Remember when the robot in Terminator refuses to die? The lady, like, punches him, shoots him, squishes him in a pressing machine, but he’s still reaching out one mechanical claw, ever thrilled at the prospect of pre-killing John Conner? Well, in this analogy, Jamie Moyer is Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Colorado Rockies have agreed to terms with LHP Jamie Moyer and are a physical away from one of the more intriguing displays in Triple-A. Moyer is not only coming back from Tommy John surgery, something that derails even young pitchers, but he is also recovering from The Beatles breakup. Which happened when he was 8 years old.
This is the joke they were making about Moyer six years ago.
What does this mean? Well: (1) Jamie Moyer is pretty much my idol. And (2) he has a long — nay, looooooong — shot at making the big leagues in 2012. Let’s take a look at what Moyer could possibly have left in the tank.
Moyer turned 49 at the tail end of 2011, so he will play the 2012 season as a 49-year-old. In all the years of baseball history, only three players have pitched at or beyond that age: Jack Quinn (49 in 1933), Hoyt Wilhelm (49 in 1972), and Satchel Paige (59 at gametime in 1965).
Befuddlingly, that trio combines for 44 innings of 4.09 ERA and a 3.91 FIP pitching — with the absurd Paige appearance sparkling with 3 IP of 2.53 FIP ball in what was one of the games more bizarre days. Honestly, from a group that combines for 157 years, that is not bad. Granted, we have multiple eras of baseball roped together here, but none of them are Deadball Era pitchers, so it’s not entirely noise.
What do these three pitchers tell us? Well: At age 48+, a pitcher needs to be either serviceable or part of same weird Negro Leagues tribute game. Oh, and a Hall of Famer… Or Austria-Hungarian (why is Jack Quinn not in the Hall of Fame? You’d think 24 seasons gets you a consolation bust. I digress).
The term “serviceable” would require defining before applying it to Moyer. For the last 7 years, Moyer has had a FIP- under 100 only once — in 2008 (3.71 ERA, 4.32 FIP) — and when he last pitched in 2010, he mustered a 4.98 FIP (good for a 123 FIP-).
Still, despite all that, he has been worth 9 WAR his last 7 seasons — that’s about 1.3 WAR per season. In 2009 and 2010, he was worth 0.4 and 0.3 WAR respectively, but the mere fact he was above replacement level is fascinating. With a worse-than-average average FIP (which Moyer has incessantly) staying power and inning eating become the only paths to positive WAR.
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.
But pitchers get injured — even the young ones — and minor leaguers are needed. Last season, the Colorado Rockies used 13 different starting pitchers and all but 1 started multiple games. Because Moyer has no verifiable platoon split, he will either be needed for starting or long relief appearances.
Of those three other near-half-century pitchers, only Paige started a game, and even then was pulled quickly (according to a predetermined plan) and was part of a gimmick.
So what can we say for Moyer? Dude’s a trooper. In all likelihood, he’s on a very short leash. If his starts the season with a 5.00+ ERA for the first month, he probably gets replaced by a younger, higher upside pitcher — even if it’s just him shaking the rust off.
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.