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Split Squad: Is Moyer Hall-Worthy?

Conan Hines

Conan Hines writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Justin Green

Justin Green writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The hiatus is over and Split-Squad is back. We decided to tackle something that will probably be somewhat controversial, and not necessarily fantasy-related, to see what readers and staff thought. The question we’re asking today is whether or not Jamie Moyer deserves serious consideration for the Hall of Fame. Is he a borderline HOFer? The longer he plays, the more the question means. We think he has come far enough to warrant such a discussion.

Moyer the Destroyer (by Conan Hines)

Jamie Moyer just achieved a milestone the other night, but it wasn’t the sort of milestone that will help my position (and maybe I should stop opening up articles in a way that immediately traumatizes my argument). He tied Robin Roberts for the most home runs allowed all-time. Roberts is a HOFer. Nolan Ryan has walked more players than any pitcher all-time – second to him is Steve Carlton with almost a thousand less. Cy Young has the most losses all-time. So let’s put aside this silly home run stat and remember that he’s never given up a dinger to a pitcher.

Now I know the argument against Moyer is that he never dominated a period of time. I will concede that, but there are no clearly defined stipulations for getting into the HOF. I will say Old Man Moyer is on his way to his 14th 10-win season in the last 15 years. I also will say he has more victories than Pedro Martinez – oh, you knew that? Well, how about he still has more after you take off the first 8 seasons of his career. How about, he toughed it out long enough to grab a ring – something a lot of HOFers haven’t done. But does any of this give him the credentials to get in the Hall?

In the upcoming weeks Moyer will surpass Sandy Koufax in strikeouts. That is unbelievable to me. And it will be funny looking in amazement at how the greatest strikeout pitcher of his time has less strikeouts than the greatest soft-tosser of his time. For me, Moyer’s argument is the antithesis of the Koufax argument – and just as strong. If you put Koufax in the Hall, for my money, you seriously have to consider Jamie.

They say you need longevity and dominance. The knock on recently elected Jim Rice was that he didn’t dominate long enough – 10 years was the marker. For 14 years he was a borderline HOFer, getting in on his last year. Koufax, a no-brainer for the BBWAA in 1972, pitched for 12 seasons. He made 20 or more starts in nine of those seasons, and managed 10 or more wins in only seven of those. To me, I don’t see much, if any, longevity in the great lefty’s numbers. But he was dominant, and enough so that he was determined worthy of the great, almost holy, honor.

For me, Moyer’s longevity is so great that it trumps his lack of “true” dominance. Over 200 of his wins have come from the age of 33 and beyond. He had more wins from 1996-2007 than Koufax had in his 12-year term. So how did the most dominant pitcher, maybe of all-time, over a 12-year span – on a great ball club – have less wins than this old-timer? Moyer has finished in the Top 6 in Cy Young voting three times, so it’s not like he didn’t put together some great seasons. In fact, he just became the oldest pitcher ever to throw a shutout. He has as many wins as Bob Feller, and more than Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Pedro and, of course, Koufax. He will also pass Jim Palmer on the list this season.

I could go on, but I think that’s more for his candidacy. Right now, he deserves to be on the ballot and remain there. I think until Moyer’s career is finished, we won’t be able to look back and see what he truly has done. You think Pedro could ever think about throwing a shutout, much less a baseball, nine years from now? What about the consideration for staying on the field so long? He’s defied all odds – isn’t that what the Hall of Fame is all about? I think we need to break this mold about what stats make a HOFer and more about what being in the Hall embodies. So whether he’s truly a HOFer is an argument for another day; but for today he’s earned the right for consideration.

Moyer: Good But Not Great (by Justin Green)

Moyer is not worthy of entry into the Hall of Fame for two reasons: he does not have the statistics to justify entry, and the Hall is not for players who merely had a long career. The Hall of Fame's motto is "Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations." Moyer would fit the mold for the first and last phrase of that motto, but the middle phrase is a bit more troublesome. Is "excellence" a word that comes to mind when thinking about Moyer? I say no. He is a talented, above-average pitcher, but he has not defined the "excellence" necessary for entrance to the Hall.

One of the Hall of Fame pitchers that stuck out to me when thinking of a comparison to Moyer is Phil Niekro. Both pitched 24 years (up to this point) and both are known for soft tossing. Looking at Niekro's stats, it is clear why he was elected. He averaged 140 K/year, had a 3.35 career ERA, and had 318 career wins. Those are some solid numbers over a 24-year career. Moyer, on the other hand, does not come that close to Niekro's stats. If Moyer were to retire today, he would finish his career with a 4.14 ERA, 264 wins, and an average of just 99 K/year. I don't know about you, but a 4.14 ERA is not something I would call excellent. In fact, Moyer had just two years, with the Mariners, where he had an ERA lower than Niekro's 3.35 career ERA. Obviously Niekro is not the benchmark for Hall entry, but he provides a good comparison to Moyer.

Another way to compare Moyer to other members of the Hall is to look at strikeouts and wins compared to numbers of games started. Moyer has started 621 games in his career. There are seven pitchers in the hall that started within 50 games of that number. Of those seven, five have 300 wins or more. Moyer presently has 264 wins. Looking at strikeouts, Moyer presently has 2,376 career Ks. Comparing that number to the seven comparable starters in the Hall, three have less Ks than Moyer. However, two of those three have 300 or more wins. The only exception to that is Robin Roberts, who finished with 286 wins in 609 starts. It’s important to note that Roberts finished his career with a 3.41 ERA and just 902 walks. So, we can see that that the majority of pitchers in Moyer's class have more strikeouts than Moyer, and even those that don't have 300 or more wins.

Moyer has had a long career but a long career itself does not mean a player should be in the Hall of Fame. If that were the case, there would be chatter of guys like Greg Zaun and Jason Kendall going into the Hall. That will never happen. I'm not saying Moyer is at the same level of those guys, but if people are hoping his long career is enough for entry, it should not be. I love history and I feel it has its place, and I do not want to sound like I am dissing Moyer (a., because I hate the word ‘diss’, and b., because he is talented), but while the accomplishment of a long career is perhaps worthy of a display at the Hall, it does not get one into the elite group in the players’ wing.