Old vs. New in the Desert

There is a very interesting pitching match-up in Arizona tonight. Two hot teams – the Phillies and the Diamondbacks clash with two pitchers at opposite ends of their careers. Jamie Moyer is older than the dirt he’ll be standing on on the mound, while Max Scherzer is a young phenom making his second MLB appearance and first start. Scherzer is 23. When he was born Moyer was a Cubs prospect in the New York – Penn League.

Scherzer comes into the league with a lot of hype. He’s a power pitcher with a fastball in the high 90’s. He was drafted by the Cardinals in 2003, but he opted to play college ball at Missouri instead, and was chosen again in the first round by Arizona in 2006. He rocketed up through the minor leagues before being called up last week as a reliever. His stint in the bullpen lasted exactly one appearance. He came in in the third inning against Houston last Tuesday after starter Edgar Gonzalez had given up six runs and eight hits. All Scherzer did was throw four and a third perfect innings while striking out seven. Those 13 outs he recorded were the most ever by a reliever in his first career appearance. Needless to say, it took D-Backs management about 12 seconds to decide to move him into the rotation in Gonzalez’ place.

The 45 year old Moyer has spent a good bit of time this year looking like a 45 year old. He is 1-2, he hasn’t won since the second game of the season, has allowed seven or more hits every game since then, and hasn’t made it out of the sixth all year. The Phillies are a solid 12-8 since April 13, but Moyer has been the starter in three of those eight losses.

It might sound like a recipe for disaster in Arizona – rushing a youngster into action so quickly. The list of pitchers who have been ruined through impatience is long. There is good reason to believe that that won’t be the case here, though. Most significantly, the team only needs him to be a fifth starter because they have a pretty darned good rotation ahead of him – Webb, Haren, Johnson, Owings. On top of that, Doug Davis could be back from cancer surgery as soon as a month from now, so Scherzer would likely find himself back in the pen or even back in AAA. If he is, as he appears to be, the real deal then he will have lots of time to show it.

All that aside, his appearance tonight creates an interesting betting situation. Scherzer and Arizona are favored at -156. The 148 price Moyer faces is the biggest he has seen all year, so this is a lot of pressure on a new pitcher making his starting debut. As good as he looked first time out, he was entering a game that was already over so there was no pressure. Now he is under the microscope. He could very well have a great night, but I would find it very hard to argue that there is any value on the Diamondbacks at this price. I think I’ll just be an interested observer tonight.

UPDATE: Age prevailed over beauty. Moyer had a pretty good night. Scherzer didn’t. Philadelphia won by seven runs.

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