Moyer the Reliever

For the first time since 1996, Jamie Moyer is going to be appearing in the bullpen more than once. News broke yesterday that Pedro Martinez will start for the Phillies on Wednesday, bumping baseball’s version of old man river to the bullpen permanently.

Moyer’s season has been a dramatic letdown after his perceived revival last year. His home run rate is back up to norm while his strikeouts are back down and while Moyer’s velocity has been unaffected; his stuff is resulting in less swings and misses than in the past. In fact this is the highest contact% in Moyer’s recorded history.

Dave (surname: Allen) covered Moyer’s new fastball-heavy approach last month. The updated news is that it still seems to be working out horribly. Take a look at his wFB/C over the past few years:

2006 0.01
2007 -1.55
2008 -0.37
2009 -0.51

For every 100 pitches Moyer is throwing 61 fastballs and it happens to be his second worst pitch behind only his change-up (at least this year). Obviously those numbers are heavily dependent on Moyer’s defense making the plays but it’s simply not an effective pitch after nearly three years of negative numbers despite good defenses.

So he moves to the pen and how exactly he’ll be used is up to anyone’s guess. An atypical lefty Moyer’s numbers don’t scream specialist. Since 2006, his wOBA against lefties is ~.357 and ~.383 against righties; in terms of 2009 equivalents, you get Nick Markakis and Derek Lee. That’s not a pretty sight to behold.

The general rule of thumb is for starters to lose about a run off their average in a transition to the pen. Combine such knowledge with Moyer’s ZiPS ROS projection and you get a 3.7 run average reliever. Of course ZiPS doesn’t know Moyer is using his fastball more or anything of the such, so you can bump that projection up as you see fit.

Unfortunately, Moyer’s career in the rotation could come to a close. Maybe he can extend the longevity by excelling out of the pen.

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13 years ago

Does anyone really see Moyer as a true reliever in the Phils pen (barring injuries)? I think he gets mop up duty and spot starts on double headers, and will attempt to stay sharp in case they need him if Pedro crashes and burns, or if the Phils clinch early.