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Wednesday November 19, 2008 8:11 pm

Mike Mussina, Future Hall of Famer, Retires

Posted by Eno Sarris Categories: New York Yankees, Editorials,

That's a Hall of Famer.

Mike Mussina decided to retire today, and in the Northeast, there’s no doubt. He’s a future Hall of Famer.

But all of this because he finally won 20 games? After two decades of consistent elite performance, why did a random number make so much difference? Well, the answer of course is that voters and much of the general public are a little too conscious of the ‘counting’ stats. How many home runs did he have? How many wins? Case closed.

Mussina has 270 wins in his 18 year career, an average of 15 wins per season. He has a career 3.68 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.  He’s only finished in the top three for the Cy Young once. So, no real hardware, no eye-popping statistics, no Hall of Fame - or so goes the story. But, let’s take a deeper look.

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Take a spin around Mike Mussina’s page on Baseball-Reference.com, and you’ll note just how steady Mussina was. After his 4-5 rookie season, he had only one losing season!  He won double digits every year and won less than 15 games only six times in his 18 seasons. His ERA was significantly better than the league average in 14 out of 18 seasons. He only had a WHIP over 1.27 four times. He topped 160 innings in every year save his rookie season, and reached 200 innings in 12 seasons.

Okay, okay you say, he’s an accumulator. He just was pretty good every year. Wrong.

He topped 18 wins six times. He topped 17 wins eight times. He finished in the top seven of the Cy Young voting seven times. He was a five-time all-star. He had seven gold gloves. He was in the top three for BB/9 six times. He was in the top two for shutouts five times. He was in the top three for K/BB ratio nine times. Those things are excellent.

But they aren’t wins, for sure. Mussina ‘only’ has 270 wins - that’s not 300, the big benchmark that we all have to stop looking for since the role of bullpens has been changed. Against 153 losses, though, those wins, and that .638 winning percentage, is actually another mark in his favor. 

Let’s look at those ratios. A 3.68 ERA doesn’t look great, but Mussina played in the Steroid Era. If you compare his career ERA to the league ERA (called ERA+), he had a 123 ERA+, meaning he was about a quarter better than the average pitcher in his era.

Still not impressed? The most similar player to Mike Mussina is Juan Marichal. Marichal had a 123 ERA+ (despite his actual ERA being 2.89), and 243 wins and 142 losses (a .631 winning percentage for those scoring at home). While his career flame burned brighter when he played (years with 25, 26 wins), and he played for less time, Mussina’s overall career is very similar.

Juan Marichal is in the Hall of Fame, and if there’s a place for him, there’s a seat right next to him waiting for Mike Mussina.



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