Let's get one thing out of the way: Jamie Moyer's 5.70 ERA isn't the worst in the National League. There are three qualifiers with higher ERA's, and one of them is named Tim Lincecum. Nobody's releasing Tim Lincecum. Nobody's releasing Mike Minor or Randy Wolf, either. Those guys have ERA's higher than Jamie Moyer's, too.*
* Actually, a fair number of fantasy owners are probably releasing Minor and Wolf. But we're keeping it real.
Still, 5.70's pretty terrible. And Moyer's looking particularly bad at the moment, having given up four home runs to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday afternoon. Afterward, ESPN.com's Matt Meyers suggested that perhaps Moyer's time has finally come. He gave it the old college try, and no 49-year-old pitcher has ever done remotely what he's done. But according to Meyers, now the Rockies are sending the wrong message:
After their loss on Sunday, the Rockies are now 14.5 games out in the National League West, and it looks like the 2012 season is a lost cause, so keeping Moyer on the team won't really make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. But think about the message this sends to the players in your organization. Players are led to believe that baseball is a meritocracy, and if you perform, you will get your chance. But right now, there is no reason that Moyer should be on the team based on merit. Imagine you are Carlos Torres, who is a 29-year-old right-hander for the Rockies' Triple-A affiliate. He's not a big prospect by any means and will likely never amount to anything in the majors. But he's striking out nearly a batter per inning at Triple-A while putting up a 2.45 ERA. What does Moyer's spot on the team say to a guy like Torres, a minor league lifer just looking for a chance?
Well, I suspect that Carlos Torres is pretty happy just to be employed and on the 40-man roster -- he actually got into a few games with the Rockies earlier this month, as a reliever -- especially considering that he's nobody's idea of a hot prospect and hardly pitched professionally last year at all (six games in Japan).
And while the Rockies are practically dead in the National League West, decorum dictates they at least fantasize about the Wild Card, and they're only eight games out in that competition. Granted, eight games is a lot of games and there are 10 teams ahead of them. But spring is for dreaming, and if you're the Rockies (or one of their fans) you can still dream about the postseason. And I suspect they dream more than most, considering their history of making up big deficits down the stretch.
So the Rockies are still at the point of doing what's best for their record. Rather than worrying about what roster decisions say, they still have to consider what roster decisions do. So the question is simply this: Would the Colorado Rockies win more games without Jamie Moyer than with him?
The jury, I think, is still out. If just barely.
Yes, Moyer's got a 5.70 ERA. That's damning evidence. He's also got a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is perfectly acceptable. His problem, of course, is that he's given up 37 home runs already.
Well, not 37. I just like writing 37. It's actually 11 -- including four Sunday in Cincinnati -- but 11 in 54 innings is too many for a pitcher who strikes out three or four batters per start. And as Meyers does point out, while it's perfectly amazing that Moyer's in the majors at 49, he was a borderline major leaguer at 46 and 47, with a 4.90 ERA and a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio but (stop me if you've heard this one before) too many home runs allowed.
In other words, Jamie Moyer's basically the same pitcher that he was, but a little worse. Which is exactly what you would expect, but it's not clear that "a little worse" is "good enough to pitch for a team that's trying".
And it's not like the Rockies don't have options. Jeremy Guthrie's been terrible, but he's supposed to be the ace of the staff so he's going to pitch. Young Juan Nicasio's looked good, and so have rookies Alex White and Christian Friedrich.
That's five. The moment Chacin's healthy or No. 1 prospect Drew Pomeranz rediscovers his lost delivery or Jorge De La Rosa finds his control in the minors, Moyer's going to be the first candidate for demotion. Or release. Because even without Carlos Torres, if everything lines up right, Moyer will be something like No. 8 or 9 on the depth chart. And something tells me he's not going down to Colorado Springs to learn how to pitch.
Here's a tip, my baseball friends: If you have the chance to watch Jamie Moyer this week, do it. Because you might not get another.