I’ve always been a fan of Mike Mussina. He broke into the league in 1991, and quickly became a star the next season. He was a big part of some exciting Orioles teams that kept losing to the Blue Jays. I’ve never been a fan of Murray Chass. He’s a favorite target of Fire Joe Morgan, and deservedly so. He recently started a blog, but refuses to call it a blog, refuses to allow comments … He pretty much took all that’s good about a blog and threw it away, while taking all that’s bad about journalism and put it on a pedestal. Anyway, today he’s writing about Mike Mussina. He has no idea what he’s talking about. So, because Mussina is having a good year at age 39, and people think he might finally break the 20-win mark for the first time, we’re starting to hear talk about the Hall of Fame. That seems pretty reasonable - five of the ten comparable pitchers listed at Baseball Reference are in the Hall, and at least one more (Curt Schilling) has a good shot. What does Murray Chass think about this? “Mussina has an impressive career won-lost record (265-151) but not much else.” His won-lost record is actually the least impressive thing about his career. Sure, he’s 39th all time in winning percentage for players with 100 decisions. That’s pretty good. But won-lost record is a pretty useless measure of a player’s actual ability. Let’s look, though, at the good measures of a player’s actual ability. Let’s look at WHIP, 1.19, 9th among active players. Let’s look at K/BB ratio, 3.56, 13th all time. Or how about strikeouts, 2759, 21st all time. All of those are much better measures of a pitcher’s ability, and in all of those Mussina compares well with Hall of Fame pitchers. What else does Chass have to say? He compares Mussina to some of his compatriots who are not in the Hall - Tommy John, Bert Blyleven and Jim Kaat. “All had career victory totals in the 280s. Except for winning percentage, all had better records than Mussina.” I’m not even sure I can address that. What does it even mean? Let’s start with Tommy John. 288-231 career record, a winning percentage of .555. That’s not nearly as good as Mussina. Neither is his 1.28 WHIP, 1.78 K/BB, or total strikeouts, 2245. Then look at Jim Kaat. 283-237 (.544), 1.26 WHIP, 2.27 K/BB, 2461 K. Not in the same league. Now, Blyleven is harder to bash, because he, like Mussina, deserves to be in the Hall. He’s become something of a sabermetrics poster boy. He excelled in the “new-fangled” stats like WHIP (1.20), K/BB (2.80), strikeouts (3701), 5th all time. But he played on crummy teams, and compiled a 287-250 record (.534), and it’s keeping him out of the Hall.
John and Kaat were each 20-game winners three times, Blyleven once. Mussina doesn’t come close to the number of complete games and shutouts any of the three had. The three had slightly lower totals of baserunners per nine innings. But why let facts get in the way of a partisan view?
I’m not sure how he’s measuring baserunners per nine innings, because all three are higher than Mussina. It’s true, Musinna’s complete games and shutouts are low. But no one (except Roy Halladay) finishes games anymore. Mussina is fourth in both categories among active pitchers, so he compares well to present-day pitchers. So, Murray Chass, I can only conclude that you are either a moron or a Red Sox fan. You certainly don’t seem to know a whole lot about baseball.