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Yankees pitcher  Mussina pitches against Toronto in New York

Is Mike Mussina a Hall of Famer?

Jonah Keri writes:

He’s a rich man’s [Jack] Morris. When people argue for Morris, they cite his ability to take the ball every fifth day without fail, pitch deep into games, and give his team a chance to win. Mussina did that, too, but he did it better, allowing fewer runs in a significantly tougher era for pitchers. From 1995 through 2003, Mussina averaged 222 innings pitched per year, topping the 200 mark in every one of those seasons (including in ’95, a strike-shortened year). During that time — the peak of the PED era — Mussina struck out about four times as many batters as he walked, and posted a 3.64 ERA that was 28 percent better than league average. Granted, Mussina was just the sixth-best pitcher in the game during that span, but there’s not much you can do when you’re pitching alongside five future Hall of Famers, three of them arguably among the five best pitchers of all time and the fourth with arguably the best two-season peak of any pitcher ever. Mussina was no stiff the rest of the time, either, ending his career with an ERA 23 percent better than league average, putting him on par with Marichal and ahead of Hall of Famers Phil Niekro, Fergie Jenkins, and the next guy on this list.

Jay Jaffe thinks Mussina belongs but it’ll be a long time before he gets there:

Two hundred and seventy is not 300, but even so, Mussina ranks 33rd all-time in wins, with a total higher than Hall of Famers Jim Palmer (268), Bob Feller (266), Bob Gibson (251) and 29 other enshrined starting pitchers. Moving beyond that — seriously, I’m done with the wins talk now — his 2,813 strikeouts rank 19th all-time and his 7.1 strikeouts per nine ninth among pitchers with at least 3,000 innings. That’s in part a product of pitching in an era where strikeout rates were almost continually on the rise, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Even more impressive is that his 3.58 strikeout-to-walk ratio is second only to Curt Schilling among pitchers with at least 3,000 innings since 1893, when the distance from the rubber to home plate was lengthened to 60-foot-6.

As for the postseason, Mussina may not have won a ring, but his 3.42 ERA in 139 2/3 innings is no small feat given the high-scoring era; it’s 0.26 lower than his regular season ERA, which itself was 23 percent better than the park-adjusted league average. Aided by the three tiers of playoffs during the bulk of his career, his 145 postseason strikeouts rank fourth all-time, while his 9.3 strikeouts per nine is second among the 22 pitchers with at least 100 postseason innings (Johnson is first at 9.8). Sadly, Mussina’s teams only won nine of his 23 postseason starts, because they supported him with just 3.1 runs per game; only four times did they even give him more than four runs. He had a few dud starts (three of less than five innings) among them, but it’s tough to pin his failure to win a ring on him.

As for the advanced metrics, Mussina stands tall thanks to his combination of run prevention and strikeouts (for which he doesn’t have to share value with his fielders). His 83.0 career WAR ranks 23rd all-time, ahead of 39 of the 57 enshrined starting pitchers; it’s 14th among post-World War II pitchers. That total is 1.6 above fellow candidate Glavine, who has an almost identical career/peak/JAWS line, and 10.4 wins above the average for enshrined starters. Mussina’s peak WAR of 44.5 doesn’t stack up as well; while it’s still 65th all-time, it tops only 20 enshrined starters and is 5.7 wins below the average one. Even so, his 63.8 JAWS is 2.4 points above the Hall average, good for 28th all-time, one spot below Schilling (64.4) and two above Glavine (62.9). He’s 132 spots higher than Jack Morris (38.4). His score beats those of 36 enshrined starters. He’s good enough for Cooperstown.

Mussina’s JAWS score beats those of 36 enshrined starters, and it will still be above the standard once Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, Martinez and Tom Glavine all get their due (the admission of those five would raise the respective bars to 75.1/50.7/62.9). He’s good enough for Cooperstown.

Still, the Moose won’t be loose in upstate New York anytime soon. On the contrary, Mussina probably has a long road before he gets a bronze plaque. In such heavy traffic, it’s probably asking too much even to hope that he approximates Schilling’s 38.8 percent debut last year. But like the aforementioned Bert Blyleven, a high-strikeout pitcher from an earlier era whose dominance over hitters and excellence in run prevention was initially overshadowed by his lack of Cy Young hardware, the numbers and the facts are on Mussina’s side. It’s just going to take some time for them to carry the day.

Categories:  1: Featured  Hall of Fame  Yankees

Tags:  jay jaffe  jonah keri  Mike Mussina

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1 thelarmis   ~  Dec 19, 2013 12:16 pm

I'm a big Mikey Moose fan and absolutely believe he's a hall of famer. I know the above paragraphs were just snippets - I'm sure there was a mention of him pitching his entire career career in the AL Beast.

After Rock Raines gets his due and is enshrined, Moose will be "my guy" that I champion for enshrinement.

Hell, I'd kinda like to have him in the rotation next season!

2 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 19, 2013 12:46 pm

He's definitely one as far as I'm concerned, but it will be a few years. Some voters will need some convincing, and that's OK because I don't think he's someone who immediately jumps out at you as a no-brainer (Maddux, Glavine, etc).

and I say this as someone who never REALLY warmed up to Mussina for whatever reason. No one needs to convince me how great he was, believe me I get it. But there was always just something, for me anyway, that came off as...I don't know. Remember when he bitched for 2 months about how pitching Opening Day in Japan "threw him off"? We were hearing about that until June.

But that's just my own "whatever", on merit he's a Hall of Famer.

3 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 19, 2013 1:21 pm

I agree with [1] and [2].

Will voters recognize that he compiled this impressive resume against many of the dozen or so sluggers they're keeping out of the HOF for PED reasons?

This ballot is so crowded that a lot of guys like Moose won't get the support to be voted in and lot of guys who are further down the list (but still deserving a lot of consideration) may get dropped off the ballot altogether.

4 GaryfromChevyChase   ~  Dec 19, 2013 2:26 pm

Living where I do, I watched (usually unhappily) while Moose beat the Yanks during his time with the O's. It's hard to say "yes" to the HOF when he never won a Cy Young, and was never considered one of the really dominant pitchers of his time. And yet, as pointed out in the story, he pitched at the same time that 5 of the greatest pitchers ever to throw were competing with him. Advanced stats say "yes" but I think it will be a very long time.

5 Ben   ~  Dec 19, 2013 2:36 pm

I guess I'm a small hall person, so he doesn't get in. I love Moose, so internal and jinxy. How many no hitters did he have go through 8? And the yanks stopped winning the year he came to Ny and won the year after he left... I'm telling you...

But I think there should be two parts of cooperstown, one is the musuem of baseball where whoever is part of the story is in, and then the hall of fame, where only the best of the best are in. Moose doesn't get in precisely because he competed against such great competition. Dem's the breaks.

6 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 19, 2013 2:45 pm

I remember Johnny Damon had a quote about him in 2008 when he was winning 20. It was something to the effect of "Look at what he did, in THIS league, in THIS division, against THESE lineups for this MANY years...and tell me he isn't a Hall of Famer"

and that's pretty tough to argue with

7 monkeypants   ~  Dec 19, 2013 4:10 pm

[5] But I think there should be two parts of cooperstown, one is the musuem of baseball where whoever is part of the story is in, and then the hall of fame, where only the best of the best are in.

Um...isn't there already?

8 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 19, 2013 4:15 pm

I'm a "let 'em all in" guy, so he's definitley Cooperstown-worthy in my book. His unique delivery, and overall effectiveness/longevity make him a pitcher worth looking at and talking about a hundred years from now. He's like Donnie, Bernie, Jorge, to me. Guys who may not have impressed enough people to get into THE Hall, but definitely get into MY Hall.

9 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 19, 2013 4:20 pm
10 MSM35   ~  Dec 19, 2013 6:40 pm

If it can be debated he doesn't belong.

11 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 19, 2013 7:42 pm

9) Dave Cameron is a terrific analyst. Thanks for the link. His takes on the Ellsbury and Cano deals were also thoughtful and thorough, even if you don't agree with his conclusions. I do in all 3 of these cases.

12 Greg G   ~  Dec 19, 2013 7:43 pm

I remember Moose's almost no-hitter in 2001 against the Red Sox. I was at an outside party in LA and kept telling folks between innings that Moose was perfect (As I watched the game inside). By the 7th everyone at the party was inside watching too. Everett was about 2 inches from the plate and was the 27th batter. He always stood over the batter's box and it should be illegal. He dumped in a base hit and acted like he won the World Series.

I was thinking that a lot of magical years for Yanks at that time and winning the series. Gooden in '96, Perfectos for Wells in '98 and Cone in 99. This fell just short and that was the story for the team that year as they came up just short to the DBacks and never got that close to WS victory until after Moose was gone.

To me, Moose is a hall of famer. He was a guy you didn't want to face and albeit not the ace of the Yanks staff, but was pretty incredible on the O's. The magic 300 game winners will be fewer and farther between and for a non-300 winner Moose was pretty great. He could have pitched 4 more years and won over 300. He was not done when he left. I also liked that he was all business and was not flashy.

13 Ben   ~  Dec 20, 2013 8:42 am

[7] I guess you're right.

I would just want there to be two tiers somehow - one place for great players, like Moose and Bernie and Pettite, and a second for all time greats, like Jeter and Mo.

14 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 20, 2013 11:27 am

I think Moose is a no-doubt Hall of Famer, and I look forward to his induction very much. I agree it will take some time, but the interesting question here to me is this:

Many people say that if Blyleven had ever played in one of the "big markets", it would not have taken him 15 years. Jonah and Jay, IIRC, both compare Moose (favorably) with Blyleven. Well, Moose played in the biggest market there ever was for baseball, and yet I wonder if it will actually help him.

We all appreciated him and understood his value, but I wonder if the NY media ever really did. Some did, but even were the ballot not so crowded, I expect Moose does not appear on the ballot of every NY-connected voter.

FWIW, even with a crowded ballot, Moose would make my top 10, but like many of youse, I too am not a "small" Hall guy.

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