Monday, August 10, 2009

Pedro to Rotation, Moyer to Pen

After weeks of intrigue, the Phillies finally decided on how to deal with their excess of starting pitching. The team announced today that Jamie Moyer would move to the bullpen to make room for Pedro Martinez.

On the surface, this is the most sensible move for the Phillies to make. Moyer, despite his 10 wins, has been the Phillies worst starter all season, with a 5.47 ERA. The only reason he has a winning record (10-9) is that he's gotten excellent run support.

Not that there's any guarantee Pedro will be any better. He posted a 5.61 ERA last year with the Mets and he's gone 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA in three minor league starts this year. However, one has to think he'll be at least as good as Moyer, if not better. He'll most likely be a replacement-level player (in other words, a Rodrigo Lopez), statistically, but that would still be better than Moyer.

In a way this is a unique opportunity for this Phillies team because they get to upgrade the rotation by replacing their worst starter, and doing so in a way that won't rile up the fan base. The only way the team could justify pulling Moyer (to the fans AND the clubhouse) is by replacing him with a future Hall of Famer.

While this move shouldn't upset the clubhouse, one does have to wonder what it means for Moyer. Do the Phillies honestly think he can be an effective bullpen pitcher? Unless they think his 82 mph "fastball" can serve as a super-changeup of sorts, to throw off opposing hitters' timing (which is a possibility, especially if he follows or is followed by a guy like Lidge or Madson), it's hard to see his value as a reliever. He doesn't have swing-and-miss stuff anymore (if he ever did).

One has to hope the team at least has the sense to keep him in the dugout when he's not being called to warm up so he can continue to impart his knowledge on the younger pitchers (i.e. everyone). It's hard to see Moyer getting much use out of the bullpen, but now perhaps the Phillies can start to seriously groom him as a pitching coach.

We'll see how it plays out, but for now it seems like the right decision, if a difficult one. Kudos to Moyer for having the professionalism to handle this move. Few in his position would take it so well in stride.

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