Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 5/1/12

In Jamie Moyer‘s most recent start, he went 5.0 innings against the New York Metropolitans and struck out 7, walked 2, and allowed a single donger. How a post-Tommy Johns surgery 49-year-old can strike out 7 young, healthy, honest Americans (both North and South Americans) is frankly beyond me. But it is an understatement to say Moyer has surprised me this year.

Not only has the near-half-century man earned a spot on the Rockies rotation, he is pitching like their ace.

When the Rockies signed Moyer to a minor league contract this offseason, I thought it was a solid signing — a cost-effective addition to the team’s overall depth. I had no expectation whatsoever that Moyer would earn a rotation spot out a Spring Training. In fact, inspection of my candor shows I had pretty much bid my final adieu to Moyer’s impressive career:

Nobody is saying Moyer is a key cog to the organization’s 2012 plans. Moyer is in fact a low-risk, low-reward signing. Given his age and the fact he missed a year, odds are he will not be in good form until several months into the season, and at that point, his good form may not be good enough.

If he can show his ability to keep an ERA near 4.00 (or under 4.00 in the minors) and if his fastball — which has gone from 83 mph in 2002 to 80.9 mph in 2010 — shows some life, then, hey, who knows? Maybe he reaches out that robotic arm for a few more twirls.

Moyer is a key cog to the Rockies rotation. There, someone said it.

He is a key cog not because he’s lights out, though; he’s a key cog because the alternatives are simply unimpressive right now. Let’s put Moyer in context with his rotation.

Figure it out? The number for Moyer should make the chart obvious. These are the ages of the starting rotation, plus Guillermo Moscoso who has made one start this season.

Moyer is twice as old as 3/4ths of other members the regular rotation. And:

His fastball is averaging — averaging 76.8 mph. I almost have no words for this. As I suggested in my previous piece, it seems rational to expect Moyer bombing if he cannot pump his velocity into the low to mid 80s, yet he’s touching a career low with relative effectiveness:

The guy has to be using cheat codes or something. Even I can hit a 77 mph fastball, yet Moyer is still getting whiffs — so much so that he leads the team in ERA and FIP right now:

As we can see, Juan Nicasio, Drew Pomeranz, and Jhoulys Chacin all sport better SIERA numbers than Moyer and that is well worth noting. I am highly of the opinion that Matt Swartz has made SIERA into one of the best pitching stats out there — both in its backwards-looking capacity and its innate ability to predict ERAs with great reliability — but the truth is we have enough innings from Jamie Moyer now that we don’t need ERA estimators, really.

More accurately, we need to adjust ERA estimators to Moyer’s proven ability to beat them. Moyer has 4049 career innings, and in those innings, he has consistently beat both his FIP and SIERA (and xFIP too).

Moyer’s ERA has beaten his SIERA by about 0.40 since 2002. His ERA has beaten his FIP by about 0.20 — since about the beginning of the Clinton administration:

The last time Moyer had an ERA above his FIP, people could still meet their family at the airport gate. So whether it’s good fielding on his part or just some other-worldly, quasi-voodoo trick, Moyer beats his FIP, his xFIP, and his SIERA. He beats them so consistently, in fact, that we can probably estimate his ERA this year by just subtracting his standard margin from the more stable predictors like SIERA.

In other words, if we subtract 0.40 from his 4.56 SIERA, we get a 4.16 ERA, which absolutely boggles the soul and mind when we consider not only Moyer’s age, but his role as a starter (no one his age has ever been an MLB starter), and his home park.

So, as of right now — and this may well be a fleeting now; who can expect with any certainty that Moyer will remain effective and healthy? that the remainder of the Rockies starters will be so terrible for much longer? — Moyer is the Rockies’ ace. This, of course, is a potent dig on the Rockies’ rotation just as much as it is well-earned praise for Moyer.

The other four Rockies starters (not counting the swing man) have pitched thus far in the 4.08 to 6.05 SIERA range. Will they stay in that range? Possibly, but it is still VERY early in the season, and I suggest Nicasio and Pomeranz have at least the raw ability to sneak under 4.00 this year.

But, until they do — and for perhaps this final fleeting moment — Jamie Moyer is the ace of the Rockies staff.

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