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Moyer’s Importance Beyond Each Inning Pitched

By: Evan Flamm

6/23/09

The to-date performance by the Phillies pitching staff may be lackluster, but the team manages to hold the division with their potent offense. There has been a relatively low amount of consistency coming from any starting or relief pitcher, caused by fatigue, injuries, and underperformance. Brett Myers, a reliable starting pitcher down the stretch of the 2008 season, was lost early in the season and Chan Ho Park’s ineffectiveness as a starter forced two young southpaws, Antonio Bastardo and J.A. Happ, to take the reins as the new base of the Phillies pitching staff. These two players may hold the key to any playoff push the Phils may pull off. Barring a big trade for an over-priced starting pitcher, the Phillies may have to rely on Happ and Bastardo for most of the season to mature and pitch up to their potential.

Rich Dubee will have his work cut out for him, as he tries to turn around all the current pitching issues with most of the pitching staff. However, one part to note is that Dubee is helped by Jamie Moyer, whose 22 years of experience pitching in the big leagues could be the keystone needed to drive the Phillies to another playoff run. Also, with eleven pitchers in the staff and Charlie Manuel’s expertise in hitting rather than pitching, the two year extension at the end of last season for Moyer was really paying him for his ability to teach the other hurlers and to pitch consistently.

Although his numbers have been less than stellar in the early parts of the season, including a dismal 6.09 ERA, Moyer has quietly been the silent workhorse the Phillies are craving right now with all the injuries. In his last six starts, Moyer has pitched 6 innings or more, eating up valuable innings that have been lost from short outings from the starters as well as injuries to vital bullpen pieces like Brad Lidge, Clay Condrey, and the 50-game suspension of J.C. Romero. His latest start against Toronto on June 17th showed his commitment to the team by struggling through six innings and giving up 6 Earned Runs in order to give the bullpen some breathing room.

Besides each pitch he throws, his value cannot be overlooked in his teaching ability to these young hurlers. We saw in October how valuable his teachings were as Cole Hamels dominated the post-season after picking apart Moyer’s brain for the past two seasons. The camera shots into the Phillies dugout often show members of the pitching rotation consulting with Moyer on different aspects of the game to hone their abilities into perfection. Moyer needs not to convince these players, as he has dazzled professional hitters for several seasons with his 83 MPH fastball and lackluster repertoire of pitches. This 46-year-old pitcher has used every available resource in the game to keep getting hitters out, which few pitchers take advantage of due to their explosive fastballs and devastating secondary pitches.

Bastardo and Happ, like Hamels, have decent fastballs, but can be killed by pitching over the middle of the plate with their average curveballs and change-ups. For example, in Bastardo’s first major league start, he overpowered the poor lineup of the San Diego Padres with 95 MPH heat. However, the scouting report indicated that he usually hit the low 90s on the radar gun, indicating the amount of adrenaline he had during that outing. The issue arises when these pitches are served over the plate to the Carlos Beltrans or Chipper Joneses who will make him pay for such poor located pitches. As hitters adjust to Bastardo, he will need more than ever the wisdom of Moyer to utilize his pitching ability with his approach on the mound.

Often, young Major League pitchers tend to fall in love with one pitch against certain hitters and become overanxious to the patient hitters of the league, but these common pitfalls must be minimized if Bastardo and Happ wish to have continued success in this league. The ingredients for success have been shown in Hamels’s abilities, so as fans we can only hope that Moyer and Dubee can help Happ and Bastardo mature into big-time pitchers as the season progresses.

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