At 11 years old, I watched as Mike Mussina won 18 games for my beloved Baltimore Orioles in 1999. It was the Moose’s fifth consecutive season over 200 innings pitched and earned him his fifth trip to the All-Star game and second place in the AL Cy Young award Voting.
In the midst of seeing Mussina take the mound over his 18 year career, I always thought of him as a dominant arm, but not as a Hall of Famer. It wasn’t until recently that my opinion changed.
CBSSports.com’s Matt Snyder opines that former Braves lefty Tom Glavine will “get in soon”, but thinks that Mussina’s road to Cooperstown will be much more difficult. Glavine’s career checks off a few of those Hall of Fame milestones: 300 wins (five 20+ win seasons), a pair of Cy Young awards and a World Series MVP in 1995.
However, a closer look at Mussina’s career statistics will reveal a variety of similarities between he and Glavine — in some instances Mussina posts more dominant numbers.
Despite Glavine reaching the 300 win milestone, he averaged two less wins per season than Mussina and posted a lower winning percentage. While Glavine gets the edge in ERA, Mussina has the advantage in WHIP (1.192), H/9 (8.7), BB/9 (2.0), K/9 (7.1) and K/BB (3.58).
SI.com’s Jay Jaffe has been tirelessly dissecting the Hall of Fame ballot using his JAWS system to score candidates. His metrics indicate that Mussina should be in Cooperstown.
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.
So where’s the love for Mussina? Why isn’t he the sure thing, shoo-in that everyone says Glavine is? The cynic in me wonders if the national attention generated by TBS helps Glavine’s case. Though it’s likely the milestone achievements he reached that I listed above.
Regardless, I’ve found new respect for Mussina’s career and finally agree with Jim Palmer: Put Mike Mussina in the Hall of Fame.