Wednesday was a triumph for the geezers. Well, the baseball geezers.
In Phoenix, Randy Johnson (age 43 years, 233 days) pitched for the homestanding Arizona Diamondbacks, against Philadelphia Phillies starter Jamie Moyer (age 44 years, 172 days). It was a matchup of the oldest pair of lefthanders in baseball history.
By comparison, the starting pitchers in Atlanta were callow youths. The Braves sent out John Smoltz (age 39 years, 359 days) to face the San Diego Padres and his former teammate Greg Maddux (age 41 years, 25 days).
Much more on these estimable gentlemen, and some of their colleagues, below...
The four pitchers in those two games totalled 169 years and 59 days on our planet. Going into their evening's work, they had won 1031 major league games and lost 660. And on the evening of May 9, 2007, all four of them pitched quite well:
- Johnson pitched 6 innings, allowing 4 hits and 3 runs. He fanned 9 Phillies and walked only 1. He was not involved in the decision in the game.
- Moyer did even better, earning the 9-3 victory for the Phils by pitching 7 innings, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs. He too walked only 1 batter, while striking out 4 hitters.
- Smoltz picked up the win in his game, fanning 7 and walking no one in his 7 innings of work. He allowed 2 runs on 7 Padre hits.
- Maddux's 5 1/3 innings resulted in a no-decision. He gave up just 1 run on 4 hits, walking 2 and striking out 4 Braves.
Last night's win was "only" Smoltz's 198th (against 138 losses). That's because he spent the years 2001-2004 as one of the game's best relievers, totalling 154 saves while probably losing out on the opportunity for about 50 wins. Moyer's victory gave him a career record of 220-168. The other two have a lot more wins -- Johnson is 280-149 and Maddux's career mark is 335-205. All four of those pitchers have had long, distinguished careers on the mound. The shortest big league career among the quartet is Smoltz's ... he's in his 19th season. Johnson is now in his 20th year, Moyer his 21st, and Maddux his 22nd.
Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson are no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famers; five years after they retire, they'll be in Cooperstown. Between them, they've earned nine Cy Young Awards (Maddux 4, Johnson 5) and built five 20-win seasons (Maddux 2, Johnson 3). Due to his unusual career path, Smoltz (whose one 20-win season won him the Cy Young) is on the cusp of enshrinement; he'll be compared with HOFer Dennis Eckersley (197-171, 390 saves), not nearly Smoltzie's equal as a starter but one of the game's greatest closers. Moyer, for all of his accomplishments (including two 20-win seasons), is really a Hall of Very Good Players candidate.
The quartet appear prominently on the all-time lists for pitching totals. Their top-100 rankings in important categories include:
- Johnson -- 31st in wins (W), 28th in starts (GS), 49th in innings (IP), 47th in batters faced (BFP), 3rd in strikeouts (K), 15th in walks (BB)
- Maddux -- 10th in W, 11th in GS, 21st in IP, 21st in BFP, 11th in K
- Moyer -- tied for 73rd in W, 36th in GS, 78th in IP, 63rd in BFP, 57th in K
- Smoltz -- 81st in GS, 98th in IP, 93rd in BFP, 18th in K, tied for 58th in saves
While it's remarkable that these four baseball senior citizens participated in two head-to-head matchups on the same night, they're hardly the only geezers on major league mounds these days. In descending order of antiquity, here are more 40-plus starting pitchers:
- The recently-inked Roger Clemens (older than any of them at 44 years, 278 days) will soon return to the hill in Yankee Stadium for his 24th season ... and he's even greater than Maddux and Johnson. Clemens may just be the best pitcher ever -- 348-178 with a 3.10 career ERA in the DH era. He won 20 or more games in 6 seasons, and his trophy case overflows with 7 Cy Young Awards and an MVP award. On the career lists, he's 8th in W, tied for 7th in GS, 15th in IP, 14th in BFP, 2nd in K, 10th in BB.
- Rotund lefthander David Wells (age 43 years, 354 days) is a San Diego teammate of Maddux. His career record is 231-149, putting him at 61st all-time in W. He also ranks tied for 64th in GS, 86th in IP, 72nd in BFP, and 53rd in K.
- Although he hasn't pitched yet this year, and may decide to hang it up after career-threatening shoulder surgery, southpaw Kenny Rogers (age 42 years, 180 days) remains on the Detroit Tigers roster. The Gambler's 207 wins (against 139 losses) ties him for 95th on the all-time list, and he's also tied for 82nd in GS, 90th in BFP, and tied for 76th in K. If he comes back, it'll be his 19th major league season.
- Tom Glavine (age 41 years, 45 days) is very likely to be elected to the Hall of Fame after his career is over. At 294-192, he's currently the fifth-winningest lefthander in baseball history. Still an ace on the New York Mets staff in his 21st season, he has five 20-win seasons and two Cy Youngs. Overall, he's 24th in W, 15th in GS, 34th in IP, 30th in BFP, 28th in K, and 16th in BB.
- How long will Tim Wakefield (age 40 years, 280 days) of the Red Sox pitch? For a knuckleballer, he's a mere spring chicken -- Hoyt Wilhelm pitched at 49 and Phil Niekro finished his career at 48. In an in-and-out 15-year career, pitching in every role on the staff, Wakefield has recorded a 154-137 win-loss record and 22 saves.
- Also on the Sox, and bloody-socked hero of their 2004 ALCS miracle against the hated Yankees, Curt Schilling (age 40 years, 176 days) leads the Boston mound staff. With a career mark of 211-139, including three 20-win seasons among his 20 years in the majors, Schilling is tied for 85th all-time in wins, tied for 97th in games started, and currently 14th in strikeouts.
As I said, last night was a great one for watching "ancient" pitchers. And this period in baseball history is a really excellent one for watching even more of these geezers.
Even if the oldest of them is more than a decade younger than this particular baseball fan.
Mega-props to Baseball-Reference.com, for my money the best use of hyperlinks on the face of the earth, for the career rankings and display of individual player stats.