Monday, July 9, 2007

241-136, 3.65 ERA, 2582 Ks

Any discussion about Mike Mussina’s Hall of Fame candidacy probably starts with what he hasn’t done. There are no 20-win seasons, no Cy Young awards and no World Series rings even though he signed with the Yankees in the offseason after they won their fourth in five years. He has also just missed on multiple no-hit bids, including coming within an out of a perfect game at Fenway Park in 2001.

But there is a lot to like on Moose’s resume. Barring major injury or drastic decline he will approach 275 wins. Two of his best seasons were shortened by the mid-90s labor strife; otherwise he might have two 20-win campaigns. He’s finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting six times and in two other years he finished sixth. Mussina is one of only 12 pitchers in MLB history to win at least 10 games in 15 straight seasons. He was also the second-best fielding pitcher of his generation (six gold gloves) behind Greg Maddux.

Alas, his consistency was not enough to impress our panel. He would make a nice addition to the Hall of Very Good, but he could not garner enough votes for this Hall of Fame.

YES: 2 NO: 5


JOHN TAYLOR: I like Mussina a lot, and he without a doubt is a good pitcher. But he never has won a Cy Young award (most of his great, Hall-bound contemporaries have at least couple) and is missing a highlight moment that stands out, unless you count the near-misses on a perfect game and a no-hitter. Heck, the Yankees haven’t even won a World Series since he bolted Baltimore for the Bronx. There’s certainly a lot to like about Mussina, but there’s not enough there to earn my vote for the Hall of Fame.

MARK ZUCKERMAN: There are those who believe “Moose” has already done enough to warrant a spot in Cooperstown. I’m not one of them. Here are the facts: While he’s been very, very good for a long time, he’s still never won 20 games, never won a Cy Young award, never won the ERA title (in fact, he hasn’t had an ERA under 3.00 since 1992) and of course he’s never won a championship. Now, I believe there’s still time for him to work his way into the Hall. His 241 wins look really good in today’s age, and if he can add another 30-40, he’ll be up there in rarified air. But as of this moment, no, he’s not a Hall of Famer.

TIM LEMKE: If Bert Blyleven’s not a Hall of Famer, neither is Mike Mussina. In both instances, you’re talking about pitchers with good, consistent careers that lack any stretches of dominance. Mussina has never won a Cy Young award, has no ERA titles and has never won 20 games despite operating with the benefit of the run support offered by big-hitting Yankee and Orioles teams. A few more years in the Bronx would probably give Mussina enough wins to land in Cooperstown, but for now he still has some work to do.

LACY LUSK: Only once has he finished higher than fourth in the Cy Young voting (second in 1999) and his joining the Yankees has coincided with, to borrow Buster Olney’s book title, the end of their dynasty. With no rings and no Cy Youngs, he’ll need 300 wins.

COREY MASISAK: I said before that Curt Schilling was the measuring stick for starting pitchers - better than Schilling is in and not is, well, not. That said, Moose’s resume does not stack up against Schilling’s. And is not because he never won 20 games (even if he had in ‘94 and ‘95, I don’t think that would be enough) or doesn’t have any signature postseason theatrics, though he was pretty awesome in a pretty memorable game []. I thought on the day he signed with the Yankees he would be a sure bet for Cooperstown, but he just hasn’t been great in Gotham. He’s been good, and very good many years, but there just isn’t enough great in his career to be in the Hall. He is the best over-35 pitcher I would not vote for, if that is worth anything.


PATRICK STEVENS: The move to New York after the 2000 season has brought neither a title nor a Cy Young Award for Mussina, and he hasn’t been nearly as good as he was during a run of nearly a decade in Baltimore. But Mussina stacks up rather well to a sure-fire Hall of Famer whose career almost exactly parallels his.

Player A: 241-135 (.641), 2581 K, 3.64 ERA (25 percent better than league average), 1.18 WHIP, 4 All-Star appearances, 0 Cy Young awards. Player B: 294-192 (.605), 2510 K, 3.46 ERA (20 percent better than league average), 1.30 WHIP, 10 All-Star appearances, 2 Cy Young awards

Mussina is Player A; Player B is Tom Glavine. The resumes are similar after adjusting for Glavine’s extra seasons, right down to the late-career decision to come to the Big Apple. Some might make the asinine argument Mussina’s teams didn’t do enough in the postseason and it his responsibility, but the regular season counts for something and Mussina’s playoff performance isn’t dreadful. Assuming he stays healthy for a few more seasons, Mussina shouldn’t wait much more than a couple years to be voted into the Hall.

KEVIN BREWER: Mike Mussina was among the top five starters in the American League seven times — 1992, 1995, 1997, 1999-2001 and 2003. He was among the top 10 in one more season (2006). This does not include 1994, which was hardly a season because it was not finished. He was the second best pitcher in the league.

The 1994 and 1995 seasons will hurt Mussina’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Both were strike-shortened seasons and two of his best. In 1994, he was 16-5 with a 3.05 ERA in a 112-game season. In 1995, he was 19-9 with a 3.29 ERA in a 144-game season. He would have won 20 games both seasons. Instead, he has no 20-win seasons.

But Mussina is better than other very good pitchers of his era — Curt Schilling, Kevin Brown, David Wells. Despite the strike-shortened seasons and three sub-par years with the New York Yankees, Mussina is a Hall of Famer.

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