Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Mr. Moyer, Mr. Wells, meet Mr. Fork?

I don't want to say that Jamie Moyer is done quite yet, but judging by the early returns of tonight's game against the Yankees so far (8 H 6 ER 3.1 IP), it will be his fourth consecutive miserable outing since his only true gem of the season, 8 innings of 6 hit 1 run ball on April 24 (achieved, by theway, against the punchless Cuyahoga Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons in cavernous Safeco Field). If he endures another start like this his next turn through the rotation, it may be time to say goodbye to Moyer's ability as an effective pitcher. His decline really started to show last year (5.21 ERA, which was mostly a result of an alarming 44 HR allowed), but his first 5 starts of 2005 hinted at a recovery. It doesn't appear to be, as a K:BB ratio that used to be regularly 3:1 has now dipped below 2:1. The homers aren't flying out at the same rate as they were in 2004, but he's on pace to allow as many hits, if not more. It may have gotten to the point where he's lost so much velocity that hitters are able to sit on his changeup. That's pure speculation, but what else is there to explain this? He's not walking more batters, but they're striking out less and hitting him harder and more often. To me, that means a decline in "stuff" rather than a decline in control. He was never dominant, but if he had managed to find his niche when he was 27 instead of 33, we might be talking about Moyer in the same breath as Hall of Fame candidate Tom Glavine. Moyer only needs 4 more victories to reach 200, however, and in this era, that's nothing to sneeze at.

David Wells has had a fairly similar career, though he has commanded much more of the limelight, and has claimed more victories thanks to his success earlier on in his career. His rollercoaster 2005 took another precipitous drop today, after giving up 9 hits and 7 runs in only 1.1 innings. Wells's strength has always been his control, which has stayed true to form this year--only 3 walks in 6 starts, and he's actually been striking out more people than he had in the past 2 years. Wells, like Moyer, is allowing many more hits. While DIPS theory may tell you that hits allowed can't tell you much about a pitcher's performance, I believe that in the cases of Wells and Moyer, hits allowed tells you that they are losing their stuff. Both have had long and successful careers, so it would be a shame to see both of them tail off so badly at the end. Both of them have pitched stellar games so far this year, so there's no question that there's still a possibility of a turnaround. Here's hoping both pitchers can salvage some respectability.

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