Jamie Moyer & The Hall of Fame
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?
HE'S TAKING A ROTATION TURN FOR THE TEAM THAT'S BEEN BEST IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE THREE YEARS RUNNING AT THE AGE OF 47!
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:
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.