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Ballot 5: Mike Mussina

Mike Mussina

Played 18 years with two teams

Five-time All-Star, six-time Gold Glove winner, won 270 games with career 123 ERA+. 82.7 WAR, 48.6 WAA

Pro argument: Fabulous pitcher for a long time, retired on top of his game.

Con argument: Gut factor, didn’t win 300 or strikeout 3,000; Uninspiring base stats like 3.68 ERA.

Deserves to be in Hall?:
Yes.

Will get elected this year?:
No.

Will ever get elected?:
75%

* * *

Every generation, it seems, has a handful of players who, because of the times, because of their circumstances, because of the way baseball is analyzed and judged in their particular moment, are destined to be underrated. Take Darrell Evans who, by Bill James’ figuring, is the most underrated player in baseball history. Nobody thought of Darrell Evans as a star when he played. He made two All-Star teams in his career and never finished Top 10 in MVP balloting. His one year on the Hall of Fame ballot, he got eight votes — 251 fewer votes than Tony Perez and 188 fewer than Steve Garvey.

Well, there’s a pretty good argument to make that Darrell Evans was every bit as good a player as Perez and a better player than Garvey. It’s not an argument many want to make because Perez was awesome — the underappreciated leader of the Big Red Machine — and Garvey was, along with Pete Rose and Reggie Jackson, the most famous baseball player in America. Doggie has fans everywhere. Garvey has fans everywhere, fans who STILL push for his Hall of Fame election.

And Darrell Evans? Meh. He just did not connect with fans the way Doggie and Garvey did. Evans hit .246 for his career, drove in 100 RBIs once and so thoroughly split his career between three teams that he never quite became an all-time fan favorite for any of them. He also changed positions halfway through his career so nobody really knows if he was a third baseman or a first baseman. There was no uproar when he fell off the Hall ballot.

Bill James summed it up perfectly: “Perez is in the Hall of Fame, and I’m happy that he is, and Evans is isn’t going to go there, and I’m OK with that, but the fact is that Darrell Evans was a better player than Tony Perez.”

What made Evans better (or at least as good) as Doggie? He walked 90-100 times every year; Perez walked about half of that. That’s why, even though Perez had 30 points of batting average on Evans, his on-base percentage was 20 points lower.

Evans also hit more home runs than Perez (414 to 380) and so created just about the same number of runs (Perez had 1,524 to Evans’ 1,499). Evans was also a much better third baseman than Perez; he was a very good defender, especially in his younger days.

And Garvey? It’s not close with Garvey. Both Evans and Perez had about 300 more runs created thn Garvey. WAR has it this way:

Evans: 58.5
Perez: 53.9
Garvey: 37.7

There is no grand push to get Evans into the Hall of Fame, and I’m not making one here. I’m just saying that circumstances aligned against Darrell Evans.

The same is true for Bobby Grich. He drew a bit more attention as a player than Evans did — Grich made six All-Star teams and won four Gold Gloves and was a part of some very good Orioles teams in his younger days. Don Baylor told a story about this time that Earl Weaver pinch hit for Grich in 1972 (Grich’s first full year) and Grich rushed into the dugout, grabbed Weaver by the throat and shouted, “How do you expect me to hit in this league when you keep pinch-hitting for me all the time?” Grich was a force.

But again nobody really saw him as a GREAT player or a Hall of Famer. Why? Batting average: He hit just .266 for his career. Postseason: He was never part of a World Series team. Length of career: He did not manage any of the statistical benchmarks that might get people to look at him twice. He had only 1,833 career hits, for instance.

The one year Bobby Grich was on the Hall of Fame ballot, he got 11 votes — 171 fewer than Bill Mazeroski, 109 fewer than Maury Wills, 30 fewer than Pete Rose who was not even eligible to be elected.

And again people were just blind to what made Grich special because we did not have the language then to explain it. Among second basemen, Grich’s 70.9 WAR ranks seventh all-time. He was a brilliant defender (in an era of brilliant defensive second basemen), he hit with some power, he walked a lot, he stole a few bases, and he did all of it at a time when offense was seriously deflated. He also did it, for the most part, in extreme pitcher ballparks.

Also, his Magnus Opus season was the 1981 strike year (he led the league in homers and slugging percentage) so he only played in 100 games. Also, as seen above, Bobby Grich was just a bleepin’ ballplayer — no hype, no self-promotion, just baseball. His career WAR is within three wins of Reggie Jackson. But Reggie knew how to sell Reggie.

There is a bit more of a push to get Grich recognized as a Hall of Famer than Evans, but I doubt it will go very far. Again: I’m not saying Grich should absolutely be in the Hall. I’m just saying he was a terrific player and, because of time and place, most of us just missed it.

Which brings us, finally, to Mike Mussina. When Mussina entered the Major Leagues in 1991 — after being a first-round pick from Stanford and pitching just two seasons in the minor leagues — there were two stats anyone cared about for pitchers. One, of course, was wins. The other was ERA. You might get a few people quoting strikeouts; the nerdier might even talk strikeout-to-walk ratio. But, mostly, it came down to wins and ERA.

Mike Mussina did not win 20 games in a season until his last year in the Majors, long after wins had lost most of its power.

And Mussina’s lifetime 3.68 ERA doesn’t seem great. He only once had a sub-3.00 ERA in a full season, and that happened in his first full year, 1992.

And so — people generally did not think of Mussina as a great pitcher. He would go on putting up these 15-8 and 13-10 and 17-11 seasons. He would go on with 3.49 and 3.50 ERAs … and occasionally 4.81 and 4.59 ERAs too. When you grew up in the 1970s and 1980s and you see those numbers, well, the mind automatically and involuntarily thinks “third or fourth starter.” The mind instantly thinks: “good but not great.”

Here is a list of good pitchers who have not gone to the Hall of Fame.

Lew Burdette, 203 wins, 3.63 ERA
Joe Niekro, 221 wins, 3.59 ERA
Rick Wise 188 wins, 3.69 ERA
Jerry Reuss 220 wins, 3.64 ERA
Jim Kaat, 283 wins, 3.45 ERA
Frank Tanana 240 wins, 3.66 ERA
Tommy John, 288 wins, 3.34 ERA
Mike Mussina 270 wins, 3.68 ERA

Mussina seems to fit in that group, right? He has a few more wins than most, a slightly higher ERA than most, yeah, he fits right in. Good pitchers. Not Hall of Famers.

Only … no. He doesn’t fit that group at all. It isn’t easy to see, just looking at those core numbers, that Mike Mussina was WAY better than any of those pitchers.

Lew Burdette, 25.8 WAR
Joe Niekro, 28.7 WAR
Rick Wise, 32.1 WAR
Jerry Reuss, 33.1 WAR
Jim Kaat, 45.3 WAR
Frank Tanana, 57.5 WAR
Tommy John, 62.3 WAR
Mike Mussina, 82.7 WAR

Obviously, Mussina pitched in a much different time from any of those other pitchers, a time when runs were being scored like mad. He also pitched in the American League East when that was a gauntlet for pitchers. If you neutralize all of those ERAs to an average run environment, you begin to see that Mussina’s greatness was obscured.

Neutralized ERA
Lew Burdette, 3.88
Joe Niekro, 3.93
Rick Wise, 3.86
Jerry Reuss, 3.87
Jim Kaat, 3.71
Frank Tanana, 3.65
Tommy John, 3.67
Mike Mussina, 3.07

Well, those neutralized ERAs tell a very different story, don’t they? That 3.07 is a better-neutralized ERA than Steve Carlton, than Juan Marichal, than Gaylord Perry, than Warren Spahn. This is not to say he was as good as they were — but maybe he was. The times concealed his talents. He was a workhorse for his time — throwing 200-plus innings in 11 seasons and finishing top five in innings pitched twice — but he certainly didn’t throw as many innings in a season as Carlton, Marichal, Perry or Spahn.

He has the third most shutouts of any pitcher the last 25 years (behind only Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux) but his 23 shutouts don’t even place him in the Top 200 historically.

He was overshadowed by historic anomalies like Unit and Maddux, Clemens and Pedro. Those are also the only four pitchers who have recorded more WAR over the last 50 years. Tom Glavine went into the Hall first. John Smoltz went into the Hall first. Trevor Hoffman will probably go into the Hall first.

He was probably a better pitcher than any of them. He was certainly every bit as good.

But, as mentioned, there are players — Lou Whitaker … Dwight Evans … Kevin Brown … Alan Trammell — who were just never considered huge stars when they played and, as such, were never quite viewed as Hall of Famers. It does seem like Tim Raines will finally break that spell. And the momentum is good for Mussina too. He won’t get elected this year but it does look like he will take a giant leap forward, probably in part because of the backlash against Curt Schilling. It’s good to see Mussina get the wind behind him. Yes, he only won 20 once. Yes, his ERA will be the second-highest in the Hall, ahead only of Red Ruffing. But, the closer you look, the clearer it becomes: Mike Mussina was a great pitcher.

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137 Responses to Ballot 5: Mike Mussina

  1. Johnny P says:

    Joe, let me ask you this: if Darrell Evans or Bobby Grich were put back on the ballot, would you vote for them as Hall of Famers?

    • Joe Posnanski says:

      No because there are better players who are not in the Hall. But they were both excellent players, particularly Grich.

      • Patrick says:

        Joe, it’s just a quick WAA, and it’s just position players, but Grich would have the fourth highest WAA on the ballot, behind only Bonds, Bagwell, and Walker. What the heck? There are also only three pitchers in front of him. Seems like there might be room for the guy with the eighth highest WAA total on a 10 person ballot.

        • Otistaylor89 says:

          A few items about Grich:
          – Was his high dWAR mostly a product of playing in the same infield with two of the top 3 defensive players at their postion (Belanger and Robinson), who where known to make other infielders look much better than they normally would be?
          – He was hurt a lot in the middle of his career and only played a full year at 2nd once after 1980.
          He certainly had top 5 talent ever at 2nd and top 5 mustache.

          • Rob Smith says:

            How exactly did Brooks Robinson, a third baseman, make Bobby Grich a better secondbaseman? Also, if Belanger was able to reach a ball up the middle, how did that impact Grich’s defensive metrics. I’m really not sure how you came up with this. Defensive metrics are not about how they “looked” or how others around them fielded THEIR positions. It’s about how they performed on balls hit to them.

          • JaLaBar says:

            It is possible that Grich had more balls hit his way as teams made an effort to go to the right side as much as possible, but Grich would still have had to make the plays on those balls. But yeah, and ball hit middle-left on that Orioles team (remember they had Don Buford in left and Paul Blair in center) either left the yard or died.

  2. Johnny P says:

    Actually, speaking of Evans, he illustrates James’s Hall of Fame stats quite well. On the monitor, he only scores a 42…which demonstrates how he was never thought of as a HOFer.

    On the other hand, he scores a 40 on the Hal of Fame Standards scale, where the average HOFer scores a 50.

  3. El Guapo says:

    Please don’t hate me Joe…but it seems like Jack Morris should be on your list of near hall of famers.

  4. Tomg says:

    If he joined the Yankees a few years earlier and stayed one year longer Hall-of-Fame voters would treat him as good or better than Glavine and Smoltz. Among the leaders in walks per nine innings virtually every year of his career. Among the top six in the league in strikeouts per nine for eight straight years. That’s getting close to Greg Maddux levels and he was still better than league average in HR allowed

    • Brian Schwartz says:

      Or if he pitched for any National League team. There was probably no more difficult pitching environment in history than AL East during Mussina’s career, apart from maybe the early 1930s American League.

      • MikeN says:

        Is that still the case given that he was pitching for the Yankees for 8 years, and thus not against the Yankees, and the Orioles were better hitters when he was there right?

  5. Fin Alyn says:

    More than not getting elected, it is the lack of even consideration that bothers me most about Whitaker and Grich. Total after thoughts. Whitaker at least should have been borderline (though I think he belongs) and he fell off after the first year. Biggio and Sandberg in, and Lou dismissed with 3% of the vote his first year. Always been a Moose fan, so really hoping he gets in.

    • Sonny says:

      I feel the same way, particularly about Whitaker (Grich was a bit ahead of my time) and Trammell. Disclaimer: I am a Tigers fan.

      Trammell’s case in particular irritates me. Obvious bias aside, I don’t see anyway the Tigers would have traded Trammell for Ozzie Smith, though I think the Cards would have considered it. It grinds my gears that Tram will have to hope that he gets in somewhere down the line while Ozzie breezed in on the first ballot.

  6. Wes Tovich says:

    Oh, lemme see: Moose is a great candidate, of course he’s a HOF. I wish he’d hung around and got the 300 wins just so he got in easier, but keeping him out is very very wrong.

    Kaat’s WAR is lower than you’d expect, isn’t it? He’s a Hof to me. Ditto John. I hope they get in, sometime.

    Trotting out the sacred cows-Evans, Grich, Trammell, etc, you know there’s nothing wrong with that, I think all those guys are Hall of Famers or close to it, but there Are other neglected players out there besides them. This is framing the same exact argument James was 25 years ago for the same guys. C’mon. You can make good cases for Lance Parrish, Roy Sievers and Tony Oliva. Dennis Martinez. But you’ll never hear that said here.

    • Bryan says:

      You can’t really make a good case for Dennis Martinez. He would have a great case if he had been playing in Japan instead of Baltimore (on the assumption he would be good enough to be a star in Japan) and then come over to America and had his post-Orioles career.

      Dennis Martinez’s Age 32+ career is similar to the entire careers of Carlos Zambrano or Chris Carpenter but you’re not going to find many people pushing for either of those players to be in the HoF. You could craft the argument “if only Dennis had started in MLB at 22” but since he really did it’s known he pitched about as well as Clyde Wright’s entire career during the time he was in Baltimore.

      You can make a bad argument, for instance “during the 1995 season El Presidente passed Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter, Red Ruffing, John Clarkson, Whitey Ford and Amos Rusie while becoming only the 45th pitcher to strike out at least 2000 players during his career and should be expecting a call from Cooperstown as soon as he is eligible”.

  7. ben says:

    Was Tony Perez nicknamed Doggie?

  8. Fred McMane says:

    I am a former baseball writer and sports editor for United Press International and covered the sport from 1964 through 1997. I voted for the Hall of Fame for more than 40 years and one of the things that puzzles me is why Mel Stottlemyre never got more consideration. His statistics are mind-boggling: a 2.97 ERA for 11 seasons (is he the only pitcher with an ERA of under 3.00 not in the HOF?), 9 years in a row of 250 or more innings pitched, 40 shutouts out of his 164 career wins and fewer hits than innings pitched for his career. These are numbers better than many HOF pitchers. He played on very poor Yankee teams for most of his career which no doubt worked against him. But his numbers seem to stand out. He also was an outstanding pitching coach and the two things combined would seem to warrant HOF election. Yet the BBWAA seemed to ignore those numbers and I’m not certain if his name has ever come up with the various veterans committees.

    • Johnny P says:

      If Mel’s career happened from 1954-64, instead of 1964-74, he would have, at least, gotten a lot more than three HOF votes.

    • Karyn says:

      His career was too short. And he had only six full seasons when his ERA+ was more than 5% better than league average. I’m sure others can explain it better, or in more detail, but his peak wasn’t *quite* as high as it needed to be, nor did he last long enough to provide big value over the long term.

      He had a fine, worthy career, but he is short of the Hall of Fame.

    • Doug says:

      He probably deserved more votes but I think the ERA numbers are less impressive when you take into account that he pitched from 1964 to 1974. Looking at the neutralized ERA numbers Joe talks about in this post, Stottlemyre has a 3.48. and when you combine that with the short career, I think it’s hard for me to see a case that he’s a Hall of Famer.

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Fred, I can only guess, of course, but I’d say it’s most likely due to the very short career. Generally voters have liked long careers with high counting stats. His 164 W’s is very low, and I think it may be higher than only a couple of HOF starters. There are actually 36 pitchers who had at least 2,000 IP, have an ERA under 3, and aren’t in the HOF

    • Rob Smith says:

      He definitely did very well for poor Yankee teams (a rare run of terribleness for the Yanks). He pretty much aligned with their run of futility. It is a bit odd that he didn’t seem to get any points for pitching in Yankee stadium. His ERA+ was good, not great. Obviously not a strikeout pitcher, so FIP is good, not great. WHIP good, not great. Basically I see him as a very consistent, very good player in a rough Yankee era. His entire case is the 2.97 ERA in Yankee Stadium, and a good win rate compiled playing for weak teams. The short career hurt too since he was done at age 31. If he would have hung on and compiled some wins/stats for a few more years he could have gotten in with the old school traditional stat loving writers of the day. It’s a very tough case to make as it actually ended.

      • Mike says:

        Yankee stadium was actually a terrific pitchers’ park. The only years in Stott’s 11-year run that it played as either neutral or pro-hitter were ’64, ’68, and ’74. Every other year it was strongly pro-pitcher.

    • TWolf says:

      Dean Chance (ERA 2.92) and Andy Messersmith (ERA 2.86) had substantial careers as starting pitchers during many of the years that Stottlemyre pitched. Neither of them got many HOF votes before their names were removed from HOF consideration.

  9. Patrick says:

    Good but not great, third or fourth starter, and yet more wins than Morris along with a lower ERA. Seems like there ought to be some of those Jack lovers banging the drum for Mussina. 😉

  10. Bob Magee says:

    Mussina pitched when 33/34 starts led league. His era reduced opportunity for starters. He won over 50% of his starts. Not all HOF pitchers can claim that.

  11. DBA says:

    I’ll nominate Reggie Smith as the most under-rated player of all time. Or at least of recent times. I don’t know of a contemporary player who I’d subjectively judge to be less well-known who also has a higher WAR.

    Extremely good hitter – but in an era where pitching dominated. (The inverse of the Mussina ERA issue cited above.) By wRC+ one of the 20 best hitters of the last half-century. But only once each scored or drove in 100 runs (stats that resonated at the time). A perfectly good, but not exceptional, defender. Split his career amongst several teams.

    It’s a perfect recipe for relative anonymity.

  12. Pat says:

    How DARE you compare the great Dwight Evans to the hated Yankee Mike Mussina?! This is you getting back at Red Sox fans for the 2007 ALCS, right?

    • Dave Eberly says:

      The fact that I’m not sure if this post is a joke or not perfectly proves Joe’s post about Darrell Evans being underrated.

      • invitro says:

        Have you ever seen Darrell and Dwight in the same room together? Sorry, Fenway Park isn’t a room.

      • Brett Alan says:

        Or, maybe, he was referring to the last paragraph.

      • Pat says:

        Ohhh, man—I wish I was joking, Dave. And thanks for the benefit of the doubt, Brett Alan (or maybe I should just call you Brian Alan? or Bryan Adams, even?), but that was absolutely my screw-up. Facepalm moment.
        .
        However, man does Darrell Evans look a lot like Dwight Evans in this lens. One of them:
        Earned 58.5 WAR in his 21-season career, made two All Star teams, and got MVP votes four times.
        The other earned 66.9 WAR in his 20-season career, made three All Star teams, and got MVP votes five times.

        They were both one-and-done in Hall voting. They’re even both on each other’s top comparables (similarity score 848).

        • MikeN says:

          Also underrated. I remember when Globe was going NE Top 100 on a daily countdown, and while trying to guess the list had Dwight Evans on it. The days kept going by, and he kept not appearing, until it was obvious he didn’t even make the top 100.

    • Baltojo says:

      He will always be an Oriole in my eyes.If he’d gotten more run support in B’more, there’d be no question about his worthiness.

  13. Pat says:

    Mussina really puzzled a lot of people when he walked away. He was 38 and had already earned his money, but he was only two seasons (maybe) from 300 wins and (probably) from 3,000 Ks. I’m sure he had other things he wanted to do, but his Hall case would have been automatic with one or both of those. But it just didn’t matter that much, which, like I said, puzzled a lot of people.
    .
    I’m sure he’s used to it. Mussina was always something of a puzzling player.

    • PhilM says:

      And a puzzle player: wasn’t he know for doing crosswords and other brainy things?

      • invitro says:

        From wikipedia: “Mussina is also a crossword puzzle enthusiast and was featured in the 2006 documentary film Wordplay.”

        And “As a high school senior, Mussina just missed being the valedictorian of his graduating class. According to some reports, he intentionally came up short to avoid delivering a commencement speech.” (I can sympathize.)

      • Pat says:

        Yes! That joke I was actually trying for! Or, you know, at least was kinda thinking about.

        But yes, Mussina was known for doing the Times crossword (“the puzzle” at least to some of us in New York) on the team bus. As I recall from what you read in the Daily News, he was pretty good at it.

        • Hudson Valley Slim says:

          Always cracks me up when sportswriters see an athlete doing a crossword and celebrate his intelligence. Albert Belle was another. Mussina and Belle may well be intelligent, but is that the ‘tell’?

          Anyways, I’m convinced. Mussina belongs.

          • JaLaBar says:

            Moose was Dean’s List at Stanford. Sometimes reports of player intellect are overblown, but Moose is legit. Pretty sure he’d have been an investment banker or something of that nature had he not been a baseball player.

          • MikeN says:

            I’d go with Rondo’s Connect Four over the Crossword.

  14. Rick Rodstrom says:

    So Mussina gets in as a context guy, and that’s always a little dicey, because now you’re in the realm of “What might have been if…” What might have his numbers been if he had pitched in the 1950s? Why, his ERA would have been 3.07! Well, maybe. Maybe not. The truth is, we have no way of knowing. Lew Burdette had to face Willie Mays. Maybe Willie Mays would have killed Mike Mussina. You can’t tell.

    You want context? Here’s context. During his own era, against his own contemporaries, Mussina never led the league in ERA or strikeouts, and led the league in wins once and innings pitched once. That’s why he never won a Cy Young Award, because he was never the best pitcher in the league. It’s hard for someone to join the group of the Greatest Pitchers of All Time when he was never the Greatest Pitcher of his Own Time.

    You want more context? Sure, Mussina pitched in the tough division of the American League East during a high scoring era. You know who else did? Pedro Martinez. In 1999, when Mike Mussina went 18-7 with a 3.50 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 203 innings—all solid enough stats—Pedro Martinez went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts in 213 innings, facing basically the same guys in a smaller ballpark. Those are Hall of Fame numbers. So if you go, well, translate Mike Mussina’s stats to 1968 and he would have had a 2.25 ERA, then what would Pedro have had? A 0.25 ERA? There’s only so low you can go. I think it would have been somewhere in the 1-1.50 range. It’s not an exact science. If 1968 era Bob Gibson was transported to 2000, he would still post fantastic numbers. Maybe not 1.12, but neither would he have had a 3.40 ERA. He would have still dominated, but it would have looked even more impressive because the other stiffs around him were getting clobbered by steroid-fueled behemoths.

    The only true comparison you can make with Mussina is with his contemporaries, where he was very good, but he wasn’t the best. He wasn’t a Martinez or a Clemens or a Maddux or a Johnson. He wasn’t even a Schilling or a Glavine or a Smoltz. He was just a very good pitcher for a long time. A Hall of Fame without Mike Mussina doesn’t bother me any more than a Hall of Fame without Tommy John. I wouldn’t be outraged if either of them got in, but I wouldn’t vote for them.

    • Doug says:

      Lew Burdette never had to face Barry Bonds, either. That one cuts both ways. I’m also not sure that we should be disqualifying everyone who doesn’t live up to Pedro’s 2000 or Gibson’s 1968 seasons. Those are maybe the two best seasons of all time. That seems like an impossibly high bar (although I agree that Mussina is a somewhat marginal candidate, and if you’re a small hall person, it makes total sense not to have him).

      Just out of curiosity, by the way, I looked up the neutralized ERA numbers for those seasons – Pedro’s 1999 and Gibson’s 1968 come out about the same, around a 1.6 ERA , but Pedro’s neutralized ERA for 2000 is a cut above – 1.33. What an incredible ballplayer.

      • Rick Rodstrom says:

        Mike Mussina didn’t face Bonds much either, pitching in the American League, though he faced a lot of great hitters. But it was such a different game that it’s impossible to say 1997 = 1963 x 1.5. I’m just really skeptical of those kinds of equivalencies. My own opinion is that the best hitters of all time were in the National League in the 1950’s, when baseball was still the #1 sport, the game had been integrated, and African-Americans and other great athletes dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues, rather than basketball or football (even Lew Alcindor dreamed of playing for the Dodgers!). And I’m not a “things were always better in the old days” kind of guy. I do believe that pitchers throw harder now than they ever did. All the advances in training have definitely helped. But kids don’t play baseball the way they used to. Everything is different, from the travel to the ballparks to the uniforms to the equipment. It’s silly to think you can quantify it precisely. It’s one thing to say that the 1960’s were a low scoring environment, and the 1990’s were a high scoring environment, and to take the numbers with a grain of salt, but it’s another thing to say that a 3.58 ERA in 1997 was equal to a 2.96 ERA in 1963. Now instead of taking numbers with a degree of skepticism, you’re treating even more fantastical numbers like they were bedrock truths. Neutralized ERA? There’s no such thing. That’s why I’m for rating a player against his peers, and Mike Mussina’s numbers just don’t stack up against his. In Mussina’s era, I would vote Martinez, Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, Schilling, Smoltz, Glavine and Rivera into the Hall. That’s a decent number of pitchers. And I would rather have Mussina and Hoffman get elected than have a year where nobody got elected, so depending on the ballot, I could vote for them. But it wouldn’t be a tragedy if they didn’t make it.

        • jpdg says:

          You’re saying that looking at neutralized ERA should be taken with a huge grain of salt and that guys should be judged against their contemporaries. But don’t the two kind of overlap? Guys are judged against their contemporaries who are judged based on the scoring environment. Neutralized ERA is simply neutralizing the run scoring environment. Even if you don’t like neutralized ERA, there are other methods like ERA+ or (the better) ERA- for judging pitchers amongst their peers and across eras.

          By the way, no matter how you slice it, Mussina is right there with all the guys outside the big four starters from his era. He was flat out better than Glavine and absolutely crushes him across the board on a rate basis. Mussina beats him, and in many cases by a wide margin, in K%, BB%, ERA-, FIP, xFIP, FIP- both major versions of WAR… It’s really not close. Glavine has a modest edge in ERA (3.54 vs 3.68) but it goes without saying that pitching in the NL East was a cakewalk compared to the AL East. All Glavine has on him is longevity and wins. Glavine won a couple of CY Young’s, but can you really say with a straight face that he was ever the best pitcher on his own team, much less in all of baseball? Smoltz at his best was better but he didn’t have Mussina’s durability or consistency which should count for something. He wasn’t as good Pedro, Maddux, Unit or Clemens. But if that’s the bar than nobody else – Mussina, Glavine, Smoltz, Schilling, Halladay – should be in the Hall either.

        • Doug says:

          I don’t think anyone here is really treating statistics like neutralized ERA as the final word. Joe seems to be using them as a way of making a broad point about the context Mussina played in; I was citing them as an interesting curiosity. You can take it with a grain of salt and still use it to make those points. In fact, you definitely should take it with a grain of salt. All these stats are more or less imprecise methods to model the underlying reality. I think that all anyone’s saying is that they’re a useful way of putting ballplayers in context so we can better understand them. The reason that someone might think that Mussina is a Hall of Famer is not because his neutralized ERA is such-and-such; it’s because he was a consistently good-to-great pitcher for his environment. Neutralized ERA is one way of framing that argument. Of course, you don’t by any means have to agree that “consistently good-to-great pitcher for his environment” merits a Hall of Fame spot.

        • MikeN says:

          This same argument applies when declaring that under the new rules Michael Jordan would be averaging 45 a game, along with others.
          This means that Kobe ‘back in the day’ would score less than 20.

    • Patrick says:

      Arguing that someone is not as good as an inner circle player like Martinez is not an argument which is disqualifying. Also, he was as good or better than both Glavine and Smoltz, so again not disqualifying.

      • Rick Rodstrom says:

        Glavine—300 wins, 2 Cy Youngs. Led the league in wins 5 times.
        Smoltz—1 Cy Young, 1st player in history with 200 wins and 150 saves, set the NL single season save record with 55, legendary post-season performer.

        Smoltz’s post season numbers 15-4, 2.67
        Mussina’s post-season numbers 7-8, 3.42

        Again, what would go on Mike Mussina’s Hall of Fame plaque? Once finished the New York Times crossword puzzle in under an hour?

        • invitro says:

          Are you seriously quoting wins and saves figures? Well, I guess one guy here has to care about them. Don’t forget, though, that the Braves’ offense and defense gets about 60% of the credit for those wins.

          • Rick Rodstrom says:

            300 wins puts Glavine in an elite group with only 24 players in Major League history. You know how many pitchers led the league in wins 5 times? 6. Warren Spahn, Bob Feller, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Walter Johnson, Joe McGinnity, CY Young. And Glavine did it on a team with two other Hall of Famers who also led the league in wins in their own right (plus an assortment of 4th starters who were pretty good—Denny Neagle led the league in wins one year as well). Smoltz’s wins and saves combo puts him in a class by himself, and a record is a record. Plus he was one of the greatest post-season pitchers of all time. These are what are known as distinguishing characteristics which earn one the right to join an exclusive club like the HOF. Mussina has no distinguishing characteristics beyond being a good pitcher for a long time. Basically he’s Andy Pettitte without the post-season resume.

    • Hudson Valley Slim says:

      Good argument for sure. Mussina is not in that top-tier. But he was an ace, and he did pitch in a tough environment and era. I think he makes the cut.

    • JaLaBar says:

      This is silly. In reality, was anyone who played concurrently with Roger Clemens ever the ‘best pitcher in the League’? Do you think Glavine or Smoltz were ever ‘the best pitcher in the league’ when the prime of their careers were simultaneous with Clemens, Johnson, Maddux, and Martinez? Not to mention Mussina and Schilling?

    • JaLaBar says:

      “He wasn’t even a Schilling or a Glavine or a Smoltz” Here you made some sense, since Moose was better than all three of them.

      • Rick Rodstrom says:

        You can read my comment above as to what distinguishes Glavine and Smoltz. Schilling had the great strikeout to walk ratio, striking out 300 batters 3 times, and was one of the great post-season pitchers of all time, helping to get him 3 rings. All achievements that made these unique, worthy of enshrinement in the Hall. What comparable achievements would you put on Mike Mussina’s HOF plaque? That he won 1 more game than Jamie Moyer?

        • JaLaBar says:

          K, from all PITCHING metrics. Mussina was a much better pitcher than Glavine, but because Glavine won a few more games and awards (that Mussina couldn’t have beaten him for since Moose played in the more difficult AL), he is worthy and not Moose. Because Smoltz had arm problems and HAD to go to the bullpen, which Mussina did not, he gets in. You think Mussina couldn’t have been a good closer? LOL. No, if Glavine and Smoltz are deserving, Mussina is moreso. Schilling was a great pitcher, but his career was not as good as Mussina. The funny thing is that you discount the wins and career edge that Mussina has over Schilling then use those same metrics to put Glavine over Moose. Moose was a better pitcher than Glavine or Smoltz.

        • Patrick says:

          Re: the World Series rings, are you saying that if Mariano Rivera doesn’t blow the save in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, (a game that Mike Mussina never even appeared in) that he is somehow more worthy of being in the Hall of Fame? That’s….pretty ridiculous logic

  15. Crazy Diamond says:

    To me, Mussina is the SP equivalent of Fred McGriff: consistently very good, but never great in any season. Both had “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” feel: a great career consisting of many very good seasons.

    I have no idea how a voter can say “yes” to Moose but “no” to Crime Dog. Either vote them both in or keep them both out. I’d personally love to see both in – I think they’re both deserving for the same reasons.

    But I think, unfortunately, that both of these guys end up being the 11th or 12th choice for many voters, which obviously costs them votes.

    • invitro says:

      “I have no idea how a voter can say “yes” to Moose but “no” to Crime Dog.” — I’ll give you a real easy way. Mussina had 82.7 WAR. Freddie had 52.4. Nope, not quite equivalent. EX POST IPSO FACTO. PRESTO CHANGE-O. RED HEARTS YELLOW MOONS GREEN CLOVERS.

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        Cherry-picking one stat for your argument is tough. I mean, McGriff’s WAR is very similar to those of Willie Stargell, Tony Perez, and Orlando Cepeda. That’s not bad company.

        On the other hand, WAR suggests that Moose was nearly identical to or slightly better than the likes of Pedro Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., Nolan Ryan, and Derek Jeter. This is, of course, laughable, as nobody in their right mind thinks Moose was superior to any of those players.

        Like I said, Moose belongs in the HOF. But I do see some similarity between his career and McGriff’s.

        • invitro says:

          I don’t think you know what “cherry-picking” means. And Mussina wasn’t slightly better than Ryan, he was vastly superior to Ryan. HIIIIIIII-YAAAA!

        • Patrick says:

          “McGriff’s WAR is very similar to those of Willie Stargell, Tony Perez, and Orlando Cepeda. That’s not bad company. On the other hand, WAR suggests that Moose was nearly identical to or slightly better than the likes of Pedro Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., Nolan Ryan, and Derek Jeter. This is, of course, laughable, as nobody in their right mind thinks Moose was superior to any of those players.”

          So in other words, WAR is meaningful when it tells you what you want to hear, but if it tells you something you don’t, it’s not.

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            Yep! Nailed it! Because that’s exactly what Invitro did: he used WAR to tell us what he wanted us to know (or hear) while “forgetting” to tell us the rest. What Invitro wanted WAR to demonstrate was that Moose had a higher WAR than McGriff. What Invitro didn’t want us to realize about WAR: it also suggests that Moose was comparable to or better than Pedro Martinez, Griffey, etc..

            Congratulations, Patrick, you proved my point.

          • invitro says:

            Do you still think nobody in their right mind thinks Mussina was superior to Ryan? You may want to lay off the LSD, Syd, and come back to the real world. BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA!

          • JaLaBar says:

            Ooh, you just did it… brought up one of, if not THE most over-rated player in baseball history to compare to Mussina. Jeter… Holy shit. Ok, Moose was at least as good a pitcher as Jeter was a SS.

    • Doug says:

      You know, that might be the conventional wisdom about McGriff’s career, but I’m not sure it holds up. McGriff doesn’t actually look like someone who was consistently very good but never great. He was a great batter his first few years in the league, and then was a consistently above-average batter, while also being a consistently bad first baseman. I don’t think he hit well enough to make up for his defense after he turned 30. In contrast, Mussina was someone who was actually consistently very good, with a few great seasons sprinkled in there. Opinions vary on whether or not that makes a Hall of Famer, but I think it’s a significantly different case to McGriff’s.

      • Brian Schwartz says:

        That’s right. I think McGriff had a great peak from 1988-94. It’s just hard to pick out that peak with counting stats because he put up the same numbers throughout his career.

        McGriff’s numbers in the late 1990s/early 2000s were basically what every first baseman was putting up. In the late 1980s/early 1990s, though, virtually no one was putting up numbers like McGriff’s, and any of his seasons would have been a career year for a lesser player. For example, Don Mattingly had a 156 OPS+ in his MVP season. McGriff had a 155 OPS+ for the 7-year period from 1988-1994.

        • invitro says:

          “In the late 1980s/early 1990s, though, virtually no one was putting up numbers like McGriff’s” — Are you sure about this? I just checked a few first basemen from this era, and it (a 155+ OPS+) looks right durn common to me. I’d like to introduce you to: John Olerud, Frank E. Thomas, Rafael Palmeiro, Cecil Fielder, Eddie Murray, Mark McGwire, Alvin Davis, Jack Clark, and Will Clark. Heck, that’s a third of the first basemen right there. Now most of these guys don’t have a 155+ OPS+ for this particular time period, but I’ll bet a few of them do for -some- time period, and Frank just plain destroyed McGriff as soon as the 1990’s rolled around. And these are just other first basemen.

          • aweb says:

            McGriff is super-large hall only -borderline, but from 1988-1992 (cherry pick alert!), for all 1B (using fangraphs):
            Lead in WAR (27.5, Will Clark second)
            Lead in HR ( 171, McGwire 2nd)
            Lead in Runs (452, Clark 2nd)
            3rd in Walk rate, 2nd in walks (to Clark, Thomas in rate who only played 2 years here though)
            2nd in OBP (to Thomas’s two years)
            2nd in SLG (Thomas)
            2nd in WOBA (Thomas)
            3rd in RBI (Clark, McGwire)

            He was even a reasonable baserunner and defender during this period. Problem being in 1993 offense jumped, and McGriff stayed the same and then declined very slowly.

            His 1B-only WAR MLB Rank 1988 to 1994 this time – 1st, 2nd, 4th, 11th, 3rd, 8th, 3rd. Never a reasonable MVP candidate, even as the best 1B for a year, and simply a slightly above average player after this. Those Blue Jay teams he was on had no one who got on base in front of him at a great rate (in 1989 in particular, the 1-3 spots in the lineup had a .310 OBP), so he never had much chance to pile up the RBI totals at his peak (Joe Carter took his “spot” after the big trade, and had the exact opposite experience for years, and of course didn’t take walks himself).

          • kehnn13 says:

            I agree with you regarding Frank Thomas. I do feel, however, that the perception of players like McGriff and Will Clark were significantly hurt by the steroid era.

    • JaLaBar says:

      McGriff and Mussina played in a highly elevated offensive era. Moose’s job was run prevention, CrimeDog’s was run producing.

  16. invitro says:

    “That’s why he never won a Cy Young Award, because he was never the best pitcher in the league.” — I dunno. Let’s look at 2001, shall we? Mussina led in WAR with 7.1. The winner was Clemens with 5.6, then Mulder with 5.6, then Freddy Garcia with 4.2, then Moyer with 3.4, and finally Mussina. Clemens won because he had a 20-3 record. However, Clemens had a 3.51 ERA, and Mussina had a 3.15 ERA. Mussina pitched more innings. It’s pretty hard to believe that Mussina wasn’t the best pitcher in the league in 2001, but maybe I missed something… I certainly wasn’t following the AL East in 2001.

    “It’s hard for someone to join the group of the Greatest Pitchers of All Time when he was never the Greatest Pitcher of his Own Time.” — This isn’t true, either. Suppose it was. Since about one pitcher a year makes the HoF, it would mean that no pitcher could ever be the best pitcher in the league for more than one season, because then there wouldn’t be enough pitchers for the HoF. Well, we know that most pitchers who reach the pinnacle stay there for more than just one season, so there must be HoF pitchers who were never the best pitcher in baseball. COGITO ERGO SUM. EX POST IPSO FACTO. VENI VIDI VICI. QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRANUM. Something like that. (I bet I have an error or two in here somewhere.)

    • Brian Schwartz says:

      That’s right re: 2001. Mussina also might have deserved the Cy Young in 1992, either Roger Clemens or Mussina was the best pitcher in the league but they finished third and fourth. There are also a couple of years when Mussina was probably the second-best pitcher in the AL after Pedro Martinez.

    • Rick Rodstrom says:

      You can either make the Hall with peak numbers, like Pedro, or career numbers, like Sutton. Mussina had neither. In 2001, Mussina’s best year by your estimation, he didn’t lead the league in any category—ERA, wins, strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games, shutouts—though he was among the leaders in all of them. A very good, but not exactly dominant season. The only thing you could write on his Hall of Fame plaque was that he retired after he won 20 games for the first time in his career, which was pretty cool, though he’d had several sub-par seasons preceding it, and knew better than to press his luck.

      • Fin Alyn says:

        ???? So a guy who doesn’t win a totally subjective award could have finished 2nd in every category for a year, and that wouldn’t have been dominant? Your logic has tremendous holes in it.

        • Rick Rodstrom says:

          My logic is that 2 is not as dominant as 1.

          • GWO says:

            The number two guy is more dominant the number one if the #1 guy is in fact seven different guys (Garcia led in ERA, Mulder led in wins, Buerhle in WHIP, Radke in BB/9, Nomo in Strikeouts, Mulder led in Shutouts, Mays led adjusted ERA).

            Mussina was second in *ALL* those categories – oh, and he led in Pitcher WAR and FIP.

            He was the most dominant pitcher that season.

          • nightfly says:

            The old debate returns… is it better to be the very best for one year and then only OK the rest of the time, or to be excellent for many years even though a series of others surpass you?

            Is it better to be Debbie Boone and hit number one with “You Light Up My Life” and then vanish, or to be the Kinks or the Who and never have a number-one US single but be a great act for 20 years?

          • invitro says:

            Oh, I’d MUCH rather be Debby Boone than The Who. It’s not even close.

          • Hudson Valley Slim says:

            Nightfly – Kinks & Who first ballot HOF!

      • Patrick says:

        ” In 2001, Mussina’s best year by your estimation, he didn’t lead the league in any category”

        Yes he did. His WAR led the league

        • Rick Rodstrom says:

          WAR is a made up stat that I put no faith in.

          In terms of actual stats, let me get this straight. In Mussina’s peak year, his magnum opus, his creme de la creme, he was able to finish second behind Joe Mays, Hideo Nomo, Mark Mulder, Freddie Garcia, Mark Buehrle and Brad Radke in various categories, and for this he should go to the Hall of Fame.

          OK then.

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            I agree, WAR is useless.

          • Karyn says:

            All stats are made up. There’s judgment in all of them. What’s an earned run, and what isn’t? Was that an error or a hit? Why does a starter have to go five innings for the win and not four, or six?

          • Rick Rodstrom says:

            The difference between WAR and other stats that WAR makes value judgments all the way down the line, every step of the way in order to produce a quote unquote scientific measurement of a player’s worth. It does your thinking for you. I know the limitations of wins and ERA and can adjust my thinking accordingly. 99% of the people who throw WAR around have no idea what’s in it. Unless you are the one who is fashioning the algorithms and crunching the data, WAR is just a number, a club to say, 5 is better than 4. 5 better. Me smart.

          • Patrick says:

            It’s pretty easy to say a guy doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame when you just ignore every statistic you don’t personally agree with.

          • invitro says:

            “99% of the people who throw WAR around have no idea what’s in it. Unless you are the one who is fashioning the algorithms and crunching the data, WAR is just a number,” — Rick, have you ever used a thermometer? Did you believe what it said? Did you build it, or design it? How about a bathroom scale? Your car’s speedometer? Any of other thousands of measuring devices that you (probably) didn’t build or design, or know the principles behind?

  17. Martin Levin says:

    Mussina’s at least as deserving as the likes of Ruffing and Hunter. But I do have one problem with the large-Hall argument. let’s say that baseball, and homo sapiens, last for another 100 years, and that the number of Hall-worthy players is constant. We’ll then have a Hall of Fame with at least 500-550 members. At what point does a hall of fame become over-crowded? It lends fuel to those who argue inner, middle, and outer circles.

    • Doug says:

      I mean, maybe this is just me, but that does not seem like a problem in any real way.

    • Patrick says:

      Seems like a non-problem. If you asked baseball fans to name all of the Hall of Famers they could, I’d bet most of them would have no idea about dozens of players from the very early days of the game. I suspect most believe the Hall is much more exclusive than it is

    • Michael says:

      Mike Mussina is twice the pitcher Catfish Hunter was. And then some.

  18. invitro says:

    “But Reggie knew how to sell Reggie.” — Come now, Joe. What Reggie knew was how to get his team into and then win the World Series. He did it more than once. I’ve gotta think that was a bigger factor for Jax than his gift for self-promotion.

    Reggie actually knew a whole lotta stuff, though. Apparently his IQ was 160 (http://www.purpleclover.com/entertainment/5369-brightest-stars/item/reggie-jackson-hits-hr/). For those that don’t know, that’s pretty darn high. 150 gets you into Mensa. I’d be surprised if there were more than one or two baseball superstars at all — or superstars of any sport — with a higher IQ. Hmm… maybe I’ll join Mensa and see if Reggie will join too. Then I can chat with him and Shakira.

    • Robert Rittner says:

      There is a story that someone mentioned in the Yankee clubhouse that Jackson claimed to have a 160 IQ to which Mickey Rivers responded, “160 IQ? Jackson can’t even spell IQ.”

      • invitro says:

        I think this comes from Sparky Lyle’s book. I found these:

        He told that to Carlos May once. May didn’t give a damn what his IQ was and told him so. Reggie said, “You can’t even spell IQ.”

        “My IQ is 160,” he told Mickey. Mickey looked at Reggie and said, “Out of what, Buck, a thousand?”

        Once day he asked Mickey, “What am I doing arguing with someone who can’t read or write?” Mickey replied, “You oughta stop reading and writing and start hitting.”

      • KHAZAD says:

        They Call Jackson Mr. October, but for this fan of the 1970s Royals, it was Mickey Rivers that struck fear into my heart. A quick check shows he hit .386 against us in 3 playoff series losses, but it felt like it was at least .500. I was thankful that he was no longer with the Yanks in 1980 when we finally beat them.

        I still see that ugly little dude in my nightmares.

        • invitro says:

          ‘Rivers’ tenure in the Bronx produced other classic quotations, as when he tried to explain the bizarre dynamics of the Yankees, who featured a controversial owner in Steinbrenner and a contentious manager in Billy Martin. “Me and George and Billy,” Rivers said, “we’re two of a kind.”’

  19. greg elle says:

    Darrell Evans was one of my favorite players when I was young and growing up at Candlestick. When I was very young I knew he was one Giant who might not be terrible every night at the yard. He did hit 40 for Atlanta the same year as Aaron and Baker, do love a little trivia. I loved Jack Clark and Larry Herndon and Willie McCovey. It took me a while to realize that Jonnie LeMaster wasn’t one of my favorites, or Gary Lavelle, or Roger Metzger, but I loved them all. Why was Duanne Kuiper so lovable, remind me please. Loved him too. By the time Will Clark came along I knew what I was seeing. None as good as Bonds in 1993. Why Ellis Burks gets so little love? It was painful growing up at the ‘Stick. Giants fans have got it good now for sure. Yes, Darrell Evans was a fine ballplayer, this young fan knew it then.

    • Squawks McGrew says:

      Trivia check: Evans hit 40 homers along with Aaron and Davey Johnson with a then-record 43 by a second baseman — later reduced cuz I think one came as a pinch-hitter. Dusty Baker hit 29 that 1973 season. Always liked Evans cuz he was so nice when I asked for an autograph as a kid.

  20. otistaylor89 says:

    A couple of things about Mussina that I felt were troublesome. He seemed to be streaky – when he was on he was real on, but when he was off he was just an average pitcher. Which leaves me with something else: he was a fly ball pitcher would gave up a lot of HRs, part of which was the era he played, but he did give up 19th most all time. And even with some great Yankee bullpens and some really good line ups, he did have more no-decision and losses than what you’d expect.
    Having said all that, I would still probably vote him in.

    • Patrick says:

      His W/L percentage is top 40 all-time, and better than countless HOFers, including Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Walter Johnson, Tom Seaver, and Warren Spahn. There are a lot of arguments I’ve heard against Mussina, but that’s a new one

  21. McKingford says:

    I agree 100% that Mussina is a HOF’er. But there’s one thing that’s invariably mentioned about his candidacy that drives me a little nuts: “he pitched his whole career in the tough AL East”.

    First off, that’s not a thing. It’s never been a thing before. We’ve never discussed a single player’s career as being modified by his *division* before (hell, not even their league, tbh).

    But even so, it’s wildly overstated. To begin, people make it sound like all he ever played were AL East teams, which is nonsense. First off, he played basically half his career before they went to the unbalanced schedule – so it didn’t matter which division he played in, since he was playing other AL teams essentially evenly. But even after they moved to the division heavy schedule, he was still facing AL East teams less than half the time.

    And on top of that, people completely overstate the effect of pitching in the AL East – it’s often referred to, incorrectly, as a division of band box stadiums that were murder on pitchers. The reality is that only Fenway played consistently as a hitters park over that time period. There were many years when Yankee Stadium and Camden were neutral or pitcher-friendly. Skydome played as generally neutral overall during that era. And of course Tropicana was almost always very pitcher friendly.

    There are lots of good reasons that Mike Mussina should be elected to the Hall of Fame. AL East pitcher is not one of them.

    • invitro says:

      “We’ve never discussed a single player’s career as being modified by his *division* before (hell, not even their league, tbh).” — Well, maybe there was never a division or league that scored as many runs until the ~2000 AL East did. I dunno, done enough fact lookups for the day.

      • kehnn13 says:

        Not to mention that the comment about not comparing leagues is WAY off. If you aren’t considering pitchers based on their league since the advent of the dh (and especially in the past 25 years), you’ve been missing quite a lot.

    • denopac says:

      McK, you make some good points, especially regarding scheduling, but the argument that pitching in the AL East in that era was extra tough is not based on the size or contours of the ballparks. It’s based on the fact that the AL East lineups (especially the Yankee and Red Sox lineups in the years that Mussina pitched for Baltimore), were, from top to bottom, murder on pitchers, regardless of the ballpark.

    • Patrick says:

      I agree 100% that Mussina is a HOF’er. But there’s one thing that’s invariably mentioned about his candidacy that drives me a little nuts: “he pitched his whole career in the tough AL East. First off, that’s not a thing. It’s never been a thing before.”

      Fair. But on the other hand, not enough is made of the fact that, unlike all his contemporaries, he never pitched in the national league, which cost him in terms of his raw ERA and strikeout totals.

  22. Alejo says:

    Well, he will be another Blyleven. Underestimated and then redeemed by advanced stats.

    I think he deserves to be in, even at “gut feeling”. He was a competent, serious pitcher for a long time.

  23. shagster says:

    Like Moose. But, no. Steroid cheats and Hall of Very Good. Definitely a big Hall guy. Guys in the Hall? Well, they feel small. Don’t forget to add Mattingly before HoF is killed for good.

  24. Bryan says:

    First 10 years of career:
    Player A: 288 starts, 2009.2 IP, 147-81 record, players hit 249/293/394 against him, base stealers were successful 58% of the time (82 of 142), played for one franchise
    Player B: 303 starts, 2060.2 IP, 125-92 record, players hit 239/295/350 against him, base stealers were successful 75% of the time (166 of 220), played for one franchise
    ***
    A is Mussina, B is Felix. Without even adjusting for era Mussina gave up 5 more HR per year (210 vs 161) but had far more control of the running game, Felix had 116 wild pitches to 39 for Mussina. In BAL for those 10 years Chris Hoiles started 771 Games at Catcher, Charles Johnson 204, Lenny Webster 163, Jeff Tackett 107. In SEA for those 10 years Kenji Johjima started 421 Games at Catcher, Miguel Olivo 233, Mike Zunino 173 and Rob Johnson 139. Part of the difference in Starts is the 1994-95 strike, on average Mussina got half an out more per start. Mussina got knocked around in 2 starts in the 1996 playoffs but excelled in the 1997 playoffs allowing 3 runs in 14 IP against the Mariners and then 1 run in 15 IP against the Indians but the Indians won those games 1-0 and 2-1 in extra innings, Felix has still never been to the playoffs.
    ***
    The main difference between the careers is that Clemens, Maddux, Unit and Pedro are pretty clearly better than Mussina and have the bulk of their careers at the same time. Mussina, Brown, Smoltz, Glavine, Schilling, Cone, Appier and possibly others are in the next tier or two and the HoF voters drew a bright red line between first ballot inductees Smoltz and Glavine and the other pitchers. While Mariano is the only Hall of Fame pitching lock to cover Felix’s entire career and Kershaw most likely the only starting pitcher considered to be clearly better than Felix who had a largely overlapping career. Halladay, Felix, Verlander, Sabathia, Hamels, Buehrle, Greinke, Cliff Lee and possibly others are in the next tier or two who pitched for all/most of 2005-2014.
    ***
    If the back end of Felix’s career is 248 starts, 1 relief app, 1553 IP, 123-72 record, players hit 262/302/405 against him, even if he never makes the playoffs and never learns to control the running game he’s going to sail into the HoF as one of the best pitchers in his prime and a bunch of high quality years after that. Mussina and Schilling are having trouble getting in, Brown, Cone and Appier probably never get into the HoF without a ticket for being the bottom of the Top 10 in their primes even though their careers will compare favorably to the Top 5 in their primes of Felix’s era who will likely not get one and done treatment by the voters. Appier and Greinke both played their early career in KC, both moved around a lot later in their careers, both have 2 elite seasons, both could easily have similar careers by the time Greinke retires, even if Greinke retires before the 2017 season starts he will get more votes than Appier’s one on the 2010 ballot which has 4 players currently in the HoF, wasn’t even an issue of voters running out of room on their ballots.

  25. Scott says:

    While I understand the Grish and Evans comparisons, I’m not wild about them. I never thought that Mussina was really underrated when he was playing, especially when he was with the Orioles. For most of his career, he was regarded as one of the best pitchers in the league and when he was a free agent, he was the most coveted after a 25 year-old one in a generation talent. He finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting six times.

    I think it was largely the lack of All-Star appearance with the Yankees that hurt him as he made five in Baltimore. This is in part what makes narratives so interesting. Mussina and David Cone were both key members of the Yankees at the same time as Andy Pettitte and had better careers, yet Pettitte is the one getting a the push as the best starter on the dynasty.

  26. Kyle says:

    Here’s a question. Joe has it at 75% to get in (and my gut agrees with that, I think he eventually gets in but it’s definitely not a sure thing). What’s the percentage if not for a single bloop single? Perfect games obviously don’t get you in the Hall of Fame, but if not for one bloop single, I wonder if he is viewed more like he actually was.

    • Bryan says:

      David Cone, perfect game, 5 World Series Rings and he got 21 of 539 votes or one fewer than Mark Grace on the same ballot. Mussina is better than Cone by most standards but Cone should at least qualify as a marginal candidate and even if you think he gets 0 votes without the perfect game and/or Rings there doesn’t seem to be many voters who actually count Rings except when it serves their argument. A Jack Morris supporter will point out 3 Rings when comparing him to pitchers without any, but would ignore Rings in a comparison to Cone.

  27. Steve says:

    Mussina would get more Hall of Fame consideration had he not lost a perfect game with one strike to go in 2001. Carl Everett broke up the perfect game. A few weeks later, the Yankees lost the World Series to Arizona with one out to go in the ninth inning. A few inches here and there and Mussina has a perfect game and World Series ring. That makes him more likely to reach the Hall, in the eyes of the voters.

    • TWolf says:

      I think Mussina might also be hurt by the fact that he was deprived of two 20 win seasons by the effect of the baseball strike in 1994 and 1995. Even though the status of being a 20-game winner has lost some of its luster, I think that three 20 win seasons would impress some writers and put Mussina over the hump.

  28. Largebill says:

    For guys who are somewhat borderline, like Grich, doesn’t getting snubbed almost enhance their reputation? Being one and done on the ballot make it seem like he and Whitaker among others got royally screwed. If they had 15 years on the ballot and never exceeded 30% no one would be screaming about them. Instead most would say “Meh, they had fair consideration from the voters and didn’t pass muster.”

    • Bryan says:

      Kevin Brown, Rick Reuschel, Bret Saberhagen, David Cone, Dave Stieb, Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, Kenny Lofton, Reggie Smith and Willie Randolph are alive and are “inner circle” one and done snubs.

      Can ask them which BBWAA/media treatment they would prefer:
      1 – Jim Rice: in the Hall of Fame but often used as an example as one of the worst decisions by the BBWAA
      2 – Jack Morris: not in the Hall, have at least 19.6% of voters consider you worthy for 15 straight years, have 4 election cycles of hope and disapointment (the 4 after he had already earned more than 50% of vote for first time) and be considered a virtual lock to enter the Hall of Fame the first time the Today’s Era committee sees your name on the ballot
      3 – themselves: fewer than 1 in 20 voters felt you were worthy but your name pops up frequently in internet discussions about the most deserving living players not in the HoF and even other media sometimes discusses or even interviews you around election time and asks some variation of “do you think you belong?” and “how much does it hurt?”

  29. Mark Daniel says:

    I’m not sure using comparisons of an individual pitcher’s ERA to the average run scoring environment of that year is a good way to compare pitchers from different eras. The reason is because an individual pitcher’s ERA can only get so low. In other words, a starting pitcher in the AL, for example, who qualifies for the ERA title, is not going to achieve 0.40 ERA. It’s going to be well above 1.00. In fact, the lowest ERA ever recorded in non-deadball (and non-1967) seasons for an AL starter is 1.74 (Pedro 2000, Guidry 1978). Nobody has gotten lower.
    In contrast the upper limit an ERA is controlled only by whether the manager still allows that guy to pitch.
    As an example, in 1999 (the middle of Mussina’s career), the highest ERA in the league was 6.66 (LaTroy Hawkins), and the league average was 4.89. In 1972 (the middle of Catfish Hunter’s career – a guy who most believe is not a HoFer), the highest ERA in the league was 4.29 and the league average was 3.07.

    Now, because the run scoring environment was higher in 1999, that means it was harder to get outs. Thus, people should be credited for getting outs when it was hard to do that.
    Likewise, when the league average ERA is 3.07, it’s not that hard to get outs, thus a pitcher with a 3.20 ERA is rightfully considered below average.

    My point is relevant to the extremely low ERAs in any given year. To put it simply, my assertion is that even if 2000 Pedro Martinez pitched in 1972, his ERA would not have been less than 1.70 because that would be next to impossible. Thus, in the historical record, Pedro in 1972 would have been credited for a historically great season, but his ERA+ (based on a rough calculation) would be in the 180-190 range (depending on park effects). I don’t know if anyone would be saying this was the greatest season ever, in fact it would be ranked lower than Guidry’s by this measure.
    In this way, comparing players between eras presents a bias toward pitchers in high run scoring environments when it comes to pitchers with very low ERAs.

    I’m sure there’s a statistical way to address this. You’d have to address for a lower limit asymptote for ERA, and you may also have to address for stragglers or outliers at the higher end of the ERA spectrum (who would drive league average ERA up).

    • Bryan says:

      Yes, you can create a logical floor around 0.50 ERA for a starter pretty easily. The ideal starting pitching strikes out half of the batters he faces 15 and has 15 balls in play. Even giving this amazing pitcher credit for a low line drive rate and historically low BABIP (batting average balls in play) of .200 that’s the other 12 outs along with 3 hits.
      If you average 3 hits per game, maybe hit a batter or even walk from time-to-time, a 5-hitter this game, 1 hitter this game using linear weights you will end up around a 0.50 ERA.
      It’s not really all that useful, at the extremes it shaves off about 0.15 ERA converting Bob Gibson 1968 to a high scoring year while if you were making a serious analysis of 68 Gibson vs 99/00 Pedro you would find far more variance by studying defense, looking at the volume of pitching for 3rd+ time through the order and attempting to quantify the value in wins Gibson provided by resting the bullpen or examining individual line-ups to determine if star players were more likely to take the entire game or even the 2nd half of the game off with Gibson on the mound since the team would likely lose anyways and rest can be valuable.

    • TWolf says:

      I agree with your astute observation. Bill James made a similar mathematical argument in one of his early Baseball Abstracts. In an extremely low scoring environment, no matter how great the pitcher is, his ERA cannot be below 0.00. In a high scoring environment, conceptually there is no maximum ERA that a pitcher can have other than infinity. This gives the greatest pitcher of a high scoring era, such as Pedro Martinez, an advantage if you compare him with earlier pitchers.

    • PhilM says:

      That is a great observation. An ERA+ of 200 in a 3.00 league (pitcher ERA of 1.50) is very different from an ERA+ of 200 in a 4.50 league (pitcher ERA of 2.25). The pitcher in the high-run league is actually preventing more runs every nine innings. I overcome this bias by using the negative binomial distribution to calculate “neutral” win-loss records. For example, Max Scherzer in 2016 with his 141 ERA+ earned a “neutral” 18-9 record. If you double the earned runs, that same 141 ERA+ results in a 20-7 record. Halving them gives you 17-10. The curve is shifted more leftward for lower-run contexts (the runs determine the “r” and “k” values for the distribution), which results in a lower “neutral” winning percentage.

  30. denopac says:

    I loved watching Mussina pitch since he approached it as if he were playing a chess game. I remember watching him strike out Vlad Guerrero on three pitches, none of them anywhere near the strike zone. Guerrero hit .206/.229/.265 against Mussina over his career (35 PAs).

  31. mrh says:

    As an old O’s fan, I’ll note that Grich and Mussina share the being O’s as well as being under-rated.

    My Bobby Grich story. I grew up in Rochester, NY when the local AAA team was the O’s top farm team. In 1971, the Red Wings were a powerhouse anchored by Grich, Don Baylor, and Terry Crowley. Grich started the year up with the O’s and the Wings lost their first 5 games. Grich came down, the team managed to go 5-7 over their next 12 games, and then went 81-44 the rest of the regular season. Grich played SS, hit 32 HR and had an OPS of 1.071. The Wings won the IL championship and then faced Denver in the Junior WS. Because the Bears got turfed out of Mile High by the Broncos, all 7 games of the JWS were played in Rochester. The Wings took a 3-1 lead, lost game 5, and then the O’s recalled Grich. Denver won game 6; but Rochester captured game 7, with Al Bumbry scoring the go-ahead run from first on a single. In my memory (which is probably slightly faulty), that was the only game Rochester won all year w/o Grich.

    • John Autin says:

      That’s a great Grich story! I’ll add that he led that league in HRs, Runs and Total Bases, and led all regulars in BA, SLG and OPS.

  32. DBoy131 says:

    I wonder how differently Mussina’s career would be viewed if a few wins came in different seasons. Say:

    Year Actual Possible
    1991 4-5 4-5
    1992 18-5 18-5
    1993 14-6 14-6
    1994 16-5 16-5
    1995 19-9 20-9
    1996 19-11 20-11
    1997 15-8 13-8
    1998 13-10 13-10
    1999 18-7 20-7
    2000 11-15 11-15
    2001 17-11 16-11
    2002 18-10 20-10
    2003 17-8 15-8
    2004 12-9 12-9
    2005 13-8 12-8
    2006 15-7 15-7
    2007 11-10 11-10
    2008 20-9 20-9
    Career 270-153 270-153

    Instead of just one 20-win season, he’s at five 20-win seasons. We all know that pitcher wins really don’t mean what they used to — at least to any of us reading here — but I believe that some out there would look at him a bit differently if he just had those wins dispersed a little differently.

  33. John Autin says:

    I’m a big Mussina backer, but I think there’s a large group who will never be swayed by things like adjusted ERA or ERA+, because it’s not transparent — you have to trust someone else’s math.

    To sell those folks, I would just show the raw ERA numbers from the league and years he pitched in (courtesy of the Baseball-Reference Play Index):
    — American League starting pitchers from 1991-2008 totaled a 4.68 ERA.
    — Mussina’s 3.68 ERA was exactly one run less.

    Anyone hung up on his ERA should already know that the rest of Mussina’s traditional stats are above the HOF average. Compared to the 42 HOF starters with the bulk of their careers in the live-ball era, Mussina would rank:
    — 17th in Wins (270)
    — 8th in Winning Percentage (.638)
    — 6th in Games Over .500 (117)
    — 18th in Percentage of Starts Won (50.4%) (better than 9 of the 11 who won 300+)

    And while Mussina’s record benefited from good teams, his .638 W% was well above the composite .551 of his teams (or .536 in non-Mussina decisions).

    If 270 wins, a W% .100 better than his teams, and an ERA one full run below his contemporaries doesn’t convince the traditional-stats crowd, I don’t know what will.

    Some have tarred him with the dreaded “compiler” tag. I don’t get that at all. He was a 5-time All-Star, and 9 times received Cy Young Award votes, spread from his first full year to his last. He had 8 years of at least 17 wins — one of 20, two of 19 twice, three of 18, two of 17 — and Clemens is the only live-ball guy with more such years not yet in the Hall.

    If you still need a kicker, he won 7 Gold Gloves, and his postseason resume is very good. In 21 PS starts (which is 8th all-time), a 3.48 ERA and 1.09 WHIP (both better than his career marks, and better than, say, Clemens and Pettitte). Out of 21 guys with 15 PS starts, his WHIP is 4th, and his K rate (9.5 SO/9) trails only Verlander and Big Unit. He did lose 8 PS starts, but his team never scored more than 3 runs in those games, averaging 1.8 runs.

    Against all that, the idea that “he just didn’t seem like a Hall of Famer at the time” wears pretty thin.

  34. Bookbook says:

    If the standard is “not Pedro is not good enough”, you’re arguing for a tiny hall. Messina and Schilling aren’t borderline. They are clear, no-doubt HOFers. (George Brett played at the same time as Mike Schmidt and was clearly inferior, on offense and defense. No Hall for you, Mr. Brett.)

  35. JoeZ says:

    “He was overshadowed by historic anomalies like Unit and Maddux, Clemens and Pedro. Those are also the only four pitchers who have recorded more WAR over the last 50 years.”

    Maybe my math is faulty, but doesn’t Tom Seaver count?

  36. MikeN says:

    Is it pronounced Moose eeh nah or Muss in nah?

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