Jamie Moyer 1987 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 17, 2017

MoyerCaptureIf Jamie Moyer had been just a mediocre starting pitcher in his 20s, he would have presented a fascinating test case in the continuing debate about the worth of the won-loss record. Let me explain.

The method of how an individual pitcher has been judged over the decades has traditionally involved using the won-loss record as shorthand notation for how well the hurler performed.

He’s a 20 game winner. He’s good for 12 to 15 wins. He’s a sub-.500 pitcher. Then, of course, the granddaddy of all titles… the 300-game winner. Entrance to that club, much like Bernie Mac in “Mr. 3000,” was a no-questions-asked entrance to the Hall of Fame.

As we know, however, wins and losses can be misleading in judging a pitcher’s performance. Example: Harvey Haddix threw 12 perfect innings before allowing an unearned run in the 13th inning on May 26, 1959. The very same Haddix blew a save in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, giving up two runs and nearly costing the Pirates the title. Obviously he pitched better in the 13-inning game than in the World Series game, but he took the loss in the 13-inning masterpiece and earned a victory in his near-disastrous Game 7.

Haddix’ won-loss record was affected by elements beyond his control. The Pirates inability to score against the Braves in 1959 cost him his extra-inning game. Ralph Terry, serving up a homer to Bill Mazeroski, earned Haddix a World Series win. Now if you’d ask Harvey, I think he was happier winning Game 7 of the World Series – and who can blame him?

Today, the flaws of using won-loss as a standard to measure greatness are becoming more understood by mainstream sports press.

It appears that the kind of voting that awarded Bob Welch the 1990 Cy Young Award even when he wasn’t the best starter on his own TEAM, is over (though it could be argued that Welch should have placed third or fourth that year). Hopefully that means we won’t have to see another Cy Young handed out to someone like Bartolo Colon, who cracked the top five in a single pitching category (WHIP) in 2005, but by virtue of being the league’s only 20-game winner, took home hardware.

Hall of Fame voters finally to their senses about Bert Blyleven, for whom I have been beating the Cooperstown drum on my blog for the past few years.

So what if Bert is 13 wins short of 300? If he won two more games in half of his big league seasons, he’d be in. Would that have made his career any better? As for the pitchers who stuck around an extra year or two to get to 300 (I am looking at YOU Gaylord Perry and Randy Johnson), would their careers be any less significant had they finished with 299?

Which brings us back to Jamie Moyer. Injuries finally caught up with him. He finished with 269 wins for his career, a win total that is comparable to some Hall of Famers: 3 more wins than Bob Feller; one more win than Jim Palmer.

Can you imagine if I ever said publicly that Jamie Moyer is in the same class of pitcher as either one of them? How fast would I be put into a straight jacket if I made that statement? He is, however, one win behind Hall of Famers Burleigh Grimes and Red Ruffing and eventual Cooperstown member Mike Mussina.

It got me thinking about Moyer’s surreal career. This was a guy who, in his 20s, looked like a total bust. Between the ages of 23 and 28—when most pitchers are in their prime—he was a combined 34-54 with a 4.56 ERA. Nothing remarkable. By the time he was 29, he was in the minors.

Imagine if I told you back then that Moyer would have more wins than Carl Hubbell, Whitey Ford, Catfish Hunter and Bob Gibson… !

When he turned 30 he was able to harness his junk ball stuff and pitch well enough to win, aided by the likes of Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, Ichiro, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley producing runs for him. And, in the end, his career ERA—4.24—isn’t that much better than his ERA from those subpar 20s.

So imagine if, between 1986 to 1991, he’d been a 10-game winner each year. Nothing significant. Nothing to make him a Cy Young candidate, just hitting the double-digit win mark in what would have been his prime. Add three wins to his 1986 season; one to his 1988 campaign; six in 1989; eight in 1990; 10 in 1991. Then assume the rest of his career plays out the same (including a 1992 season in the minors.) He’d be sitting on 295 wins, and then even an injury-plagued season for a 48-year-old could yield five wins. At that point he’d be at 300—and writers would be forced to evaluate 300 the way that they evaluated 20 wins this year.

Every 300 game winner is either in the Hall of Fame or named Roger Clemens, and God-knows if he will rightfully get voted in.

It would be the litmus test for 300 wins being automatic for Cooperstown, a junkball pitcher who hung around into his late 40s with a mediocre ERA and no real dominating season, who was never considered to be an elite pitcher—waving his Hall of Fame credentials.

Nobody could point to steroids with him; I doubt his fastball would even get a speeding ticket. He’s just a classic crafty lefty who pitches well enough for the W.

No doubt people would bring up his effective, but hardly legendary, stats in making the argument against his Hall of Fame candidacy. The Bill James article will make the rounds, explaining that Moyer has the most “Cheap Wins” in baseball history. To put it simply, 58 of Jaime Moyer’s wins added up to a 5.42 ERA—and with him averaging less than six innings a start. I may not 100 percent sure how James made his calculations, but I can tell you that isn’t good. Yet, also without a doubt, many writers would also say “But he won 300 games. And that’s a number you can’t deny.”

I am bringing this up because, as of this writing, no active pitcher is within 30 of his final total. And Bartolo Colon, at 233, will weigh 300 before he wins 300.

So the idea of 300 wins being a make-or-break stat for the Hall of Fame could have been tested with Jamie Moyerg.

It might be a long while before we see someone sniff 300 again. Would Verlander at 174? King Felix at 154?

Of course, I am in no way trying to demean Moyer with this post. There isn’t a person reading this that wouldn’t trade places with Moyer—in a heartbeat—not only because he has played for nearly a quarter of a century in the big leagues (and called many Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers his teammates). Not because he has a World Series ring on his finger. Not just as the winner of the Hutch Award, the Lou Gehrig Award, the Roberto Clemente Award and the Branch Rickey Award—Moyer’s shown he is one of the true class acts in the game. Not only for all of that, but also because he has made over $80 million during his career (and that’s a number we can ALL can understand—and envy).

Moyer’s had a wonderful career, one in which his win total (despite his lack of great stuff) tells a lot about his ability to grind it through season after season. It’s a career worth celebrating and saluting, but not one to honor with a plaque in Cooperstown.

However, if he’d been just mediocre in his 20s, he may very well have had one.


An earlier version of this post was written for The Hardball Times in 2011.

Jamie Moyer is cooler than you

At age 49 years and 150 day, Jamie Moyer won a major league baseball game.
He pushed former Dodger Jack Quinn aside and set the record for oldest pitcher to win a game. (Quinn pitched one more season after getting that last win but couldn’t chalk up another W!)

So caps off to Jamie Moyer, an All Star and World Series champion and millionaire many times over.

I’ve written two pieces about Moyer that I want to dust off in this momentous occasion. 

This January I wrote a 25 Man Roster consisting only of players who were born after Jamie Moyer’s big league debut on June 16, 1986. It’s not a bad roster with Buster Posey, Elvis Andrus, Justin Upton and Clayton Kershaw.

And in 2010, I wondered about the beginning of Jamie Moyer’s career. Had he just been mediocre in his 20s, we’d be talking about him for the Hall of Fame.

Congrats Mr. Moyer. May you break your own record many times over. 

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All “Born After Jamie Moyer’s Debut” Team – A 25 Man Roster

Jamie Moyer is going to try and keep pitching. He’s sitting on 267 wins and signed with the Colorado Rockies (always a good place for pitchers to revive their career) at age 49.

More than one person has noted that Moyer has pitched in the majors longer than some players have been alive. And that’s true, seeing that he’s logged 24 years in the show. But we here at Sully Baseball don’t just make idle statements. We create 25 man rosters.

So here a 25 man roster of the best players born after Jamie Moyer’s big league debut. I used June 16, 1986 as the absolute oldest date allowed for this roster. He pitched 6 1/3 innings at Wrigley Field that day, earning the win for the Cubs against the Phillies. He beat future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton that day. He got future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt to ground into a double play.

Every single player on this roster was born AFTER that day.

Felix Hernandez, Billy Butler and Yovani Gallardo were born in 1986, but before his debut, so I excluded them.

But don’t worry. There are All Stars, World Series heroes and even a Cy Young Award winner who can honestly say that Jamie Moyer has been a big leaguer longer than they’ve been alive.

All “Born After Jamie Moyer’s Debut” Team

Starting Catcher
Buster Posey

The 2010 Rookie of the Year gave the Giants a much needed spark in their lineup and helped propel them to the World Series title. His season ending injury in 2011 probably ended his catching career. He has 32 career starts at first base.

Posey was born on March 27th, 1987, just before Moyer began his second season in the majors.

Starting First Baseman
Freddie Freeman

One of the brightest young stars in the game, Freeman finished second in the 2011 Rookie of the year vote. He smacked 21 homers and hit to a .282 clip.

Freeman was born on September 12, 1989, two days after Moyer threw a complete game victory for the Rangers against the Orioles.

Starting Second Baseman
Gordon Beckham

The White Sox first round draft pick in 2008 has made his mark at second base. He finished 5th in the 2009 Rookie of the Year vote, slugging 14 homers and posting an .808 OPS.

Beckham was born on September 16, 1986, the day after Moyer pitched 5 innings to defeat the Expos in Montreal, getting future Hall of Famer Andre Dawson to ground out to end a rally.

Starting Shortstop
Elvis Andrus

Andrus, stolen from the Braves organization in the Mark Teixeira deal, has been the spark plug for the Rangers back to back pennant winners. He has at least 32 steals in all three of his seasons and stole 4 bases in the Rangers ALCS upset over the Yankees in 2010.

Andrus was born August 26, 1988, three days after Moyer threw a complete game 9-3 victory over the Astros, helped by a home run by future Hall of Famer Andre Dawson.

Starting Third Baseman
Pablo Sandoval

The beloved “Kung Fu Panda” exploded onto the scene and into the hearts of Giants fans in 2008. He posted an OPS above .900 in both 2009 and 2011 and provided much needed home run pop. He struggled in the Giants World Series title run but clubbed a key RBI double in the NLCS against Philadelphia.

Sandoval was born on August 11, 1986, the same day Jamie Moyer and the Cubs lost 10-7 to Pittsburgh.

Starting Left Fielder
Mike Stanton

One of the most exciting young sluggers in the game, Stanton made the Marlins squad in 2010 at age 20 and hit 22 homers. He followed that with 34 jacks in 2011 and an 141 OPS+.

Stanton was born on November 8, 1989. Moyer had finished his first season with Texas then and had 32 career big league wins.

Starting Center Fielder
Andrew McCutchen

McCutchen, a rare Pirates draft pick that wasn’t a bust, is the electric and multi talented centerpiece to the franchise. Super fast with power and a flare for the dramatic, he made the 2011 All Star team with 23 homers, 23 stolen bases, 89 RBI and a 127 OPS+.

McCutchen was born on October 10, 1986, 15 days after Moyer pitched 7 solid innings against the eventual World Champion New York Mets.

Starting Right Fielder
Justin Upton

The first pick in the 2005 draft made it to the Diamondbacks in time to play in the 2007 NLCS. He broke out in 2009 and last year was one of the best players in the National League, displaying 31 homer power, 21 stolen base speed, an OPS of .898 and helped propel Arizona back into playoffs. He crushed 2 homers in the Division Series against Milwaukee.

Upton was born on August 25, 1987, 5 days before Moyer got roughed up by Atlanta in a 13-4 Cubs loss.

Designated Hitter
Jay Bruce

A key part in the Reds turnaround, Bruce was a consistent home run threat and an All Star in 2011. His walk off homer clinched the NL Central title for the Reds in 2010 and was one of the most dramatic moments in Reds history.

Bruce was born on April 3, 1987, 4 days before Moyer would throw 1/3 inning of relief for the Cubs in their 9-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.


Clayton Kershaw

One of the most dynamic young pitchers in the game, Kershaw had dynamic stuff right out of the minor leagues. But everything came together in a magnificent 2011. He led the league in wins, ERA, strikeouts, WHIP and hits per nine innings and winning the Cy Young Award over favorites Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

Kershaw was born on March 19, 1988, just before Moyer was to begin his third season in the major leagues.

Tommy Hanson

A 22nd round draft pick, Hanson worked his way up the Braves system to become a mainstay in their rotation. He has a career 3.28 ERA over 460 1/3 innings pitched during his three years in Atlanta. Hanson started a game in the 2010 Division Series against the Giants.

Hanson was born on August 28, 1986, the day after Moyer lost a 7-1 game for the Cubs in Houston.

Jaime Garcia

Garcia finished third in the 2010 Rookie of the Year vote when he won 13 games to a 2.70 ERA for the Cardinals. He won 13 games the next year and started 5 games in the post season. He had a 1.80 in over 10 innings in the 2011 World Series.

Garcia was born on July 8, 1986, 2 days before Moyer lasted only 2/3 of an innings in the Cubs 11-4 loss to the Dodgers.

Jeremy Hellickson

After losing Matt Garza and many other key members to their pitching staff, the Rays needed to look within for the 2011 season. They found Jeremy Hellickson who went 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA over 189 innings. He won the Rookie of the Year and helped pitch the Rays to their third playoff berth in four years.

Hellickson was born on April 8, 1987, 5 days before Moyer pitched 8 strong innings, striking out 12 to win the game for the Cubs over the Phillies.

Daniel Hudson

Once a top prospect for the White Sox, Hudson flourished with the Diamondbacks in 2011. He won 16 games and logged 222 innings as Arizona made it back to the playoffs. He also batted .277 and won the Silver Slugger Award.

Hudson was born on March 9, 1987 as Moyer was in spring training getting ready for his second big league season.


Neftali Feliz

Another part of the terrific Mark Teixeira trade, Feliz became the Rookie of the Year in 2010 and clinched the Rangers first ever pennant. He closed out their second pennant the next year and came within a strike of clinching the World Series. At age 24, he has become one of the top closers in the game.

Feliz was born on May 2, 1988, the same day Jamie Moyer pitched 6 innings and got the win for the Cubs in Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego.

Aroldis Chapman

“The Cuban Missile” arrived on American shores with an arm that seemed super human. He averaged 12.8 strikeouts per inning pitched and has almost a 2 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio while hitting triple digits on the radar gun.

Chapman was born on February 28, 1988, just as Jamie Moyer was reporting to spring training after 2 seasons in the bigs.

Craig Kimbrel

Kimbrel was brought up to help the Braves during the stretch run in 2010 and his 17.4 strikeouts per 9 innings gave Atlanta an outstanding pen. The next year he kept up his dazzling numbers, saving 46, striking out 127 and walking only 32 in 77 innings. He won Rookie of the Year in 2011.

Kimbrel was born on May 28th, 1988, 4 days after Moyer pitched into the 10th inning of a hard luck 3-0 Cubs loss to the Atlanta Braves.

Ivan Nova

“The Super Nova” gave the Yankees an unlikely source of depth on the staff in 2011. After an unremarkable promotion in 2010, he received Rookie of the Year consideration in 2011, winning 16 games and throwing 165 1/3 innings. In the suspended Game 1 of the Division Series, Nova won the game with 6 1/3 effective relief innings.

Nova was born on January 12, 1987, after Moyer’s first season in the majors.

Vance Worley

With a team loaded with Cy Young contenders, Worley gave the 2011 Phillies outrageous pitching depth. He went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA and gave the Phillies help with long relief as well.

Worley was born on September 25, 1987, two days after Moyer and the Cubs lost 5-0 to the Phillies in Wrigley Field

The Bench

Reserve Infielder
Starlin Castro

Castro became one of the elite shortstops in the game before he could legally buy a drink. A solid hitter with some pop, he finished 5th in the 2010 Rookie of the Year vote. The next year he made the All Star team while leading the league in hits. Off the field problems are already haunting him, but they are unresolved as of this writing.

The first big leaguer born in the 1990s, Castro was born on March 24, 1990 just as Moyer was beginning his second season with the Texas Rangers.

Reserve Infielder
Pedro Alvarez

The left handed power hitting third baseman provided some pop for the Pirates when he arrived in Pittsburgh during the 2010 season. His numbers tailed off during his second year in the Steel City but remains an important piece in the Pirates hopes for 2012 and beyond.

Alvarez was born on February 6, 1987, just as pitchers and catchers were reporting for Cubs spring training and Jamie Moyer was preparing for his second season.

Reserve Outfielder
Jason Heyward

The J-Hey Kid homered in his first at bat and became an instant fan favorite in Atlanta. He wound up hitting 18 homers posting a 131 OPS+ and finishing second in the Rookie of the Year vote as the Braves returned to the playoffs. He tailed off badly in his second year but remains a big reason for the Braves optimism for the years to come.

Heyward was born on August 9th, 1989 while Jamie Moyer was recovering from injuries. He would come back to the Rangers that September.

Reserve Outfielder
Austin Jackson

Acquired from the Yankees in the Curtis Granderson deal, Jackson gave the Tigers a solid centerfielder with speed and extra base power. He finished second in the 2010 Rookie of the Year vote. The next season he led the league in triples and played a key part in Detroit’s Division Title.

Jackson was born on February 1, 1987 as Moyer was preparing for his second big league season.

Reserve Catcher
Alex Avila

The All Star and Silver Slugger catcher had his breakout season in 2011, helping the Tigers win the Division and make it to the ALCS.

When Avila was born on January 29, 1987, Moyer had 7 career big league victories.

25th Man
Madison Bumgarner

There are several choices for the 25th man, but I am going with Bumgarner for the way he shone on the biggest stage. The 20 year old Bumgarner already showed he had great stuff for the 2010 Giants, but in Game 4 of the World Series he threw 8 shutout innings against the hard hitting Rangers to earn the victory and put San Francisco on the cusp of the title. He won 13 games and pitched to a 3.21 ERA over 204 2/3 innings in 2011 helping create an incredible 1-2-3 punch in the Giants rotation with Lincecum and Cain.

Bumgarner was born on August 1, 1989 as Moyer was rehabbing and a month before he returned to the Texas rotation on September 5th.

That is a solid 25 man roster with some other names left off.

Rick Porcello, Michael Pineda and Chris Volstad are all talented arms. Matt Moore has already had post season glory. Alicides Escobar and Gerardo Parra have had their moments. Mike Trout will probably become a big star.

And Colby Rasmus is in my doghouse, so forgive me if I went with 5 other outfielders.

And Jamie Moyer can come up to each of these players and say “Hey, I’ve been doing this longer than you’ve been on this Earth!”

Good luck Jamie.
I hope you get those 300 wins!

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