Jamie Moyer is old (I’ll give you a second to wipe up the coffee undoubtably spilled onto your computer after reading this shocking fact). So old, in fact, that he is older than thirteen of the thirty current MLB teams, if relocated teams such as the Atlanta Braves are considered unique from their Milwaukee counterpart. So ancient, that his 25 year career is longer than the life of Wilin Rosario, who caught his record-setting win Tuesday. This performance, which came in the form of a seven-inning shutout gem against the woeful San Diego Padres, made Moyer the oldest starter, at 49 years and 150 days, to win a game of baseball. In a time when power pitchers and young flamethrowers, like Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, are lauded, Moyer and his sub-80 MPH fastball (he never got higher than 79 MPH on Tuesday, according to the Denver Post) are still effective enough to win. Tied for 35th all time in wins and just 32 away from the famed 300 club, it would be nice to think that he could stick around a few more years and break even more records. But looking at his current status, it’s hard to tell when his fairytale career will end.
Jamie Moyer made his professional debut for the Chicago Cubs in 1986, a win against Hall of Famer Steve Carlton and Moyer’s hometown team, the Phillies. His fastball velocity? Mid to low 80s. Not much has changed for the lefty in 25 years, staying healthy enough to never need arm surgery until the end of the 2010 season, when an elbow injury forced him into Tommy John surgery. When the words “physical rehab” are brought up about a person nearing their 50s, the mindset is bleak. But Old Man Moyer came back, bringing the same style, one which places more value on pitch location and control than velocity, along with some new gray hairs. Speaking on the procedure this pas spring, Moyer said,
“I believe I can do this…Now, after having the surgery, it’s kind of like proving something to myself. I have a new arm. It’s like when you buy something new. It’s that kind of feeling. I had a new arm.”
A new arm. You don’t hear that much from many baseball players, especially those considered ancient compared to the rest of the league. So how much longer can he do it?
Like a fine wine, Moyer seems to be better aged. His ERA is almost 20 points better in his 40s (4.38) than in his 20s (4.56), and his control has come with experience. In every season since 2007, his walks per nine innings have gone down, and in 2010 he tied his career best with a minuscule 1.61 BB/9, good enough for fourth best in the MLB if he had pitched enough to qualify. Unlike other pitchers, who fade away as they lose velocity over the years, Moyer is unique because he has been consistent all his life. Still too early to judge if his 2.55 ERA is legit or a product of small sample size, there is hope considering his career ERA in the month of April is 4.37 (only May and August are historically worse for him). His control, at least so far in 2012, has been better than average, and his WHIP of 1.302 is almost identical to that of his career average, 1.316.
No one can pitch forever. Baseball legend Satchel Paige was 51 the year of his last “full” season in the Minor Leagues, when he went 10-10 with a 2.95 ERA for the Miami Marlins, ironically a Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. When Phil Niekro pitched his last year at age 48, his 7-13 record and 6.30 ERA were less impressive than Paige and more telling of his age. Although, with a “new arm” and the same control and speed we’ve come to know and love from Old Man Moyer, his retirement may be brought on by a lack of league interest rather than a lack of skill. Moyer has shown time and again that he wants to make the playoffs more than anything, putting team success over personal accomplishment. At the end of his one-year contract with the Rockies, Moyer will likely want to be signed to a playoff contender. Unfortunately, you don’t see many serious playoff teams signing a pitcher who will soon have an AARP card to go along with his baseball card. If this happens, I can see Moyer signing on as a coach for a team that has a shot at the World Series rather than pitch for a club with no hope. But Moyer has already shocked us countless of times. Maybe he has one more miracle left in that rubber arm of his.
Today’s feature was prepared by Baseball Writer, Bryan Sheehan. You can follow Bryan on Twitter (@BaseballHipster), read his interviews with Phillies’ minor league prospects at PhightingOn.com, and catch him writing the occasional article for ThroughTheFenceBaseball.com. Tweet him about this article and give him a follow and he will follow you back!
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