean to do. He was a terrific pitcher.

I want to offer the very same caveat myself. This is not meant to pick on Morris, but rather it's meant to bring to light the body of work that Jamie Moyer has managed to craft over the course of his Major League Baseball career. Comparing Moyer to Morris, a fringe candidate with some ardent and influential supporters, just seems to make sense. So we'll start high-level, and kick the analysis off with a look at their career numbers.

         W    L    IP    BB/9   K/9   K/BB   ERA+
Moyer   262  197  3,948   2.6   5.4   2.11   105
Morris  254  186  3,824   3.3   5.8   1.78   105

Without knowing anything else about the two players, right off the bat, you can see that a comparison of the two is very much in play. They look identical, and again, without knowing more, you would give Moyer the edge. But we do know more.

For instance, we know that Morris made five All-Star Games and Moyer made just one. We know that Moyer managed a 4th, 5th and 6th place finish in Cy Young voting but never managed another showing in the top-10. Meanwhile, we know that Morris placed in the top-10 seven times, and even appeared on the MVP ballot five times. So maybe Moyer has just racked up a bunch of innings and some solid numbers, but Morris was a star. Right? Let's look at their respective peaks by comparing each of their five best seasons according to Sean Smith's Wins Above Replacement calculation.

 Yr   IP  K/BB  ERA+  WAR
'99  228  2.85   130  5.7
'02  231  2.94   128  5.3
'01  234  3.76   131  5.2
'03  215  1.95   132  3.9
'97  189  2.63   116  3.7
 Yr   IP  K/BB  ERA+  WAR
'79  198  1.92  133   5.1
'87  266  2.24  126   4.9
'85  257  1.74  122   4.8
'86  267  2.72  127   4.7
'91  247  1.77  125   4.1

Well now, that's interesting. If you tally their respective five best seasons, Moyer totals out at 23.8 and Morris at 23.6, It's easy to forget, or at least it is for me, that Moyer was a total mainstay, a rock, for some of the better baseball teams in recent memory: the turn of the century Seattle Mariners. And I urge you to dig a little deeper, to have a look for yourself. They both have eight 3+ WAR seasons, both have ten 2+ WAR seasons. It's remarkable, but their careers look very similar. Moyer nets out with a more productive overall career thanks to a handful of seasons where he was worth a win or so throughout his 24 seasons.

But still, we know Morris was better, right? Because we know how excellent he was in the 1984 World Series for the Detroit Tigers, when he notched two complete game victories. And we DEFINITELY know about one of the finest baseball games ever pitched, Morris's complete game 10-inning masterpiece to lead the Minnesota Twins over the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 World Series. We tend to block out things like how Morris almost lost the 1992 World Series all by himself for the Toronto Blue Jays. That tends not to factor into his reputation as a clutch post-season pitcher. Instead, as far as 1992 is concerned, Morris was a 21-Game Winner For a World Series Winning Club. All the same, it's fair to say that thanks to his extraordinarily memorable performances in '84 and '91, his reputation is well-earned.

The point is to say that a number of voters look beyond Morris's numbers, they look beyond some of those shoddy post-season outings, and deem him Hall worthy thanks to three games he pitched: two in the '84 Series, one in '91. Rightly or wrongly, he gets extra credit for doing extraordinary things that stick in voters' memories. And that's fair enough. But is there anything in Jamie Moyer's career that might merit him the same sort of consideration over and above his performance record? Well, how about this?


Moyer has posted a 32-19 record as a slightly above average pitcher since 2008, when he was 45 years-old. And with the way these Phillies pound the ball, above average, dependably taking the ball every fifth day, puts Moyer's team in a great position to win when he starts. He has been a critical contributor during the best Philadelphia Phillies stretch of baseball in history, all while pushing 50-years old. For heaven's sake, the man pitched a complete game shutout last week! If we're doling out extra credit for memorable performances, quirks, things that make a player stand alone, then what Jamie Moyer is doing these days qualifies as far as I'm concerned. To put it in perspective, here's your list of players who have pitched at least 200 innings in their 45-year old season and beyond:

Rk Player ERA+ IP From To Age G GS CG SHO H BB SO ERA Tm
1 Hoyt Wilhelm 139 299.0 1968 1972 45-49 205 0 0 0 224 108 232 2.62 CHW-TOT-LAD
2 Satchel Paige 125 258.1 1952 1965 45-58 104 11 3 2 231 96 143 3.24 SLB-KCA
3 Jack Quinn 112 418.0 1929 1933 45-49 165 25 7 0 478 114 125 3.72 PHA-BRO-CIN
4 Jamie Moyer 101 397.1 2008 2010 45-47 69 64 1 1 413 110 237 4.28 PHI
5 Nolan Ryan 97 223.2 1992 1993 45-46 40 40 2 0 192 109 203 4.06 TEX
6 Phil Niekro 96 784.2 1984 1987 45-48 125 122 19 2 826 357 430 4.27 NYY-CLE-TOT
7 Charlie Hough 94 318.0 1993 1994 45-46 55 55 1 1 320 123 191 4.58 FLA
8 Tommy John 82 240.0 1988 1989 45-46 45 42 0 0 308 68 99 4.84 NYY
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/12/2010.

Look at that list! Moyer is handing Nolan Ryan his 45-and-older lunch!

Finally, it's worth noting that Moyer has a good post-season record of his own. Save a disastrous outing against the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2008 ALDS, he's been excellent. In 2001 Moyer went 3-0, including a most impressive outing at Yankee Stadium in Game 3 of the ALCS.

I don't think Jamie Moyer is a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher. I think he's exactly the kind of player who will be, and should be, remembered fondly by baseball fans who had the chance to enjoy watching him pitch. Maybe I will one day tell my grandchildren how Moyer had a devastating change up, pinpoint control, and was an effective pitcher for one of baseball's very best teams well into his late-40's. We might never see another pitcher like Moyer. That's awesome, but he's just not a Hall of Famer.

To me, that's Jack Morris too. He threw a million innings per season during a time when the trend to protect pitchers more and more was beginning to take hold. Wherever he went, his teams won. And my goodness, the 1984 and 1991 World Series! What a career he had.

Sometimes, it's ok just to leave it at that.


Update: I see that Howard Megdal & Jon Daly have tackled the very same topic at The Perpetual Post this morning.


Good piece, I completely agree.

Re Morris's post-season reputation, Curt Schilling blew THREE leads in Game 1 of the 1993 World Series as well as an NLCS Game 1 lead the same year.

And how about that Soriano bomb leading off the 8th in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series? But, everyone wants to buy into his successes and forget Schilling's failures. He looked like a six year old after someone kicked his dog...But, "He's CLUTCH"......

Moyer is like the receiver with 5 catches for 55 yards and no TD's. On the highlights they will show the speedy guy who caught two balls for 80 yds and a TD and you figure he is the star. However, he missed a catchable ball that forced a punt and Mr. Slow caught 3 on 3rd and long to keep the drive going and had a higher WPA.


Since 2008, in his 45-47 seasons, Moyer ranks 26th in the NL among SP's with at least 300 IP's.

But I see what you did there with the caps lock...

//But I see what you did there with the caps lock...//

Again, standard operating procedure when disagreeing with anything "Sully" says: be prepared for some sort of snide comment. Guy has uncommonly thin skin for a blogger.

Dude, he mocked me with the caps lock. It was lighthearted, I took it as such, and basically just acknowledged it in my response.

Apologies if my personality rubs you the wrong way. Thanks for your readership.

ha...ha...with the caps.

good piece, thanks for the good read.

My brother and I have had a running discussion or argument (depending on the mood and the amount of beer) about the HoF and certain eligible pitchers. Years ago when we started this discussion he was strongly in favor of Morris and dismissive of Blyleven. Over time my arguments or more importantly Blyleven's accomplishments brought him around. However, he was still a big Morris supporter. He just realized Morris had no chance until the much better pitcher was elected. Well, earlier this year he made some comment on our fantasy league's message board. In response I pointed out how similar Moyer was to Morris. My brother lost it when I used numbers to show that Moyer was actually slightly better.

Bottom line: Would Moyer be a traditional HoF choice or an inner circle kind of pitcher? No, of course not. However, if he continues what he is doing and the offense behind him continues to pound the baseball . . . . Well, if in 4 years Omar Vizquel gets his 3,000 hit in a game Moyer wins for his 300th win then it will be hard to argue against enshrinement of either player.

I'm a Jack Morris supporter. I live in MN and I vividly remember Game 7 in 1991. I believe he should be in the Hall of Fame (so should Moyer).

Everybody loves to throw around all these wierd, made-up Sabermetric statistics that fold, spindle and mutilate the stats beyond the comprehension of the average fan, so I will throw out the one normal, comprehendible stat that, in my opinion, puts Morris in the 'yes' column:

One of the unwritten rules for enshrinement in the hall is great success or dominance over an extended period. Jack Morris won more games than ANYBODY in the 1980s. I think that qualifies as dominance over an extended period. Of course, Mark Grace had more hits than anybody in the 1990s and he didn't even get enough votes to stay on the ballot. Go figure...

Good job, Sully, and with an important conclusion to boot.

no way hof material if he got even one vote i be shocked

Put Jamie Moyer in the American League East over the last five seasons and let's see if he's still pitching. I respect him as a player and as a person off the field, but he's pitching at a mediocre level for the best offense in the National League.

In five seasons with the Phillies, he has a 51-33, a .607 winning rate which is among the best of his career (his run with Seattle in his prime, and one year with Boston were higher). Yet, he did this while posting a 4.49 ERA and 1.34 WHIP-- again, in the National League. If that is not an indication of win-loss records being overrated, then I don't know what else to say.

He was good for his 11 years with Seattle. For the other 13 years he was below average to average.

The statistical comparison of Moyer to Morris, and the ostensible similarity, misses a few fundamental points. Morris compiled his stats over 18 seasons, while Moyer is spread out over 24 seasons and counting. Morris compressed approx. 90% of his production into a 14 year period between '79 and '92. Moyer's production is considerably more dispersed.

If the objective in baseball is to win titles (division, pennant, WS) then this dispersion issue is significant. Does anyone really believe there's no difference between a pitcher who averages 20-10 with a 3.00 ERA and 230 IP over 10 years and a pitcher who averages 10-5, 3.00 ERA and 115 IP over 20 years? Same career numbers, but very different impact on their team's results.

It's like the time value of money. I'd rather get a $10,000 return over 5 years than over 10. Similarly, I'd rather get that production over 10 years than 20. And I'd rather get Morris's production over his 14 year peak than Moyer's more diffuse production.

But Tommy, you're ignoring that Moyer had a better peak! If you take Moyer's 14 best seasons according to WAR and compare it to Morris's '79-'92, Moyer averages 3.2 WAR per season to Jack's 2.9.

And that's to say nothing of the chart included in the article showing that Moyer's 3rd best season was better than JM's best.

Sully: "But Tommy, you're ignoring that Moyer had a better peak! If you take Moyer's 14 best seasons according to WAR and compare it to Morris's '79-'92, Moyer averages 3.2 WAR per season to Jack's 2.9."

First, Moyer's 14 best seasons (as measured by WAR) weren't contiguous, as therefore this doesn't really address my argument that Moyer's production was more dispersed.

Second, WAR is an interesting stat but not really a very discerning measure of pitcher performance. It's simply an ERA+ and innings measurement. WAR woefully undermeasures Morris's performance in the '86 and '92 seasons, which were two of his best. In each season Morris got great run support and when he did he tended to pitch to the score. In games in which he received 6 or more runs of support he had an ERA of nearly 5.00, but that didn't stop him from going 23-0 in those games. By contrast, in his 39 starts in those two seasons in which he received less than 6 runs of support his ERA was well under 3.00.

Morris' tendency to surrender runs when he had runs to work with savages his WAR stats, but it didn't cost his team a thing - Morris was 23-0 in those starts.

Morris evinced a career-long tendency to do this - his career ERA when getting 6+ runs is nearly 50 pts higher than when he received fewer than 6 runs of support.

By the way, Morris is far from the only pitcher whose WAR stat is very misleading. Tommy Glavine is perhaps the most striking example of a modern era pitcher with a tendency to surrender runs when he had runs to work with. His ERA in games in which he got 6+ runs of support was more than 20% higher than when he got less than 6.

Glavine's career WAR number is actually lower than Schilling's despite having pitched far more innings, but Schilling was a guy who had a lower ERA when getting more than 6 runs than when he got less. But Glavine and Schilling had almost the same winning percentage in games where they got 6+ runs to work with; Glavine just tended to pitch to the score.

Some other notable pitchers who exhibited career-long tendencies to surrender more runs when getting great run support are Carlton, Pedro Martinez, Clemens, Sutton, Bunning and Randy Johnson. Each of these guys' WAR figures were really harmed by this tendency.

You are selling WAR wayyy short. See all that goes into it here:

As for the utter myth that is "pitching to the score", see:


And productivity being dispersed doesn't matter if I can demonstrate that Moyer had the better peak. In terms of evaluating an entire career, what does it matter if one's best seasons come over four decades or four years?

Well, any definition of 'pitching to the score' I've seen, isn't about how many runs were scored for you [ie you could be down 5-0 and your team could win the game in the bottom of the ninth and it would count in your scenerio].

Also, is ERA the best measure for this? Afterall, isn't 'pitching to the score' more about throwing strikes and trusting the defense more than just allowing extra runs?

I'd think that if a pitcher was truly pitching to the score, you'd see an increase in AVG, a decrease in OBP-AVG and an increase in ISO.

Unfortunately the non-play-index splits, can't get me all the way there, but here's what I can put together from the standard splits:

0-5 .244/.069/.127
6+ .253/.061/.143

So, he does show the three tendencies I mentioned above, but there is still the first issue of what the actual numbers were when he had big leads to work with.

Outside of grabbign a truckload of retrosheet data, I'm not sure where I could go to get that...

Plainly, there is a reasonable argument to be made that Jack Morris was a better pitcher than Jamie Moyer, and the fact that some stats say that Moyer was a slightly better pitcher does not prove to the contrary, unless you're misusing the stats. However, using the stats properly, they make a good case that Moyer is in the same class of pitcher as Morris, and that is illuminating in assessing Morris' HOF argument.

That comment, sklein11, sums what I hoped to express in the piece.

I don't agree with all of it - I think Moyer may have been better than Morris - but I don't feel that strongly about it.

jamie moyer is a last ballot hall of famer. when he retires at 53 and hes the last pitcher EVER to get to 300 wins, he will get in after a serious look at his career. he only had 46 wins before he was 30, his shit isnt flashy, its just effective, he deserves it, pitching in an era of roids middle relievers and closers. hes one of the last old school ballplayers were ever gonna see. he deserves the hall.

If Moyer pitches 3 more years, he'll have 300 wins. If he doesn't make the HOF then, he'll be the only 300 winner not to do so. Even in these days of advanced metrics, 300 wins means something.

Why use Morris for comparison. Moyer currently shows numbers very similar to that of Dennis Martiex aka El Presidente and Dennis didn't even get enough votes to stay on the ballot after the first year.

Sorry that should be Martinez