Aging Gracefully

Jamie Moyer is 45 years old. Jamie Moyer has thrown 190 innings, has won 15 games, and has a 3.78 ERA. Jamie Moyer is 45 years old.

This is, in two words, historically remarkable. Very few pitchers last long enough to throw until they’re 45, and even fewer do it at a level that adds value to their team. Finding pitchers who are significantly better than the league average starting pitcher at age 45 is almost impossible.

In the history of baseball, the list of guys who have been this good while being this old essentially reads like this:

Satchel Paige, 1952 and 1953
Phil Niekro, 1984
Jamie Moyer, 2008

At age 45 and 46, Paige put up two terrific seasons with the St. Louis Browns, but he did it primarily in relief, only making ten starts combined in 1952 and 1953. While Paige is certainly one of the great pitchers of all time, there’s still a pretty significant difference to pitching out of the bullpen, and Paige’s ’52 and ’53 seasons weren’t that much better than Moyer’s even on the surface. The fact that he was mostly a reliever makes them slightly less impressive.

Niekro’s 1984 season is the real contender to the throne for best pitching season at 45+ years of age. He tossed his knuckler up there for 216 innings, and won 16 games with a 3.09 ERA in his last truly good season. He floated his way to a 3.50 FIP, and despite being a knuckler, he didn’t get any real boost from limiting hits on balls in play. His real success was in keeping the ball in the park, as he allowed just 15 home runs that year.

Moyer’s 2008 doesn’t quite compare – his 4.33 FIP is higher than 1984 Niekro even after adjusting for the relative run scoring eras, and the difference is essentially in that home run rate. Moyer’s alllowed five more home runs than Niekro did and has pitched 25 less innings to boot. The rest of their performances are pretty similar, but those longballs give Niekro a slight edge.

So, instead of saying that Moyer is having the best age 45 season of all time, he has to settle for second best. Ever. In all the great performances we’ve seen this year, let’s not overlook what Moyer’s doing in defying aging.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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He’s 45 AND he pitches his home games in Philadelphia…..

It’s awe inspiring to contemplate that a 45 year old could post 190 innings of something akin to league average (for a starter). Not only that, but he only required a 1 year commitment for a paltry $3.5M.

To top it off, he’s a guy you’d love to have a neighbor.