Monday, June 28, 2010

Is Jamie Moyer a Hall of Famer?

After attending the Blue Jays- Phillies game with my wife on Friday night, we listened to a local sports talk station on the way home. The Ruben Frank, the host of this particular show on 610 WIP, posed the question: is Jamie Moyer a Hall of Famer? Frank said yes. I say no.

Jamie Moyer has had an exceptional career by any measure. 2010 marks the 24th season that Moyer has appeared in the majors (he spent all of 1992 in the minors), and has racked up over 600 starts and 4000 innings in his time. He has 267 wins, and on Sunday became the all-time record holder for home runs allowed, which really just means he tops a list of fly ball pitchers who lasted a while. But he's not a Hall of Famer.

To me, a Hall of Famer is someone who a) passes the smell test b) displays greatness and dominance over a substantial period and c) is a premier player at their position. By my definition, which is the only one that matters here because this is my blog, a Hall of Fame career is NOT made by one who racks up impressive statistical achievements by playing a long time. Moyer fails on both definitions.

Stacked up against his contemporaries, Moyer ranks only average. He has received Cy Young votes in only three seasons, never finishing better than fourth, and has been named to only one All-Star team. He has allowed over 100 more hits than innings pitched and registers barely over five strikeouts per nine innings. His career ERA is 4.22, and no pitcher with an ERA abover 4.00 has ever been voted into the HoF.

The arguments for Moyer focus mainly on his win total and his uniqueness. While I'm not a devotee of sabermetrics, I do agree with the premise that win totals are overrated for a pitcher, given that there are too many extraneous factors involved. Given some context, Moyer has been on multiple 100-win clubs in Seattle, and has been a part of back-to-back pennant winners in Philadelphia. I think there is value in wins for a pitcher, but there are many other stats that show a pitchers value and ability better, in my opinion. As for the uniqueness of a 47-year old pitcher, that's all well and good, but Eddie Gaedel isn't in the Hall of Fame.

Defenders will point out that Moyer has played in an offensive era, which is true. However, his career ERA+ is only 105. The career ERA+ of Curt Schilling, a contemporary likely to be in a heated HoF debate was 128.

Finally, let's compare Moyer to Bert Blyleven, the current HoF hot-button candidate. Moyer will likely finish close to Blyleven's total career start number, but will trail by several hundred innings, around 50 shutouts, over 200 complete games (200!), well over 1000 strikeouts, an actual ERA figure of about a run and an ERA+ that will lag 118-105. And Blyleven has found it tricky to get into Cooperstown's hallowed Halls.

Even if Moyer were to somehow reach 300 wins, I'm still not convinced he's a Hall of Famer. The old-guard milestones have fallen by the wayside over the last decade, and not just because of steroids. Jim Thome has 570 home runs, has never had even a hint of steroid suspicion surround him, and he's no slam dunk for the Hall.

In the end, whether Moyer's last season comes when he's 47 or 57, he should be quite proud of the career he's put together. It's very, very good. But it's not worthy of the Hall of Fame.

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