Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

800 Days Inside the Park with Peter Moylan

Posted by dannmckeegan on June 15, 2010

Peter MoylanWhat a disappointing day for Peter Moylan.  On March 30, 2008, Atlanta reliever Moylan surrendered an opening day walk-off home run to Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.  The only run he allowed until an arm injury sidelined him in mid-April, that home run was a starting line for an impressive streak that sadly just came to an end in a most ignominious fashion, one that reinforces my on-again, off-again ranting against the untruthful concept of the “three true outcomes.”

Moylan’s seven appearances in 2008, totaling 5.2 IP, saw him bring his ERA down from the 6.75 of opening day to 1.59 by the time he went on the shelf on April 11th.  With a bone spur in his right elbow causing problems with his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), Moylan underwent Tommy John surgery and spent the rest of 2008 doing rehab.  By spring training in 2009 he could pitch again at full strength and had no trouble making the Braves out of camp.

His regular season return was less than auspicious.  In two appearances against the Phillies and Nationals, he allowed a combined 5 earned runs without recording an out.  He made nine more April appearances, bringing his ERA down below 8.00 by allowing only two more runs in 8 innings of work.  Bobby Cox maintained his trust in Moylan, using him 15 times in May, during which time Moylan allowed only 3 earned runs over 9.2 innings pitched.  Fifteen June appearances followed, with 4 earned runs over 12.2 innings.  Then 16 appearances in July totaled 14.2 innings with 4 earned runs.  Moylan did more of the same in August: 16 appearances, 12.1 innings, 1 earned run.  Over the season’s last month-plus, Moylan’s workload decreased to “only”14 games, in which he threw 15.2 innings.  He allowed 3 earned runs in that time.

Moylan’s season totals are quite amazing for a pitcher coming off of an elbow reconstruction: 73 innings pitched over 87 games.  He allowed 23 earned runs (and 6 unearned).  And his strong second half brought his ERA down from infinity to 2.84 at season’s end.  None of those runs, mind you, came from the long ball.  Over the course of two seasons, Peter Moylan pitched in 93 games without allowing a home run.

Here we are in 2010, Moylan still with Atlanta and serving yet again as Bobby Cox’s preferred righty in the seventh inning.  Beginning with his April 5th opening day appearance against the Cubs, Moylan pitched in 26 of the Braves’ first 51 in April and May.  With 22.1 innings pitched, Moylan had continued his homerless streak.  Moylan made appearances number twenty-seven through thirty in early June, reaching a 2-0 record with 10 holds and 1 blown save before the fateful game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 9.

The game had been scoreless.  Ian Kennedy and winless Kenshin Kawakami had dueled to a scoreless draw through six innings, with Braves lefty Eric O’Flaherty taking the double-shutout through seven.  Braves rookie right fielder Jason Heyward and catcher Brian McCann each doubled off of reliever Aaron Heilman in the eighth, giving the Braves a precious one-run lead.

Heyward and McLouth Collide

Jason Heyward and Nate McLouth collide trying to catch a Gerardo Parra fly ball. This allowed Parra enough time to circle the bases for an inside-the-park home run off of Peter Moylan to go ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th. Credit MLB.com for the video from which I took this screen cap.

Enter Peter Moylan in the bottom half to face the middle of Arizona’s order, Mark Reynolds, Chris Young, and Gerardo Parra.  Moylan starts by hitting Reynolds with a pitch.  Young, the five-hitter, then sacrifices Reynolds to second base.  A deep fly ball to right-center was not deep enough to clear the fence.  In fact, it wasn’t even to the warning track.  But miscommunication between center fielder Nate McLouth and Heyward led to a nasty collision and a live ball.  McLouth stayed down for the count, but Heyward got up to make a play.  He made a strong throw, which was relayed on target but late.  Parra just beat the throw home and, for the first time in exactly 800 days, Australian sidearm righty Peter Moylan has allowed a home run.

Peter Moylan, hats off to you on a fantastic run that held for more than two calendar years and 100 appearances.  In this live-ball era, it’s hard to imagine anybody having the stuff and the luck to replicate such a feat.  Sure, the injury aided the time factor.  But those 103 appearances and 102.1 innings pitched between home runs are something to be proud of and something to be remembered, even if both bookends turned out to be game-deciders.  The ball still hasn’t left the yard – and that stat ought to be the one we keep counting.

Peter Moylan: 806 Days and Counting

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