Posted December 19, 2013

JAWS and the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot: Mike Mussina

Baltimore Orioles, Hall of Fame, JAWS, Mike Mussina, New York Yankees
Mike Mussina, Yankees

Mike Mussina (bottom) sometimes had a hard time standing out among all the talent on the Yankees’ pitching staffs. (Walter Iooss Jr./SI)

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2014 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to JAWS, please see here. For the schedule, see here.

Unlike three other pitchers on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, Mike Mussina didn’t reach 300 wins in his career. Nor did he ever win a Cy Young award, in part because one of his fellow candidates practically stole one out of his hands thanks to superior run support. As well as he pitched in the postseason, his teams never won a World Series, because even the best relievers sometimes falter, to say nothing of what happens to the rest of ‘em.

Though lacking in those high-visibility accomplishments, Mussina nonetheless strung together an exceptional 18-year career, one spent entirely in the crucible of the American League East, with its high-offense ballparks and high-pressure atmosphere. A cerebral pitcher with an expansive arsenal that featured a 93 mph fastball and a signature knuckle-curve, he not only missed bats with regularity, he had pinpoint control.

In a prime that coincided with those of Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, “Moose” never led the league in either strikeouts or ERA, but he ranked in the league’s top five six times in the former, seven in the latter. He earned All-Star honors five times, and received Cy Young votes in eight separate seasons across a 10-year span, at one point finishing in the top five four times in five years. Despite his lack of titles, he put together a strong postseason resume.

In fact, despite a late-career dip from which he recovered in memorable fashion, Mussina’s resume as a whole is strong enough for the Hall of Fame. He wound up delivering tremendous value across his career, and holds up well in comparison to his contemporaries and to those already enshrined. On a ballot overstuffed with flashier candidates, however, he won’t come anywhere close to getting in this time around, and as voters make tough choices about which qualified candidates to leave off, there’s reason to be concerned he may not get enough support to reach the five percent minimum. At best, he may be in for a long, Blyleven-esque climb from a meager debut to the requisite 75 percent.

Before we delve further into his career, a disclaimer: Regular readers know that I usually avoid dwelling upon pitcher win totals due to the fact that in this increasingly specialized era, they owe as much to adequate offensive, defensive and bullpen support as they do to a pitcher’s own performance. While one needn’t know how many wins Mussina amassed in a season or a career to appreciate his true value, the 20- and 300-win marks are an inextricable part of his particular story.

Pitcher Career Peak JAWS W L ERA ERA+
Mike Mussina 83.0 44.5 63.8 270 153 3.68 123
Avg HOF SP 72.6 50.2 61.4

Mussina was born in Williamsport, Penn. — the birthplace of Little League Baseball — and grew up in nearby Montoursvile, a tiny town of less than 5,000. A strong student as well as an outstanding pitcher in high school, he nearly earned valedictorian honors, but according to legend may have tanked a test in order to fall short and thus avoid having to speak at graduation. Despite being considered one of the country’s top prospects out of high school, he chose to attended Stanford on a baseball scholarship. He helped the Cardinal win the College World Series as a freshman in 1988 and earned his economics degree in three-and-a-half years.

The Orioles made Mussina their first-round selection in 1990, the 20th overall pick of the draft, and signed him for a $225,000 bonus. He didn’t spend long in the minors; Baltimore sent him straight to Double A Hagerstown, and while he made just nine starts between there and Triple A Rochester, he was ranked 19th on Baseball America‘s Top 100 Prospects list the following spring. After a strong showing in 19 starts at Rochester, he debuted for the Orioles on Aug. 4, 1991. The 22-year-old righty threw 7 2/3 innings against the White Sox, allowing only a solo homer to fellow ballot newcomer Frank Thomas, but lost because ageless knuckleballer Charlie Hough spun a five-hit shutout. Though stuck on a club bound for 95 losses, Mussina stood out in his 12-start trial; his 2.87 ERA was almost exactly half of the other Baltimore starters’ collective ERA (5.55).

That abysmal season marked the Orioles’ fifth sub-.500 finish out of six, but Mussina helped put the franchise back on the road back to respectability. Already remarkably polished as a pitcher, he assumed the mantle of staff ace, a role that 1989 overall number 1 pick Ben McDonald couldn’t fulfill. Mussina helped the O’s improve to 89 wins in 1992, tossing 241 innings of 2.54 ERA ball while going 18-5, a performance that earned him All-Star honors and fourth place in the Cy Young voting. His ERA ranked third in the league and his walk rate (1.8 per nine) and WAR (8.2) ranked second, the latter trailing only Clemens’ 8.8. Not surprisingly, his heavy workload carried a cost; shoulder soreness limited him to 167 2/3 innings the following year, and he was roughed up for a 4.46 ERA.

Mussina restored his claim as one of the league’s top starters in the strike-shortened seasons. In a 1994 Sports Illustrated profile, Tom Verducci described him inventing a cut fastball on the fly to escape a jam, quoting batterymate Chris Hoiles. “Well, I guess if you’re going to use that pitch, we ought to have a sign for it.” Verducci continued:

What’s most impressive is that from 60 feet, six inches, Mussina can dot the i in his autograph with any one of six pitches. He has three fastballs (a cutter, a sinker and a riser), two curveballs (a slow curve and the knuckle curve) and an astonishingly deceptive changeup that is his best pitch. The rest of the pitching population is usually content to throw all changeups on the outer third of the plate. But Mussina is so adept at spotting his changeup that Hoiles often gives a location sign when calling for the pitch, a rare practice.

Mussina finished fourth in the AL ERA in both 1994 and 1995 (3.04 and 3.29, respectively), with fourth- and third-place finishes in WAR (5.4 and 6.1, respectively). He also led the AL in wins (19) and walk rate (2.0 per nine) for the only times in his career in 1995, but finished just fifth in the Cy Young balloting, not that he had any business winning over Randy Johnson (18-2, 2.48 ERA, 8.6 WAR). The Orioles went 63-49 in 1994, in position to challenge for the new wild card spot when the strike hit, but they finished just 71-73 the following year.

In 1996, under new manager Davey Johnson, the star-studded O’s — featuring future Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken, plus Brady Anderson, Rafael Palmeiro and more — came together to win 88 games, good enough to secure the wild card. Aided by an offense that cranked out 5.82 runs per game (third in the league), Mussina overcame his own gaudy 4.81 ERA (still a 103 ERA+) and again won 19 games. He also struck out 204 hitters, not only good for fourth in the league but the first of four times he’d reach the 200 plateau. In his first taste of playoff action, Mussina wasn’t particularly effective, allowing a combined nine runs in 13 2/3 innings against the Indians in the Division Series and the Yankees in the ALCS; he was done in by a three-run Cecil Fielder homer in the eighth inning of the latter start.

In 1997 Mussina improved to a 3.20 ERA (sixth in the league) and 218 strikeouts (fourth) in 224 2/3 innings as the Orioles stormed to 98 wins and their first AL East title since 1983. He was stellar in the playoffs, pitching to a 1.24 ERA in four starts, striking out 41 in 29 innings. Facing the Mariners in the Division Series, he outdueled the Big Unit in both Games 1 and 4, administering the coup de grâce with a combined two-hitter in the latter. In his coverage for SI, Verducci harped on Mussina’s repeated failure to win 20 games but wrote approvingly of his pitching style, “What makes Mussina so difficult to hit is that he morphs the best qualities of a power pitcher and a finesse pitcher. At times he blew his fastball at 93 mph past Seattle. Other times he dropped in knuckle curves when he was behind on the count.”

Facing the Indians in Game 3 of the ALCS, Mussina was even more brilliant, whiffing 15 over seven innings while allowing just three hits and one run. Even so, the Orioles lost 2-1 in 12 innings when Marquis Grissom stole home with the winning run. As agony goes, that was nothing compared to Mussina winding up on the short end in Game 6 despite eight innings of one-hit shutout ball. The Orioles and Indians remained deadlocked until the top of the 11th, when Armando Benitez served up what proved to be a pennant-clinching solo homer by Cleveland’s Tony Fernandez.

Mussina had signed a below-market three-year, $21.5 million contract extension in May, and despite the Orioles falling short that fall, their future looked bright. Alas, a feud with owner Peter Angelos led Johnson to resign the same day he won AL Manager of the Year honors, and the O’s wouldn’t post a winning season again until 2012.

Mussina played out the string as Baltimore collapsed into 70-something win ignominy, averaging 216 innings with a 3.60 ERA (129 ERA+), 5.0 WAR and his typically stellar 4.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He finished second in the Cy Young voting in 1999, the best showing of his career, but that was the year Pedro Martinez went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA (243 ERA+) and won unanimously.

As the Orioles’ roster was ripped apart, Angelos took a glacial approach to Mussina’s pending free agency, gradually raising the team’s offer from five years and $50 million to six and $78 million, albeit with $12 million deferred. Turned off by the slow pace of negotiations and by the team’s protracted rebuilding process, Mussina instead opted for a six-year, $88.5 million deal from the Yankees, who were riding a streak of three straight world championships. “There have been only a couple years in my career when I knew we were going to win,” he said of his time in Baltimore upon signing. “That’s what I look forward to experiencing again.” The new deal made Mussina the game’s fifth-highest paid player.

Mussina and the Yankees did their share of winning in 2001. In his pinstriped debut on April 5, he tossed 7 2/3 innings of scoreless ball against the Royals, getting the win in a 1-0 squeaker. On May 1, he threw a three-hit, 10-K shutout against the Twins. On Sept. 2 at Fenway Park — in a match up against David Cone, the man he replaced in the Yankees’ rotation — he struck out 13 and came within one strike of completing a perfect game, allowing a two-out, two-strike single to Carl Everett before closing out a 1-0 win. In the New Yorker, Roger Angell’s memorable account found Mussina shocked and dour in victory, Cone, who himself had authored a perfect game for New York two years earlier, rejuvenated even in defeat.

For that first year in pinstripes, Mussina delivered a 3.15 ERA (143 ERA+), his lowest mark since 1994. That ERA and his career highs in both strikeouts (214) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.1) all ranked second in the league, while his 7.1 WAR ranked first for the only time in his career. Alas, he finished fifth in the Cy Young race, losing to teammate Clemens, who had a vastly inferior season save for the W’s (20-3, 3.51 ERA, 5.6 WAR) thanks to 5.7 runs per game of offensive support, the league’s fourth-highest rate among ERA qualifiers. Mussina, who had gone 17-11, had received just 4.2 runs per game, the league’s fifth-lowest rate.

That year, the Yankees won 95 games and their fourth straight pennant, with Mussina again making a strong postseason showing. With the Yankees down 2-games-to-0 in the Division Series against Oakland, he delivered seven shutout innings in Game 3, aided by Derek Jeter’s legendary flip play. After a solid six-inning, two run start in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Mariners, he was roughed up by the Diamondbacks in the World Series opener, but rebounded to strike out 10 in eight strong innings in Game 5, which the Yankees won in the 12th. The Yankees ultimately came within one inning of their fourth straight title — and Mussina’s first — but Mariano Rivera unraveled in the ninth inning of Game 7. So it goes.

After a so-so 2002, Mussina helped the Yankees back to the World Series in 2003. He ranked eighth in ERA (3.40) and fifth in WAR (6.6) for the 101-win AL East champs, though his October had its ups and downs. He worked seven innings in a losing cause against the Twins in Game 1 of the Division Series, was knocked around by the Red Sox in the ALCS opener and wound up on the short end despite a 10-strikeout performance in 6 2/3 innings in Game 4. When Clemens fell behind 4-0 and failed to retire any of the three batters he faced in the fourth inning of Game 7, manager Joe Torre summoned Mussina out of the bullpen for the first relief appearance of his professional career. He was nails: With runners on first and third, he struck out Jason Varitek on three pitches, then got Johnny Damon to ground into a double play to escape the jam. He worked three scoreless innings, an unsung hero in a game the Yankees won in 11 on Aaron Boone’s walkoff homer.

Mussina started Game 3 of the World Series against the Marlins, battling Josh Beckett to a 1-1 draw through seven innings despite a 39-minute rain delay in the fifth. The Yankees took the lead in the eighth and broke the game open in the ninth, giving them a 2-1 series lead. He was lined up for Game 7, but the call never came, as New York lost each of the next three games.

Things started going downhill for Mussina in 2004, his age-35 season, as he lost six weeks to elbow tightness. From 2004-07, he averaged just 173 innings a year due to injuries, never topping 200. His 4.36 ERA over that span was still good for a 102 ERA+, but that owed to one exceptional season (2006, 3.51 ERA, 129 ERA+, 5.0 WAR) offsetting three mediocre ones; for the stretch, he averaged just 2.9 WAR.

The Yankees officially declined Mussina’s $17 million option for 2007, though they wound up reworking it into a two-year, $23 million deal. Initially, they might have wished they hadn’t, as Mussina was pounded for a career-worst 5.15 ERA while battling back and leg woes. After a three-start stretch in August in which he was rocked for 20 runs in 9 2/3 innings, he was dropped from the rotation, though he salvaged some dignity after returning two weeks later and reeling off a stretch of 13 2/3 scoreless innings.

He salvaged even more dignity the following year, defying both his age (39) and a rocky opening in which he was hit for a 5.75 ERA over his first four starts. He stayed in the rotation all year, making a league-high 34 starts, tossing 200 1/3 innings — his first time above 200 since 2003 — and finishing with a 3.37 ERA. The real story, aside from the Yankees missing the playoffs for the first time since the strike, was that he finally reached 20 wins. He did it by allowing just one run over his final 17 innings across three starts. The last came in Fenway Park, the site of his crushing near-perfecto, as the opener of a doubleheader on the final day of the season. Mussina tossed six shutout innings against the wild-card-winning Red Sox and left with a 3-0 lead. Boston cut it to 3-2 in the eighth, but the Yankees scored three in the ninth, giving Mussina the 20th win that had long eluded him, and making him the oldest to attain that plateau for the first time.

That win was the 270th of his career. Realizing that a pursuit of 300 might mean a three-year slog, and feeling the strong pull of Montoursville, he opted to retire instead, virtually unprecedented for a 20-game winner. As The New York Times noted at the time, in the previous century, only three pitchers had won at least 20 games in their final seasons: Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams in 1920, just before Commissioner Landis banned them for life for their involvement in the Black Sox scandal, and Sandy Koufax in 1966, when he decided to retire due to elbow problems. Mussina had nothing forcing him to stop the way those pitchers did; on the contrary, he had millions of reasons to stay, in the form of dollars on his next contract. In walking away, he followed the old showbiz adage, “Always leave ‘em wanting more.”

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.

This article has been updated to correct an error concerning Mussina’s start in the 2001 World Series.

58 comments
taiwan
taiwan

It's sad that according to Baseball Confidential program Mike Mussina was predicted to receive about 7%. Hopefully that person was completely wrong. But the "exit poll" showed Mike Mussina to be around 35% whereas Curt Schilling is sitting around 40%. Really? Some voters considered Curt Schilling a better pitcher than Mike Mussina who had better ERA+ and spent entire career in AL?

RobertH.Dow
RobertH.Dow

Mussina should be considered a equal of Glavine or Maddux. Why? What would his numbers be if every 9th batter he faced was a pitcher? Also is there really any parity between AL East hitting and NL East hitting in that era?

jbbmusic
jbbmusic

Mussina is a definite HOF pitcher, and your well written article explains why. Thanks for the info. Sadly, facts do not win....in sports or in politics. Still, I feel that he will get in but as you say it will probably take years.

taiwan
taiwan

I might agree that Mike Mussina isn't in the same class as Greg Maddux. But a guy with 270 wins and decent ERA pitching entirely in American East, that to me is half way in HOF. As previously mentioned with 3.58 strikeout-to-walk ratio second only to Curt Schilling among pitchers with at least 3,000 innings since 1893, the article failed to mention Mike Mussina was an outstanding fielder and one of the most intelligent pitcher around. The comment about him being washed up was ridiculous. In his final year he discovered a rabbit ear changeup that hid his grip from the hitters, and it helped him tremendously. I'm pretty sure he'd hit 300 wins if he plays another 3 years, if not even 2. 


But I'm more curious why those who thinks Mike Mussina shouldn't be in HOF, but Curt Schilling should be. For me, Curt Schilling is a very borderline candidate. His number is not much different than Kevin Brown and Orel Hershiser, that latter two didn't even make 5% during the first year of eligibility. Kevin Brown had ERA of 3.28 while pitching mostly in AL, whereas Curt Schilling's ERA of 3.46 was predominately in the NL. One is a sinker ball ground ball pitcher the other is a strikeout pitcher so Schilling had more strikeouts. The biggest difference was Kevin Brown stunk in playoffs and was terrible with the Yankees, while Curt Schilling is famous for bloody socks. But Orel Hershiser had very similar playoff record compared to Curt Schilling, virtually same number of innings pitched and same ERA. Then you talk about Jack Morris' game 7 performance. His post season record is 7-4 with 3.80 ERA. Really? You want to hand the ball to him in a one game series? He was an average pitcher who got lucky while pitching with good teams. People shouldn't make up their mind base on one single playoff game.


If you let Jack Morris in would you then let Andy Pettitte as well? I think most people would consider Andy Pettitte not HOF.

Disbott3000
Disbott3000

I don't know, he kinda seems like the pitching equivalent of Dale Murphy (whom I love), an excellent player who didn't have enough of the milestones to impress the voters. Maybe he'll get in eventually (and mind you, I'm not saying he wouldn't be deserving), but it won't be this year and he may even have to wait for the veterans committee or something.

MichaelSkelton
MichaelSkelton

As a life long Yankee fan what I remember most about Mussina is that when he got there the Yankees stopped winning the World Series and the first year after he retired the Yankees won the World Series . 

KurtSteinberg
KurtSteinberg

Mike Mussina should be a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame, particularly in light of the induction of mediocre pitchers in recent years, such as Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, and Bert Blylevin.


Mussina won a lot of games pitching on bad Orioles teams before moving over to the Yankees.  Yes, he was a better pitcher when he was on the Orioles than he was when he was on the Yankees, but he was still very good.


Mussina had impeccable control throughout his career.  I don't fully understand the emphasis on JAWS or WAR, as it is unclear as to how either of those statistics are calculated.  However, Mussina's WHIP was incredibly low for someone who pitched so long during an offensive era - it was 1.192, which is is about 0.05 below that of Nolan Ryan, who pitched during far more of a pitcher's era.  Mussina is also #19 on the all-time strikeout list.


I also don't understand the love for Jack Morris.  Morris was a marginal pitcher at best.  Morris's career ERA+ was only 3% better than the league average, which is absolutely pathetic and far too high for him to be considered an "all time great."  Morris's ERA+ during the 1992 season, when he won 21 games for the World champion Blue Jays, was only 1% better than the league average.  If Morris had pitched on bad Orioles teams, as Mussina did, nobody would be talking about him as a possible Hall of Famer.  It is absurd to even compare Morris to Mussina, as Mussina was a far superior pitcher in every aspect.

lionoah
lionoah

I understand the basic argument against wins...however, have we not swung to the opposite extreme and thereby underrate them?


Games played/started (but not appearances) and wins can be a metric for athletic ability. Guys who are able to show up game after game after game and make a contribution deserve some credit for that. 6 innings of 3 run ball is a feat and that is why it has a designation. Perhaps it needs to be tweaked (a guy who pitches less than 2 innings should never get credit for a win IMO...), or maybe there is a stat that augments it but it is a relevant marker of pitcher skill. Wins should not be considered a stat from a bygone era because a) a pitcher needs to make enough starts to achieve high totals, b) he needs to pitch effectively, consistently c) and though it goes without saying, someone needs to trust that he can actually do it on a major league club and give him the opportunity over and over again.


As an aside - Jack Morris should get in because of this. Just because he showed up to work everyday and did his job well enough that somebody asked him to do it over and over again. 


20 wins in his last season definitely mean something because most other guys his age either didn't get the chance because they didn't have the skills/health. Others couldn't because they were not capable which means the guy that did (Mussina) was better than the great majority of pitchers in history his age.

HeadlineSurfer
HeadlineSurfer

Mike Mussina was a great innings eater and a true workhorse, but the Cy Young awards, the 

League MVPs, the World Series championships, they count for something. Morris in a complete game 7 series victory. Maddux and Glavine have the Cy Young awards, the 300 wins, the World Series title. Carlton and Ryan have these plus the strikeouts. These are the ingredients that go beyond the workhorse, to make a Hall of Famer. I would argue that Morris,, even Schilling, is more deserving than Mussina. And if you put in Mussina, then why not Tommy John or Ron Guidry? Short of 300 wins, you need at least a Cy Young, an MVP or a ring to cross the threshold.

EliCabelly
EliCabelly

I hated Mussina those years he was an Oriole. He kept beating Maddux in 1-0, 2-1 games. It killed me every time. He was the one pitcher that would make me start swearing when I saw is was him against Maddux. I didn't swear like that against anyone else, including Randy Johnson or even Pedro Martinez. Mussina was the one I hated the worst.


Mussina was washed up while he was on the Yankees. Don't give me that crap about him winning 20 games for the first time as a Yankee. That was the washed up version of him. If you're basing your opinion of Mussina on what he did as a Yankee, just remember that he was crap then compared to what he was like on the Orioles.

RobOlds
RobOlds

Mussina will never get into the Hall unless he pays admission. Jack Morris deserves induction souch more than Mussina.

DanDeeley
DanDeeley

The better comparison for me is Mussina and Curt Schilling. I'd choose Curt every day of the week. Nonetheless I think Moose will make it in within the next 10 years based on the Blyleven argument.

rapreti
rapreti

Jeter's Mr. November moment was the walkoff that ended Game 4. The Game 5 heroics were provided by Scott Brosius (who homered to tie it in the 9th) and Alfonso Soriano (who singled in the winning run in the 12th)

HF4th
HF4th

Baseball pundits tend to marginalize certain players. And Mussina has that ethnic voweled surname against him. Funny thing is, he's not even who his biased critics think he is. LOL!

Sneeral
Sneeral

I watched almost all of Mussina's games with the Yankees. In 8 years there, he wasn't the staff ace until his final year in 2008. Jaffe's article does convince me that his emphasis on WAR, etc, is even more ridiculous than I thought it was before. At no time (save 2008) was Moose the guy I wanted to see on the mound in a big game. He was far from stellar in the post-season (under .500  - 7-8, 3.40 ERA for his career), despite the highlights mentioned. If I had my choice between Mussina or Jack Morris - especially in a must win game - I'm taking Morris.

leetro1525
leetro1525

@taiwan Schilling is just as good as Mussina, better than Brown, and way better than Hershiser.  The league-average R/9 rate for Schilling in his WAR calculation is 5.03, while Schilling himself allowed 3.64 R/9.  Pitching in AZ from '00-'03 was basically the equivalent of pitching in the AL.  Brown allowed 3.75 R/9 and his league-average rate was 4.78 R/9, because his AL/NL innings pitched were almost identical.  Hershiser allowed 3.93 R/9 with a league-average rate of 4.59 R/9.

taiwan
taiwan

@MichaelSkelton Same with Mattingly right? All I know is Mattingly and Mussina gave everything they had to the Yankees. Besides Yankees only won one World Series after he left. Sometimes these things are just dumb luck.

jbbmusic
jbbmusic

@KurtSteinbergMussina belongs, but there is no need to knock other great pitchers with words like mediocre to try and make your case.

therantguy
therantguy

@KurtSteinberg"I don't fully understand the emphasis on JAWS or WAR, as it is unclear as to how either of those statistics are calculated. " - You could, you know, look it up. It's not like it's f'ing magic or anything.

buddha2727
buddha2727

Marginal pitchers??? Blylevin was masterful on some really bad teams, if he played on good teams for half go his career he would have won 300. Sutter was a 3 inning closer, not like Mariano who pitched 1 inning.. You obviously know nothing about baseball.. Lie I mean nothing

lionoah
lionoah

@KurtSteinberg Mussina definitely deserves to get in NOW, and I agree wholeheartedly...


Marginal pitchers dont pitch forever and come out at the end better than average, that's why Jack Morris is getting love. 


There is an vastly underrated part of every HOF of every sport where guys who showed up and played well - no great, but well - get in. That's usually because of counting stats like HR's, RBI, steals, catches, points. The problem is we look at those statistics through the prism of when they were useful back in the early part of the 20th century before advanced stats became popular.


Wins are useful because while Mark Prior could throw the baseball better than Jack Morris, he could not do it for very long. Gale Sayers was an EXTREMELY gifted athlete and got in (to the Pro Football HOF) because he was undoubtedly and absolutely extraordinary but there is STILL debate on his HOF validity. My point is that wins should be looked at as a measure of durability and longevity, and not as if the pitcher 'won' the game but that he met the requirements to achieve a 'win'.


Someone should look up how many pitchers have started a major league game, how many pitchers have recorded a major league win and look at the stat from that perspective. If you can do something positive in the sport that not everyone could do, and do it better than most, and longer than most, then we need to have a serious talk about your candidacy.

leetro1525
leetro1525

@lionoah Tommy John, Jim Kaat, Frank Tanana, Jamie Moyer, and Dennis Martinez have all pitched more innings than Morris, who is 50th all-time in innings.  It is great to be durable, but I think the HOF is for elite players, even if they weren't that durable.

buddha2727
buddha2727

Nolan Ryan went to 1 World Series his rookie year of 1969, he never won a cy young..

jbbmusic
jbbmusic

@EliCabellyWashed up? Wow. It's a good thing that an idiot like this is not the person voting.

buddha2727
buddha2727

You obviously know nothing about baseball, I mean nothing. Washed up?? Looking at his numbers and being 39 and winning 20 games how is that washed up?? And when did he pitch against maddux? Maddux was in the national league his entire career???

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@RobOlds Moose has a lower ERA, a better ERA+, a lower WHIP, he gave up fewer walks per 9 innings than Morris, he struck out MORE batters per 9 innings than Morris.


I'm not talking about wins because they are overrated for pitchers, but Moose had more.


Anyway, Moose pitched better than Morris for their careers in things that pitchers control... fewer walks per 9 innings, more strikeouts per 9 innings, Moose allowed fewer baserunners via hits and walks per game than Morris.


I fail to see where Moose was actually a better pitcher than Moose.

buddha2727
buddha2727

Your argument becomes invalid when you show yourself to be ignorant and can't spell

Jed1
Jed1

@HF4th Whaaat? you mean like Pinella, Dimaggio and Torre?

KurtSteinberg
KurtSteinberg

@SneeralMussina was the second-best pitcher on the Yankees during most of his years there.  However, the best Yankees pitcher was Clemens, who was juiced up the entire time.  If Clemens had been clean, Mussina would have been the staff ace.

EliCabelly
EliCabelly

@SneeralBased on Mussina's time with the Yankees he doesn't belong in the HOF. Mussina spent his worst years wearing a Yankee's uniform.

leetro1525
leetro1525

@Sneeral Oh, it's you again.  While I respect your opinion that Mussina wasn't a big game pitcher, I disagree with it.  Like lancedirk97 said, Mussina's postseason W-L record is largely due to bad run support.  Mussina's ERA was better than Morris', despite Mussina playing in a higher-scoring era.  I just don't see how Morris was better.

lancedirk97
lancedirk97

@Sneeral Why would you want the guy who gave up MORE runs in the postseason to be your postseason starter? Oh, I see, you're hoping Morris's offense comes with him.


I wonder what Morris's postseason record would have been if he had received the 3.1 runs of support that Mussina did.

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@Sneeral   Oh, in addition to all that I wrote, his 8 yrs with the Yanks were the last 8 yrs of his 18 yrs in the bigs.  What about his first 10 yrs?

gymviking
gymviking

@Sneeral  Totally agree. Mussina was a very good pitcher, clearly in the top 2% of all time, but Morris was the guy that wanted to be in front and wanted the spotlight for the big game (I say this as somebody who always found himself cheering against Jack Morris, and often lamenting that he beat my team in that big game). If you had to pick between the two, Jack Morris should be the first in the Hall. He won the most games in the 80s because he was the money pitcher of the 80s, even if some of his secondary stats don't stand up for the mathematicians.

taiwan
taiwan

@leetro1525 Even if you add his pitching stats for AZ Diamondbacks in AL stats he still pitched a lot for Phillies. People always remembered him with Red Sox but he was only with them for 4 years. I'm not saying Curt Schilling shouldn't be in HOF. Kevin Brown was a completely different pitcher but they both got the job done. Yes he allowed more hits but he's a great ground ball pitcher and he got a lot of help from double plays. Granted there was some PED rumors with Kevin Brown. If Andy Pettitte or Jack Morris had career ERA of 3.28 I don't think anyone would have any problem letting them in. What surprised me the most was that Kevin Brown didn't even make 5%. But you had to bring other advanced stats with Hershiser and Brown, and I had no problem with that. I have the most problem with people saying Jack Morris should be in, but Mike Mussina should be out. 

EasyGoer
EasyGoer

I'm a Yankees fan and I think he did an excellent job.

KurtSteinberg
KurtSteinberg

@buddha2727Blyelvin was not even close to a top tier pitcher at any time during his career.  He was good, but not great, for a long time which is why he racked up so many wins.  However, nobody who knows anything about baseball would choose him in his prime over Mussina.

EliCabelly
EliCabelly

@jbbmusic@EliCabellyAs good as Mussina was in New York, he was that much better before. The yankees got the worst part of Mussina's career.

trooper707
trooper707

@KurtSteinberg @Sneeral Mussina's ERA while with the Yankees was lower than Clemens, 3.88 to 4.01. And Mussina deserved the Cy Young in 2001, not Clemens. If that vote were to take place today, Mussina would win easily. Just thought I'd point that out.

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@EliCabelly @Sneeral   Well, Moose did spend 10 yrs with the O's before playing for the Yanks.


You know, those 10 years count for him too you!


Luckily for Moose and ALL players, they don't just look at a certain number of seasons or yrs with one team when they played longer, more years.


What a dumb comment.  If Moose ONLY played those yrs with the yanks then it would have been a valid comment but only because he would not have played the minimum of 10 yrs necessary to get into the hall.

leetro1525
leetro1525

@EliCabelly @Sneeral Actually, his WAR/IP is almost the same between the 2 teams.  He was much more inconsistent in his later years, but overall almost as good.

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@gymviking @Sneeral   But just WANTING to have the ball in the big games like Morris still did NOT lead to him performing as well as Moose did throughout their careers.


I WANTED to be a MLB player too, but I fell far short.  I'm sure I WANTED it more than many who actually played in the majors...


Sometimes what one actually does, as opposed to them wanting it, matters MORE.


ERA is one thing but ERA+ is even better as it evens out things.


Mussina career ERA+ of 123


Moose career ERA+ of only 105 (100 is league average).


Moose had a lower WHIP (walks and hits allowed per nine innings pitched for his career than Morris).


Moose walked A LOT fewer batters per 9 innings than Morris.


Moose actually struck out A LOT more batters per 9 innings than Morris.



I mean, Moose had a better ERA, a better ERA+, more strikeouts per 9 innings, fewer walks per 9 innings.


So regardless of wanting, Moose pitched BETTER than Morris did for their careers and it wasn't really even close.

taiwan
taiwan

@leetro1525 Correct. I don't think you and I disagree who should be in and who shouldn't be. I agree Andy Pettitte has stronger case for HOF than Jack Morris. But I don't think his votes will ever come close of being elected like Morris. But people will always remember Morris' game 7 like it speaks for his entire career. I'm also pretty sure the majority of voters don't use advance stats like you do. Being a nice guy like Morris helped his case somewhat. But an ss like Albert Belle doesn't even get 5% in the first year. He was the most feared hitter of his time and he had 10 seasons of dominant hitting with career cut  short by injury. I don't recall any PED allegations against him. So they must have shut the door on him because he was known to be a jerk. Mattingly's stats was vastly inferior in terms of hitting but he gets to stay on the ballot probably for entire 15 years.

leetro1525
leetro1525

@taiwan That's why I used the league-average R/9 rates.  Schilling pitched in a higher run-scoring environment than Brown in his career, despite the higher percentage of NL innings.  Brown, by WAR, was a tier below Schilling, and you're right about the PED allegations cutting off most of his votes.  Also, Pettitte has a much better HOF case than Morris already, so I wouldn't put those two in the same class.  Sounds like we agree on the big picture, but our arguments are way different.

stanmarsh51
stanmarsh51

And regarding Blyleven's WAR, a season with a WAR of 4+ is generally considered an all-star caliber season. Blyleven had 14 seasons (yes, 14) with a 4+ WAR, which included 10 seasons with a 5+ WAR and 6 seasons of a 6+ WAR.

It's not as if he was an ok WAR that was merely compiled from a long career. When you have 10 seasons with a 5+ WAR, that means you're good.

stanmarsh51
stanmarsh51

@KurtSteinberg

Blyleven was slightly above average? Give me a break.

Slightly above average pitchers don't finish:

-top 5 in ERA 7x, and top ten 10x

-top 5 in WHIP 7x, and top ten 11x

-top 5 in K/9 9x, and top ten 14x

-top 10 in innings 11x, with 2x leading the league

-3x leader in K/BB, with 9 top 3 finishes


Slightly above average? Come on, be serious.

taiwan
taiwan

@KurtSteinberg I'm not sure how a marginal pitcher could have had good ERA, tons of complete games and shutouts, strike out a lot of hitters, and win 286 games. Does that basic stats sound like a stat of a marginal pitcher?

leetro1525
leetro1525

@KurtSteinberg Well I played baseball in college, so I guess I'm such a rare exception of brains and talent...

High Heat Stats had a piece this year about Reuschel's ability to limit unearned runs and having defenses with terrible range behind him.  Even if you don't want to say that the defenses were that bad, he still had a 114 ERA+ in his 3500 career IP, which is pretty good.  I put him just outside the HOF personally, but he's better than a lot of current HOF pitchers.

Also, you must do what people do with Mussina and forget about the first half of his career.  Blyleven was as good as anybody in the 70's, with ERAs 3.00 and under in the AL as the DH was beginning.  He was way better than you think, a top 20 pitcher all-time.

KurtSteinberg
KurtSteinberg

@leetro1525 The only people who rely on WAR are eggheads who only played baseball on Nintendo instead of on an actual baseball field!  Rick Reuschel had a career WAR of 68.2, but nobody seriously considers him to be a Hall of Famer.  Pitchers can rack of WAR simply by pitching a lot of innings, even if they aren't accompanied by a particularly low ERA or a lot of wins.  

Blyleven was a slightly above-average pitcher who only played on two All-Star teams.  The only thing he had going for himself was that he played a long time and managed to accumulate a lot of wins despite being barely better than a .500 pitcher.  

leetro1525
leetro1525

@KurtSteinberg @buddha2727 Blyleven is 11th all-time in WAR for pitchers.  11TH!!!  He was first in his league in WAR in '73 and '81, second in '74 and '84, third in '85 and '89, and fourth 3 times.  Add in 3 more top ten seasons and that's 12 very good to elite seasons.  If he's marginal, then I guess Walter Johnson is the only true HOF pitcher...

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@gymviking @Sportsfan18 @Sneeral   Wow!  Morris had an ERA of 3.90 for his career.


And in the postseason, his ERA was 3.80  Morris was 7 & 4 in the postseason.


Just amazing.  I'm NOT saying Morris wasn't a good pitcher, just that Moose was better.


Mussina had a 3.42 ERA in the postseason as compared to his career ERA of 3.68.


It isn't like Mussina shrunk and disappeared in the postseason.


BUT you know what?  There are players in the HOF who have very little postseason experience.


A player is NOT kept out based on just postseason stats and many actually get into the hall without a world series championship or with very little postseason games.


They EACH pitched 18 yrs in the bigs and Moose was a better pitcher even though they BOTH were good.


A pitcher IS in control of his ERA and a 3.90 ERA isn't that good, especially for the Hall as it would be the WORST ever for a starting pitcher.

KurtSteinberg
KurtSteinberg

@gymviking@Sportsfan18@SneeralGymviking, nobody in their right mind would take Morris' career over Mussina's!  Mussina was far more talented - Morris just happened to luck out and end up on teams.  So what if Morris won game 7 of the 1991 World Series?  Should we induct David Freese because of how he played during the 2011 World Series even though his regular season numbers are clearly not Hall-of-Fame worthy?

leetro1525
leetro1525

@gymviking @Sportsfan18 @Sneeral Well I know the stats in-and-out.  Mussina was way better in the regular season, which I doubt you deny.

In his 3 championship seasons, he was not the best regular season pitcher on any of them.  Dan Petry and Willie Hernandez was better than him in '84.  Obviously, he had a great postseason and was truly the best pitcher on the team, but the offense/defense is what won the World Series for that team.

In '91 regular season, Kevin Tapani was much better than Morris and Scott Erickson was basically at Morris' level.  The bullpen and offense got the Twins through the ALCS, and Morris was beyond outstanding in the World Series.

In '92 regular season, Juan Guzman was much better, while Jimmy Key and Duane Ward were of equal value to Morris.  He was also a disaster in the playoffs, so he was the ace for only two of the title teams.

His argument is really just about the postseason and the arbitrary "most wins in the 80's" which has two problems.  First, who cares about a round number decade, and second, W-L record is not how to properly evaluate pitchers.  While very few have pitched such a great deciding playoff game, many have been better postseason pitchers.  When Josh Beckett retires, you better be his biggest HOF supporter, because he makes Morris' postseason stats look bad.  (OK, I doubt Beckett will pitch enough to consider induction, but he was much more dominant than Morris.)

gymviking
gymviking

@Sportsfan18 @gymviking @Sneeral You can quote stats, but you don't understand them.


Yes, Mussina had fewer walks and a better ERA during the regular season. He even had a few more wins.


Jack Morris was on four world championship teams and the undeniable ace of three of them. He didn't just "WANT" the ball, as you got stuck on, he won the game....and the Series.


And everything you say is trumped by this one thing: Game 7, 1991 World Series. That is easily worth 16 regular season wins.


So, yes, if you like a better walks per innings pitching stat, then Mussina is your man. If you measure greatness by World Series Championships, then the fan who understands what that means would select Morris.