Peter Moylan, Anything But NormalPosted: August 6, 2012
Peter Moylan made his first appearance with Triple-A Gwinnett the other night where he threw an inning, finishing with a line of 3H, 1ER, 0BB, 2K. He is one step closer to reaching his goal of a return to the Atlanta bullpen.
Moylan’s life and career has been anything but normal, but we’ll just stick to baseball here. After playing for his native land of Australia in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, the Braves offered the side arming 27 year-old an invite to Spring Training. He was initially called up in early April, but was up and down with the team making 15 appearances during that season. In 2007, Moylan’s workload severely increased to 90 innings in 80 appearances. The following season he only appeared in eight games before being placed on the DL, eventually having Tommy John surgery. 2009 was Moylan’s best season to date where he made 87 appearances and finished with a 1.6 fWAR. The following year, he again appeared in over 80 games, but finished with -0.1 fWAR (below what the Braves could have expected from a replacement level player). Last season, Moylan was injured for the majority of the season before finally undergoing rotator cuff and labrum surgery. He was non-tendered after the season, but agreed to sign a minor league contract with the Braves later in the off-season. That brings us to the present day where the 33 year-old has been pitching his way through the minor league levels in an attempt to add to his anything but normal career.
It is becoming pretty rare this day in age for a reliever to remain with a single team for an extended length of time, especially a mediocre, middle-aged, ROOGY like Moylan. In fact, there are only SEVEN relievers since 2006 that have made more appearances with one team than Moylan. Two of those are Pedro Felciano and Ryan Madson who have not made an appearance with their new teams yet because of injury. It is very odd, and not exactly wise, for a team to be so faithful to a right-handed specialist. With the high turnover rate of relievers, he is a pretty expendable part. However, signing him to a minor league deal leaves the team with very little risk. It shouldn’t be a reason to automatically sharpie him into the bullpen though.
Like I mentioned before, Moylan has pitched in three full big league seasons in six-year career, 2007, 2009 and 2010. The other three seasons he appeared in no more than 15 games, accumulating 29 total innings in those partial seasons.
Moylan has a career ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line of 2.60/3.66/3.78. Using FIP and xFIP as ERA estimators, it would suggest Moylan has under pitched his ERA. While a career ERA- of 66 is very impressive, it doesn’t look as great when paired up with 87 FIP- and a 88 xFIP-. The fact is, Moylan has had one great season in 2009 (1.4 fWAR), and only one slightly above average season in 2007 (0.6 fWAR). A career .209/.276/.301 slash along with a 3.02/3.00 FIP/xFIP against RHB is nothing to push aside. However, his numbers against lefties makes one wonder why he is ever allowed to even face lefties. Against LHB, his FIP/xFIP balloons to 4.98 and 5.38, striking out 12.8% of batters faced while walking a mind boggling 17.2%. Looking at his numbers, it is not hard to understand why he is a ROOGY, nothing more.
The Braves do have a very similar reliever in Cory Gearrin. Like Moylan, he is a right-handed specialist and throws from a similar arm angle that allows him to get the same type of sink and run on his fastball. Gearrin is seven years younger and is also a whole lot healthier. Most importantly, his numbers are quite good. In 49 2/3 IP in Triple-A this year, he had 1.27 ERA and a 1.99 FIP. His K/BB ratio was an impressive 3.55. He also did not give up a single home run in Triple-A. Gearrin has only pitched seven innings with the big club this year but has been pretty impressive against RHB as expected. Unfortunately he hasn’t been used to his strength, facing righties just as much as he has faced lefties. There is no reason to send Gearrin back down, he has dominated Triple-A. He can be a very valuable piece for the Braves during the coming years out of the bullpen. Having a surgically repaired middle-aged reliever who hasn’t been successful in over a couple years blocking him is not best for the team.
While I find it very odd that the Braves are still married to a right-handed specialist like Moylan, I can see why. The reason many, and I, believe is that Moylan is a very like able guy, a “clubhouse guy” with “veteran presence”. He is loved by the team and fans alike. Some people like to think there is value in guys who bring this type of personality and presence to a team. In my opinion, this narrative has little to no value. At the end of the day, if you can’t throw strikes, locate pitches and get hitters out, that type of player does not provide value to winning baseball games. I’m not saying Moylan isn’t capable of that, but relying on his numbers from three years ago after a major surgery is not something to bank on. Just because he has a great career ERA, shouldn’t give him an automatic spot in the pen. If you were to take a poll among all Braves fans on who they would rather have on the team, I think it would be around 90/10 in favor of Moylan. Trust me, I love his twitter, I’d like to hang out with him just as much as the next guy… he’s awesome. But when it comes down to one of the final spots in the bullpen as the Braves try to obtain a playoff spot, I would rather have Cory Gearrin.
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