Sweatin’ With the Oldies

Last week I touched on something veteran lefty Jamie Moyer mentioned with regards to evaluating pitchers in a given season.  While reading the interview in which this idea surfaced I got to thinking that, wow, Jamie Moyer is very old for a major league baseball player.  Sure, he is a lefthanded pitcher and I have heard tons of sentiments regarding like-handed pitchers being able to stick around longer but Jamie is 45 years old; not 41 or 42, but 45.  Such a big deal was made about Julio Franco playing late into his years, but while he just batted once every three or four days, Moyer has to go out every fifth day and perform for a significant amount of time.
That sent me to the stat-sheets (or Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs) to look at his numbers.  Surprisingly, I found that Moyer had pitched 199+ innings each year from age 38-44, averaging 210 IP/yr in that span.  So I started to wonder where he ranks amongst similarly aged pitchers.  Using the Baseball-Reference Play Index, I looked at all pitchers since 1956 that were primarily starters from age 38-44 (sorry, Jim Kaat) and recorded their average game score, IP/yr, K/BB ratio, and ERA+.  The query produced just ten names:

Player GSC IP/yr K/BB ERA+
Nolan Ryan 60 208 2.75 114
Randy Johnson 59 158 4.59 131
Roger Clemens 57 179 2.96 134
Warren Spahn 55 246 1.90 105
Phil Niekro 54 265 1.76 114
Charlie Hough 53 221 1.31 107
Gaylord Perry 52 213 2.27 106
Jamie Moyer 51 210 2.20 107
David Wells 49 162 3.45 101
Tommy John 48 160 1.27 101

Relative to ERA+, all ten of these pitchers were above average in this span as an entirety.  Of course, there is some bias present in the sense that a pitcher isn’t going to be allowed to pitch this long unless he is somewhat effective.  Moyer’s average game score ranks 7th while his K/BB and ERA+ are closer to the middle of the pack.  He’s been a bit more durable in his later years than the likes of Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens but not really as effective.
Moyer is currently older than 44, though, and still pitching.  Probing the Play Index for all pitchers 45+, I get half of the above group: Nolan Ryan, Jamie Moyer, Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro, and Tommy John.

Player GSC IP/gm K/BB ERA+
Nolan Ryan 52 5.59 1.86 97
Jamie Moyer 49 5.94 2.13 107
Charlie Hough 48 5.78 1.55 94
Phil Niekro 48 6.28 1.20 96
Tommy John 44 5.33 1.46 82

It should also be noted that Hough and Niekro were knuckleballers. Based on average game scores, Nolan ranks first at 52, with Moyer second at 49.  Relative to innings pitcher per game, rather than year since Moyer’s age 45 season is currently taking place, only Phil Niekro’s 6.28 outdoes Jamie’s 5.94.  In terms of K/BB, Jamie’s 2.13 ranks first, with Nolan’s 1.86 coming in second.  Finally, looking at ERA+, Jamie’s 107 is the only one above 100 of the group.
On Saturday I’m going to continue this by comparing the seasons above to earlier seasons for the same pitchers, but based on these results it seems that Jamie Moyer has the potential to become the best 45+ starting pitcher in the Retrosheet era.

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2 Responses to Sweatin’ With the Oldies

  1. Alan says:

    The best 45+! Moyer refuses to quit.
    Eric, with the stuff you’re finding out and comparing — and barring injury, obviously — how long do you think Moyer can keep this up? Think he could make it to 50 and still be pitching in the league?

  2. Alan, honestly, I would say next year and that’s it. As I mentioned at the start, a guy like Julio Franco got one AB every 2nd or 3rd day and that was it. Moyer has to overexert himself with an incredibly unnatural motion such as pitching for extended periods of time once or twice a week.
    He says he feels great but I don’t think we’re too far removed from seeing him get hit around really well, which pains me as a Phillies fan.
    If it were my decision, he would retire this year assuming he finishes the year throwing well. Go out “on top” so to speak rather than test yourself until you can’t go anymore.

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