Buster Olney has some sharp observations on Mike Mussina over at ESPN today:
The last couple of years, Mussina’s success or failure was often predicated on how good his fastball was on a given day. If he threw 88-90 mph, he had a chance to have a pretty good day, throwing his fastball high in the strike zone, while most of his offspeed stuff was in the range of 77-78 mph. If Mussina’s fastball was 85-86 mph, however, he would get wrecked, the hitters always looking like they were all over everything he threw.
The adjustment Mussina has made, it seems, is to slow down his slow stuff. He was bending curves and flopping changeups at 70-71 mph against the Jays, with spectacular location (on an afternoon when both he and Jays starter Ted Lilly took advantage of home plate umpire Paul Runge’s generous and consistent strike zone). Every so often, Mussina — like Schilling, like Pedro Martinez — would look to finish off a hitter with a fastball and suddenly whiz a 91-93 mph four-seam fastball, and because the Jays were kept off-balance by the variance, they were overwhelmed. In one of Troy Glaus’ three strikeouts, the third baseman looked like he started his swing when the ball was already buried in Jorge Posada’s mitt. It was the first time in several years that hitters appeared downright uncomfortable hacking against Mussina, because they never got a firm read on his velocity, the trajectory or the selection of his pitches.
As Mussina changed arm angles and speeds (he reminded me a lot of Orlando Hernandez, in how El Duque pitches), he allowed a run in 7.1 innings and picked up the 226th victory of his career. The Yankees have pitching problems, undoubtedly, but based on how Mussina looked, I don’t think he’ll be a concern. He appears to have learned how to win with slop — good ol’ fashioned slow stuff.
Word, Buster. Got to love the slow stuff.