Moose Wins 20; Punches ticket to Cooperstown

Personally, at the end of the 2007, after Mike Mussina went 11-10 in 150+ innings with a 5.15 ERA and a WHIP over 1.4, I had hoped the Yankees would banish him to the bullpen, or better yet the waiver wire.

I’m back, though, at the end of 2008 and I can say that I am thankful that the Moose stayed.  With the misery that was the Yankees 2008, one of the best things to watch was Moose’s quest for 20 wins.  In 17 “full” seasons in the majors, Mussina had won over 18 games five times and 19 games twice. He entered Sunday’s start, his final start of a strong 2008 rebound campaign 19-9 in 194 innings with a 3.47 ERA and 1.2 WHIP.

Last year, Mussina’s gas would be clocked at 87-89 miles an hour and guess what?  Major League hitters abused him.  That’s ok, he still tried to throw it by people.  It didn’t work.  This year, however, Mussina evolved into a Greg-Maddux-type nibbler and he was great.  He honed his control and was able to spot pitches.  He walked fewer runners than any season in his career.  He gave up the fewest earned runs (75) in his career since 1992 (68).  The best part about it, though, is that he still struck people out.  Although he was resigned to spotting his fastball and not trying to throw it by people, I am willing to bet he had more people caught looking than anyone in the American League.

With his win today against the Red Sox, Mike Mussina won his 20th game of the season, becoming the oldest player to get 20 wins for the first time.  In my opinion, this year clinches a spot for Mussina in Cooperstown.  The big knocks against him were that he had never won 20 and had never won the Cy Young (He finished second in 1999).  Now that Mussina has won 20, let’s look at his key numbers:

  • 270 career wins with a legitimate shot at 300 if he pitches 2-3 more years (33rd all-time: more than HOFers Jim Palmer, Bob Feller, Juan Marichal, Whitey Ford)
  • At least 11 wins for every year in his career (17 times) except 1991 when he only pitched 87 innings and started 12 times
  • 270-153 overall (with every pitcher 100 games over .500 in the Hall)
  • 8 Cy Young Top 6 finishes (9th should be this year)
  • 6 All-Star games
  • 3.69 career ERA, 1.192 career WHIP
  • 2813 career strikeouts (19th overall: more than HOFers Warren Spahn, Cy Young, Bob Feller, Christy Mathewson, Sandy Koufax, et al)
  • Six gold gloves
  • 7.11 K/9 innings (77th all-time)
  • 3.59 K:BB ratio (13th all-time)

Given these numbers (and who he is ahead of), I think it’s difficult to argue that the Moose isn’t a Hall of Famer.  His only drawbacks are no Cy Young and no World Series titles.  Two big ones, I know, but he was a great pitcher with consistency.  He won a ton of games and was absolutely one of the best of this generation.  Even if he chooses to retire after this season, I think Mike Mussina should start writing his speech for Cooperstown.

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