It’s been really cute watching Jamie Moyer pitch forever, dodging all of the problems that come with the inevitable degradation of his stuff and clinging on wherever he can probably only because of the story he represents. Moyer seems like a likable fellow, and he was at one point a very valuable pitcher in a hitter’s era, but he is simply no longer a viable option for a Major League baseball team.
I’ll admit to being intrigued by the idea of a 50-year-old playing at baseball’s highest level, but this just isn’t going to work. Moyer’s fastball seriously struggles to ever hit 80 mph at this stage in the game, and he isn’t fooling anyone anymore. You can only talk for so long about how the guy has heart and moxie and grit before all of it just serves to build his legend into something that is no longer even close to representative of his playing ability. Moyer’s lasting memory stands to go down as one of sheer determination and mediocrity, and while that’s where things stand in 2012, it bears repeating that once he was actually a front-line starter.
Moyer’s career is bookended by ineffectiveness. While he’s pretty much a shell of a real starting pitcher now, he began his resume in a similar fashion. Per Baseball Reference, Moyer was only worth a full win above replacement one time in his first six seasons. Things didn’t actually pan out for Moyer, and this is bizarre, until his age-34 season in 1997. As a Seattle Mariner, Moyer flourished. After an uninspiring but worthwhile 1996, Moyer posted a sub-4.00 ERA and walked only 43 hitters in 188 2/3 innings. This was just the start.
From 1998-2003, Moyer was really pretty awesome. The soft-tosser (who admittedly tossed quite a bit less soft 10-15 years ago) put up a number of banner years, such as his 5.2 WAR 1998 and 6.2 WAR 1999. Each of these seasons saw Moyer develop into a complete workhorse, as he topped 228 innings both years while mitigating his lack of strikeout stuff with top notch control. Moyer walked under 2.0/9 in both seasons, and that control became pretty much the sole reason for his new-found success. Moyer kept this up for a while by topping the 3.0 WAR mark three more times (he also went over the 5.0 mark again in 2002) before bottoming out quickly and thoroughly. His angle simply didn’t work any longer and his stuff wasn’t about to pick up the slack.
All in all, Moyer amassed 44.8 WAR over the course of a million seasons per Baseball Reference. He was a decent enough starter, a serviceable one to be sure, for a while and better than that for a brief stint. In the end, none of his wily veteran angst (hey, it sounds like something Joe Morgan might say) was able to save him and prolong his career into something more.
Moyer would undoubtedly still get plenty of attention should another team bring him on board, but it would be entirely for the wrong reasons. He is no longer the caliber of pitcher that deserves a roster spot, but there’s no shame in that. The guy is 49 years old. What’s the point in prolonging retirement when the only accolades that can be earned are littered with caveats? It seems like Moyer would want to go out on his own terms, not because no one will give him a job. After all, “he pitched a nice game” sounds a lot more appealing than “he pitched a nice game for a middle-aged guy.” The former used to be true of Moyer’s starts, while even the latter is doubtful going forward.