What Are the Secrets to Jamie Moyer’s Success?

Jamie MoyerI originally posted this on the Flushing University forums, but I figured it was extensive, informative, and interesting enough to repost here. I was asked how Moyer, nearly at the age of 46 and throwing a fastball that barely tops 82 MPH, was able to find so much success this season.

I’ll just copy-paste my response:

. . .

He’s had a 5% increase in ground balls as compared to last year and his 44.2 GB% is the highest it’s been since at least 2001 (FanGraphs only tracks batted ball percentages as far back as 2002, though we can manually calculate them using Baseball Reference’s Hit Trajectory splits). As a result of throwing less fly balls in a stadium that helps push a lot of fly balls a lot further than they justifiably should have flown (Ed.: This is mostly due to the winds, not the dimensions of the ballpark), Moyer’s home run percentages have gone down as well. His HR/FB is at 9.2%, which is the lowest it’s been since 2005, when his home stadium was Yellowstone… excuse me, Safeco Field.

Moyer’s also been a little bit lucky on balls in play. With a 20.8 LD% and considering the 5% increase in ground balls, we’d expect a BABIP in the .325-.335 area, but it’s only at .295. He’s faced 739 hitters, so we’d expect the following amounts of hits…

.295 BABIP: 218 hits
.325 BABIP: 240 hits
.335 BABIP: 248 hits

So, he’s saved between 22-30 hits on the season because of his lower-than-normal BABIP.

Looking at FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which looks only at events that the pitcher can directly control, we’d expect his ERA to be around 4.30. Compare that to his current 3.64 ERA and we see that the Phillies’ defense has saved Moyer about two-thirds of a run per game. That’s 19 runs over his 29 starts.

Lastly, Moyer has been throwing a lot more fastballs, believe it or not. According to FanGraphs, Moyer has had a 5.2% increase in the use of his four-seam fastball from ’07 to ’08 and a 5.7% increase in the use of his cutter. It looks like he ditched his slider, and he’s thrown his curve ball 2.0% less and his change-up 7.6% less.

So, based upon my research, I conclude the following have been factors in Moyer’s success:

  • More groundballs, less HR
  • Fortunate BABIP
  • Good defense behind him
  • Modified pitch selection

There’s a good chance that Moyer will be returning to the Phillies in ’09, so it will be interesting to see if these numbers hold, considering that the Phillies will generally be fielding the same defensive team. Burrell will probably be back, but if he isn’t, it only makes the defense better.

. . .

I’d like to add to that by pointing out that Moyer has given up significantly fewer extra-base hits. Moyer is on pace to allow 201 total hits: 138 singles, 39 doubles, 5 triples, and 20 home runs (.408 SLG). Last season, he allowed 222 hits: 131 singles, 57 doubles, 4 triples, and 30 home runs (.483 SLG).

And going back to the Hit Trajectory splits, I think it’s interesting to note the difference between 2007 and ’08.

Fly Balls, 2007: 39.4% .855 OPS
Fly Balls, 2008: 35.1% .731 OPS

Ground balls, 2007: 39.4% .492 OPS
Ground balls, 2008: 44.2% .459 OPS

Line Drives, 2007: 21.2% 1.765 OPS
Line Drives, 2008: 20.8% 1.644 OPS

The OPS is down across the board this season. The difference is at its highest on fly balls, most of which is due to the decreased home run rate, but as mentioned, hitters aren’t getting too many extra-base hits off of him. Surely the plus-arms of Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, and Geoff Jenkins help in the prevention of singles being stretched into doubles and doubles stretched into triples, but overall, hitters just aren’t hitting Moyer very hard, as evidenced by the 16.8% infield fly balls (IFFB) he’s induced, a 4.3% increase from last season and about 3% above his career average.

While it is surprising to see a 46-year-old up among the league leaders in ERA (16th in NL), Moyer’s success isn’t fluky. Considering that he’ll have essentially the same defense behind him in ’09 (assuming he doesn’t retire and returns to the Phillies), there’s very little that would cause Moyer to have a clunker of a season, considering that he doesn’t rely on much more than location and intellect when he’s on the mound.

. . .

I was just notified of an interesting and useful website: FirstDibz.com is a place where season ticket-holders sell and put “dibz” on post-season face value tickets for their particular team. Here’s the Phillies section.

A Note to the New York Mets

Brett Myers, September 5 @ NYM: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K

Jamie Moyer, September 7 @ NYM: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 R, 3 BB, 1 K

Oh, and you have to face Cole Hamels in about two hours. Cue the “Everybody hits! Woo hoo!” guy.

Speaking of fun times, Brad Lidge will be appearing on the Las Vegas-based Country Fastball radio show at 6 PM tonight. The radio show combines baseball and country music, so it’s no surprise to learn that Lidge will be a guest. You may recall that Brad Lidge is also a hard rock fan, particularly of Drowning Pool.

Completely Non-Sports-Related

I’ll get back to baseball eventually… but I just finished reading this article by Charlie Sorrel and I had to use my platform — albeit a small one — here to respond to it. It’s basically a grouchy “I hate technology” article though it appears it’s Sorrel’s job to cover technology. Well, no one said you had to like what you write about for a living, but it sure helps you get out of bed every morning.

He lists five technologies that “should be banned” and gives little explanations after each of them. I’ll just quote Sorrel in bold and my response will be under it, FJM-style.

A speakerphone’s advantages are far outweighed by the fact that it can be used to play music. Specifically (and you might detect the voice of experience here), really bad rap music on the train to the beach.

Technically speaking, a speakerphone doesn’t play music (actually, I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to cell phones as I don’t even own one myself, so I am probably wrong about that); a speakerphone allows the voice of the person calling you to be emitted so that you either don’t have to hold the phone up to your ear (great for driving) or so multiple people in the room can listen.

And we should ban these speakerphones because they play music that Mr. Sorrel doesn’t like? There’s no more annoying person than a music snob…

Worse, the speakers are terrible. Bass becomes buzz, drums become tinny taps and vocals distort. At least the old 1970s boomboxes packed a decent punch.

This is actually true but it’s still not a reason to ban them.

If the cyborg-like plug in your ear weren’t bad enough, you look like a crazy-person whenever you use it, muttering to yourself as you walk down the street. Throw it away, now.

I don’t know what to say, this is such a nonsensical argument. People should not use Bluetooth technology because Mr. Sorrel gets confused by the fact that he’s talking but his hands are at his sides and there’s no one in his vicinity? I bet he gets confused and walks into glass windows after they’ve been cleaned, too. Oh, and he tries to interact with his reflection in the mirror.

the ringtone is the bane of modern existence, and reached a nadir with the release of the Crazy Frog, a ringtone based on a piece of music designed to piss people off

Crazy Frog is 100% annoying and I guess if you really wanted to put a halt to annoying ring tones, you could cite something like a public nuisance (did I forget to tell you that I’m not a lawyer?), but the easier solution is to just chill out. We’re basically talking about strangers you will never see again, or at least won’t have any meaningful interaction with ever again.

But they are invariably used as a way to make the owner of the phone somehow look smart or funny. This, as we know, never works.

It depends on the ring tone. Most people’s tones don’t do anything — at least for me — to think they’re smart or funny, though I will laugh every time I hear “You could hear me ‘fore you see me, I got king Kong in the trunk” (listen to the song).

Lightweight, convenient and offering hundreds of titles in your pocket, the e-book is surely a perfect gadget. It can’t even annoy your fellow-travellers on public transport. But it has a secret agenda: to destroy romance itself.

Yeah… no.

You might remember that I hollowed out a Moleskine notebook to hide my iPod Touch, the theory being that while a handsome young man reading a paperback and sipping a coffee at a pavement café would attract the ladies, a nerd reading an e-book would not.

My theory was proved correct this week. Sipping a glass of wine and looking very intellectual, I finished reading the last page of my book (something by Paul Auster, if you must know). I switched to my iPod Touch (without the Molekine prophylactic). Just then, the pretty girl at the next table turned around and, with a flirtatious smile, asked what I was doing.

“Reading” I said

“Reading?” she asked, tipping her lovely head to a rather coquettish angle.

“Yes,” I replied, “I’m reading a book on my iPod.”

She glanced down at the device in front of me.

“Reading a book on your iPod?”

As I nodded she simply turned away, brow slightly furrowed. I went home alone.

So, we should not use e-Books because Sorrel doesn’t get laid by some woman he randomly talked to about his iPod? Based on the conversation he described, he didn’t come off as warm; in fact, he came off as cold and anti-social. Maybe instead of blaming technology for his lonely weekends, he should blame himself.

This one comes from my brother, a motorbike rider who commutes daily. His problem: Morons. He thinks that most of the time people know where they are going and don’t actually need a satnav unit. Further, he argues, owners use them when they don’t need to, to justify the purchase.

So what if they know where they’re going “most of the time”? By this logic, anyone who has a daily commute should not ever buy a Satnav. It’s not for the tedious commute to work every day; it’s for those times when you have no clue where you’re going: a wedding (this comes from personal experience… last week, I went to a wedding and arrived late — but just in time for the “You may kiss the bride” part — because I had no idea where I was going and drove by the entrance to the place probably three times), a camping trip out in the country, to your cousin’s new house in another county, etc.

Furthermore, who cares how people use it? So what if they use it to “justify the purchase”? Sorrel (and his brother) need to back out of other people’s lives and just relax and stop being so opposed to new technology.

Here’s what a legitimate anti-technology list would look like:

  • Ban the use of cell phones while driving. Some states have already done this, but it needs to be wholly enforced. Unlike Sorrel’s list, this “ban” focuses on meaningful issues, like the safety of the hundred-million drivers in this country (I’ not sure if that’s an accurate guess).

That’s it. That’s pretty much the only gripe with technology that can legitimately be made (aside from cell phones in hospitals… that’s an obvious one). Life is kind of pleasant when you don’t get angry at people all the time because of how they look while they talk on their cell phone or what tune is emitted from their phones.

I’ll “get offa” your lawn now, Mr. Sorrel.

Sorry!

I apologize for the lack of updates here at Crashburn Alley (and at Baseball Digest Daily and Flushing University). I’ve been pretty busy and haven’t had enough time to intelligently discuss the Phollies (not a typo?) and their quest for the NL East pennant.

But, yeah… losing two of three to the Washington Nationals in September. That’s, uh, what winning teams do, right?

Something for you to look forward to: In a couple weeks, I’ll have a big post on who I think should be recipients of those great awards. Don’t get the party hats and streamers yet!