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The 46-year-old Phillies lefthander is about to move into rarefied air for a major-league pitcher.
A no-decision against the New York Mets yesterday kept Moyer at 249 career victories. One more and he'll reach 250, which would give him sole possession of 46th place on the all-time list. Two more will tie him with Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
Gibson won two National League Cy Young Awards, a National League MVP award, and two World Series MVP awards, and was on eight all-star teams. His name is synonymous with pitching greatness.
Moyer's is not.
That's just the way it is when you've made only one all-star team in a 22-year career and placed in the top 10 of Cy Young voting just three times, never finishing higher
That's just the way it is when you don't have great "stuff," as they say in Baseball - you know, pitches that crackle with electricity as they slice through the air and turn bats into kindling wood. Moyer would have trouble blackening an eye with his fastball. He does not rack up the huge strikeout totals that get you talked about on Baseball Tonight.
Moyer's smarts are his greatest weapon. He has the ability to read and attack a hitter's weaknesses. And he does so with artful strokes on his pitching hand. He is the classic finesse pitcher. Hitters are wired to look for and hit hard stuff. Moyer frustrates them and keeps them off-balance with slow, slower and slowest. He has a PhD. in changing speeds, one of the most important yet underappreciated elements in effective pitching.
There may be no more underappreciated pitcher in the game than Moyer.
His story is remarkable - for his level of perseverance, durability, longevity and accomplishment.
Moyer made his first start in 1986, 10 days before teammate Lou Marson was born. In his career, he has faced Tony Perez (born in 1942) and Cameron Maybin (born in 1987.) He has been the oldest player in the game the last two seasons, the oldest pitcher on his team for a decade.
He was released four times early in his career. That led his father-in-law, Digger Phelps, the former Notre Dame basketball coach, to urge him to move on and find a "real job." But Moyer pressed on. He learned to control that fastball - what there was of it - with pinpoint command, and offset it with a dazzling change-up. In 1996, at age 33, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners, and things finally began to come together. The Mariners needed pitching, and manager Lou Piniella assured Moyer he'd get a chance. Finally feeling as if he wasn't pitching for his job every night, Moyer relaxed and let his ability and smarts take over. He won games. His confidence swelled. He was a mainstay in the Mariners' rotation until his trade to the Phillies in August 2006.
Sean Forman, a former mathematics professor at St. Joseph's, founded and runs a tremendous Web site
called Baseball-Reference.com. Forman calculated that Moyer was 46-63 at age 30. Forman then found the 10 most statistically comparable 30-year-olds to Moyer. The list included such pitchers as Mike Scott, Mark Redman, Mike Kekich and Chris Hammond. On that list, only two pitchers lasted at least four more seasons and none came close to accomplishing what Moyer has.
The 10 most statistically similar pitchers to Moyer at age 30 combined to go 156-159 in 350 starts and 388 relief appearances for the rest of their careers. Moyer is 203-123 in 453 starts since turning 31.
Age has not been Moyer's enemy. He has won 131 games after his 37th birthday. Only Hall of Famers Phil Niekro (173), Warren Spahn (139) and Cy Young (132) won more.
Moyer ranks third all-time in wins after turning 42, behind Niekro (85) and Jack Quinn (71) of the 1932 Philadelphia Athletics.
His .582 winning percentage (57-41) after turning 42 is the best ever in the category.
Forman believes that Moyer merits consideration as one of the 100 best starters of all time.
"I'm not saying he's in or out, but he deserves to be discussed," he said. "He's had a little above average career with great longevity as well.
"His ERA-plus is 106," added Forman, citing a specialized statistic. "That means he's 6 percent better than the league average throughout his career. That puts him the neighborhood of a Catfish Hunter for career totals."
So why doesn't Moyer pass the sniff test when it comes to Hall of Fame talk?
Because his career ERA is 4.20. Red Ruffing's 3.80 ERA is the highest among major-league Hall of Famers.
Because his career lacks peaks of greatness, a wealth of exceptionally high-quality seasons, and great postseason success. These are some of the factors that got guys like Hunter (224 wins), Sandy Koufax (165), and Whitey Ford (236) elected.
Reaching 250 wins is an extraordinarily special feat, but it doesn't get you into the Hall of Fame. Just ask Tommy John (288), Bert Blyleven (287), Jim Kaat (283), or Jack Morris (254).
None of this is to diminish Moyer's career. It truly has been remarkable.
And coming to the Phillies has helped it reach that level.
Moyer frequently has said he'd have retired if he had stayed in Seattle. The Mariners had become a second-division club by the end of his stay there. Coming to Philadelphia has put him on a team with a powerful offense, and he has benefited from the run support. The Mariners averaged 4.4 runs per game in Moyer's last 78 starts with the club, and he was 22-29 in those games. In his first 78 starts with the Phils, he received 5.5 runs per game and was 38-22. His ERA in his last 78 starts in Seattle was 4.71; it was 4.37 in his first 78 with the Phillies .
Run support is an arbitrary Baseball phenomenon. Hitters don't try harder when they play behind a certain pitcher. Some years, pitchers' lives are made easier by lots of run support; other years, it's a struggle. About the only certainty is that the better the lineup, the better the chance of getting runs. Moyer has experienced that in Philadelphia, and it has continued this season. His mates have scored 39 runs in his first five starts - an average of 7.8 per game. But that number does not show the capriciousness of run support. The Phils scored no runs in Moyer's first start and 9, 11 and 13, respectively, in his next three, all of which were wins.
Moyer's best chance at making the Hall of Fame might be reaching 300 wins. That may mean pitching until he's 50. Moyer says he'll keep pitching as long as his family is OK with it and he is healthy, effective and having fun. Three hundred wins would have to be considered an incredible long shot. But given the career this guy has had, count him out at your own risk.
On Baseball: Double Switch: Raul Ibanez vs. Pat Burrell
The Phillies let Pat Burrell walk in the off-season and replaced him in left field with free agent Raul Ibanez. Here's a look at how they have fared this season through yesterday's games:
G AB H R HR RBI 2B 3B OPS* AVG
Ibanez 22 86 31 21 8 21 6 1 1.157 .360
Burrell 23 80 21 7 1 11 4 0 .718 .263
*OPS: on-base percentage plus slugging percentage
On Baseball: His Place in History
Jamie Moyer is hardly considered a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. But statistics show that his career in many areas stacks up well against the careers of some of the all-time great pitchers.
Getting support Moyer's statistics in his last 78 starts in Seattle were similar to those in his first 78 starts in Philadelphia, going into yesterday's game. Here is a comparison of the time periods:
Run Quality Rec ERA Support Starts/Rec
Seattle 22-29 4.71 4.4 39/19-10
Phillies 38-22 4.37 5.5 42/27-4
*A quality start is defined as pitching six or more innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs.
*Run support indicates runs scored by Moyer's team in the entire games that he started.
Average runs per game for Phillies starters during Moyer's time with the team.
250 wins by pitchers, in perspective When Moyer wins his 250th game, he will be one shy of Hall of Famer Bob Gibson (251) for 45th all-time. With 250 wins, Moyer will have more than 28 Hall of Famers who spent the majority of their careers as starters, including these notables:
Juan Marichal 243
Whitey Ford 236
Jim Bunning 224
Jim "Catfish" Hunter 224
Don Drysdale 209
Lefty Gomez 189
Sandy Koufax 165
Wins by pitchers born in Pennsylvania 1. *Christy Mathewson 373
2. *Eddie Plank 326
3. Mike Mussina 270
4. Jamie Moyer 249
5. *Herb Pennock 240
*Hall of Famer
Most strikeouts by pitchers born in Pennsylvania 1. Mike Mussina 2,813
2. *Christy Mathewson 2,502
3. Sam McDowell 2,453
4. *Rube Waddell 2,316
5. Jamie Moyer 2,265
*Hall of Famer
Hall-worthy career Average ERA of major-league Hall of Fame pitchers: 2.95
Moyer's career ERA: 4.20
Highest ERA among pitchers in the Hall of Fame:
Red Ruffing, 3.80
Average major-league Hall of Famer wins: 251
Most wins, age 37 and older 1. Phil Niekro 173
2. Warren Spahn 139
3. Cy Young 132
4. Jamie Moyer 131
*Based on pitcher's age on July 1
Moyer's best winning percentage by opponent Team Rec ERA Win Pct. Games/Starts
Cubs 3-0 4.19 1.000 6/6
Marlins 12-1 2.84 .923 13/13
Cardinals 5-1 2.34 .833 12/11
Orioles 18-4 2.98 .818 31/29
Mariners 3-1 4.67 .750 8
* Nationals 12-4 2.96 .750 24/23
Moyer's worst winning percentage by opponent Team Rec ERA Win Pct. Games/Starts
Rockies 1-4 5.45 .200 5/5
Braves 3-9 5.65 .250 15/14
Red Sox 6-12 6.57 .333 23/21
Dodgers 3-5 5.19 .375 11/11
Phillies 5-8 5.74 .385 15/15
Milestone wins No. 1 - June 16, 1986: Cubs 7, Phillies 5. Losing pitcher: Steve Carlton. Moyer's line: 61/3 innings, 8 hits, 5 runs, 4 earned, 3 walks, two strikeouts.
No. 50 ? July 17, 1994: Orioles 10, Angels 5. Losing pitcher: Russ Springer. Moyer's line: 61/3 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs, 2 earned, 4 walks, 0 strikeouts.
No. 100 ? Aug. 27, 1998: Mariners 10, Indians 4. Losing pitcher: Jaret Wright. Moyer's line: 6 innings,
9 hits, 4 runs, 4 earned, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts.
No. 150 ? Sept. 24, 2001: Mariners 9, Rangers 3. Losing pitcher: Doug Davis. Moyer's line: 5 innings,
8 hits, 2 runs, 2 earned, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts.
No. 200 ? July 8, 2005: Mariners 10, Angels 4. Losing pitcher: Jarrod Washburn. Moyer's line: 61/3 innings,
7 hits, 4 runs, 4 earned, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts.
Moyer has owned . . . Luis Gonzalez 0 for 16
Ron Gant 0 for 13
Eric Young 0 for 12
Aramis Ramirez 0 for 10
Buddy Bell 0 for 10
David Bell 0 for 6
Willie Wilson 0 for 6
Joe Crede 1 for 14
Rich Aurilia 1 for 12
Rocco Baldelli 1 for 10
They've owned him . . . Player H/AB AVG HR RBI
Carlos Delgado 31/81 .383 8 17
Manny Ramirez 18/53 .340 10 20
Garret Anderson 34/107 .318 5 19
Bernie Williams 34/87 .390 7 19
Source: Baseball-Reference.com Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983 or jsalisbury@Phillynews.com.