More Hall of Fame Credentials

Having successfully and thoroughly debunked the notion that Jeter is in any way not a surefire Hall of Famer, let’s turn our attention to a more interesting (in my opinion) argument about Hall of Fame credentials: Mike Mussina

First, his basic stats (all current, and counting):  249 Wins, a .634 career winning percentage, 3.69 career ERA, 2656 K, 752 BBs, 1.188 WHIP.

How do those rank?  He’s tied for 45th on the All-Time wins list, and 41st on the winning percentage list.  Five more wins puts him in the Top 40 (if he plays next year, five more is possible).   He ranks 22nd on the all-time strikeouts list, while ranking 88th on the IP list.  He’s 12th on the Strikeout/Walk ratio list.  His WHIP is nothing special (108th all time).  Of course, his rank in ERA is going to be worst, because he pitched in the AL for his entire career in the steroid era.  So his ERA rank is tied for 559th.  But let’s see.  Remember how we can adjust OPS for all-time and ballpark influences?  We can do the same with ERA.  His Adjusted ERA+ (like OPS+, this is a number based on 100 being the Avergage) is 123.  That means he’s 23% better than the average pitcher of all time.  His ranking in ERA+ shoots up to tied for 77th.  Some notable Hall of Famers with an ERA+ that is not as good: Juan Marichal, Bob Feller, Don Drysdale, Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, among a bunch of others.  (Just a side note, the all-time leader in ERA+, which essentially means the pitcher who was far and away so much better than his peers: Pedro Martinez, and it’s not even close.  His ERA+ is 160, a full 12 better than Lefty Grove in 2nd place.  Wow.  Know how good he was in 2000?  The highest ERA+ in history in a season with more than 105 innings: 285.)

Some detractors will say that he’s never won a championship (which is a little unfair, as there have been many great players on bad teams that never won anything either, like Ted Williams, etc.).  Some will tell you that he’s a bad big-game pitcher and has historically pitched poorly in big games.  (Stat heads will of course laugh this off as ridiculous and based on small sample sizes.  I’m kind of in the middle on clutch and big games.)  Using Kenny’s Overwhelmingnessosity Factor, Mussina rates poorly, as he was never a “dominant” pitcher, never won 20 games in a season (19 twice and 18 three times), never won a Cy Young Award (finished better than fourth only once).  Those that value consistency, however, will point to 16 straight season with more than 10 wins,  including ten seasons with 15 or more. (Strike shortened 1994 was his best season, sadly for him.  He might have won 20 that year.)

He doesn’t have Tom Glavine’s 300 wins, but he has a better ERA+.  (Ask my friend Jon about what he thinks about wins as a valuable statisitc.  Hell, ask any Sabrmetrician about the relative value of wins to measure pitcher performance.  They’ll scream and yell about it.  In short, it’s bad.  ERA means much, much more.  And ERA+ even more.  So, I guess what I’m saying is, Mussina’s a better pitcher than Glavine.)  But 300 wins has always been the cutoff.  Does Moose have enough wins? 

Here’s where I think things get a little dicey.  Should 300 be the magic number anymore?  In an era when we’ve seen the last of the 300 game winners, in my opinion (between 5 man rotations and specialized bullpens, I think 20-win seasons and 300 game winners will become exceedingly rare) 250 may become the significant plateau for the next generation of pitchers.  Mussina will (assuming one more win either this season or next) reach 250 wins. In fact, there are only 4 pitchers who pitched after 1900 that have more wins than him that aren’t in the HOF, not counting Clemens, Maddux, Glavine and Randy Johnson who aren’t eligible yet, and will make the Hall.  They are (numbers next the name represent wins; ERA+ in parentheses):  Tommy John, 288 (111); Bert Blyleven, 287 (118); Jim Kaat, 283 (107); and Jack Morris, 254 (105).  Mussina’s ERA+ is significantly better than all of them.

(Another quick side note, there 4 other pitchers who have more wins than Mussina who aren’t in the Hall of Fame.  They all pitched in the 1880’s, when pitchers made 70 or more starts in a season, won 40 games in many seasons and pitched over 600 innings per season.  The fact that none of them has 300 wins means, compared to their peers, they are marginal.  Just for completeness, they are: Bobby Mathews, 297 (107); Tony Mullane, 284 (118); Jim McCormick, 265 (118); and Gus Weyhing, 264 (102).  Some added perspective on pitchers from that era: in 1884 Charley Radbourn started 73 games.  He also had 73 complete games.  He pitched in 2 more as a reliever, finished the year with 678 innings pitched, a 59-12 record and an ERA of 1.38 (ERA+ 205))

I know it doesn’t seem like it, and when I started writing this my gut was telling me “no, he’s too borderline” but I think Mike Mussina is credibly a Hall of Fame pitcher.

Now, have at me in the comments.

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18 responses to “More Hall of Fame Credentials

  1. Looking at Mussina’s BP page his defense independant ERA (DERA) is 3.71 and his Pitching runs above replacement (PRAA) is 287.

    Let’s compare him to Glavine: DERA = 3.86 and PRAA = 303. Interestingly if you take away 2007, they are basically even in PRAA. Glavine’s DERA is .15 run higher which is not a trivial mount.

    Here’s some other guys:

    Mordechai Brown: DERA 3.96, PRAA 197
    Dizzy Dean: DERA 3.51, PRAA 225 (although in many less seasons)
    Bob Feller: DERA 3.90, PRAA 251
    Whitey Ford: DERA 3.86, PRAA 214
    Catfish Hunter: DERA 4.51, PRAA -5(!)
    Carl Hubbell: DERA 3.70, PRAA 322

    I just picked a group of random somewhat famous HOF pitchers. Obviously Clemens/Walter Johnson/Lefty Grove are much, much better than Mussina, but he doesn’t have to stack up to those guys to get in.

    I think Mussina stacks up well and is certainly in consideration for the Hall.

    On a side note: Mariano Rivera, DERA 2.37, PRAA 360, ERA+ 190. And that doesn’t even take into account his post-season numbers, which are amazing. He’s not just the best reliever ever, he’s also one of the best pitchers in history.

  2. Wow. Interesting. I’m going to go against this one. His numbers don’t blow anyone away. They are certainly arguable.

    The comparisons to Carlton, Ryan, Spah, Drysdale, etc. are interesting, but Ryan had the strikeouts, no-hitters, etc. going for him Mussina doesn’t have any “extras” really going for him. Ryan had 7 no-hitters and 12 one hitters. Obviously all-time strikeout leader. Major longevity – 27 seasons.

    Carlton was amazing because he was on crappy teams. He is also second all-time to Ryan in strikeouts and second to Spahn in lefty wins – on some crappy teams. I think one year he was responsible for something like 27 of Philly’s 59 wins. He also won 4 Cy Young’s.

    Spahn obviously has many more wins, and many more starts – here’s what’s amazing about Spahn (winningest left all time) – led the NL in wins 8 times and led in complete games 9 times. Mussina never really reached anything close to that. Oh, and Spahn has a Purple Heart and Bronze Star from WWII. Mussina complains if he pitches on the wrong amount of rest days.

    Drysdale holds the record for hit batsmen. Mussina doesn’t even throw inside. But seriously, Drysdale’s era was under 3, which of course like you said means very little based on era.

    I think Mussina is a very good pitcher with very good numbers. Don Mattingly has always been considered the defition of the level that exists right under a hall of famer – I think Mussina might fit that category as well.

    You want to take up a cause??? Bernie Williams… Good luck. I believe he misses as well as much as we love him.

    Lifetime .297 hitter with 8 seasons in a row hitting .300+. Won a batting title. Decent amount of homers – 287. Very good postseason numbers. Below average arm of course, but solid fielder over all.

  3. I agree w/ your comments generally and think Mussina has a decent shot at making the hall but Glavine has had a better career and it’s not only the 300 wins. Glavine was dominant pitcher in the league (unfortunately not w/ the Mets) for quite a few years. Mussina has always been good but never really dominated. Glavine had 4 seasons w/ an ERA below 3 – Mussina had one – his first full year in the eague in 1992. While I agree that W&L is not the best stat, Glavine has had 5 20+ win seasons. Mussina has been very good and steady but never dominated like Glavine did in the 90’s.

  4. Glavine has had a better career and it’s not only the 300 wins. Glavine was dominant pitcher in the league … for quite a few years.

    What does that mean? You think it’s not a huge factor in his favor that he pitched in the NL and for the Braves, who were winning divisions every year he was there? As opposed to Mussina who pitched for the Orioles in the early part of his career and always in the AL. You don’t think Mussina could have had the wins Glavine had if they had switched spots? Please. Glavine was never dominant. He nibbled at the plate and got away with extending the strike zone by a few inches because of some forgiving umps. Nobody cried about QuesTec as much as him.

    At the same time that you recognize that wins are a bat stat, you tout his wins? In the 8 years Mussina was in Baltimore (not counting ’94; ’92-’00), they were better than .500 four times, and averaged 82 wins a season. Starting from Glavine’s first “good” year, 1991, and not counting the ’94 strike year, in Glavine’s years in Atlanta (’91-’02) they averaged almost 98 wins a season, had fewer than 90 wins only once (88 in ’01) and won more than 100 games in 5 different seasons. Of course Glavine is going to have more wins than Mussina. He was on MUCH better teams. (He was as crappy as the team from ’88-’90, which shows you exactly what I mean.)

    The point of ERA+ is to normalize for advantages like ballpark and league. Once you remove those factors that strongly favor Glavine, you see that Mussina has better numbers. It’s pretty simple.

  5. Wow. Interesting. I’m going to go against this one. His numbers don’t blow anyone away. They are certainly arguable.

    I’m pretty surprised that you made this argument. How it is any different than Kenny’s Overwhelmingness Factor?

    Spahn’s DERA is 3.88, FRAA 367
    Nolan Ryan = DERA 4.15, FRAA 205
    Don Drysdale = DERA 3.85, FRAA 240
    Steve Carlton = DERA 4.10, FRAA 224
    Mike Mussina = DERA 3.71, FRAA 287

    Mussina’s DERA is better than any of the four and his FRAA is only second to Spahn. So while there might be something to being dominant during a peak, Mussina’s numbers stack up with a whole bunch of HOF pitchers.

    You want to take up a cause??? Bernie Williams… Good luck. I believe he misses as well as much as we love him.

    I don’t think Bernie is a HOF. I loved Bernie, but CF is a competitive position.

  6. On second thought. Bernie’s numbers do match up well with some of the CF in the Hall. So maybe I was too hasty in rejecting him. Next post, Noyam?

  7. Nolan Ryan is a very, very interesting case. He’s the Hank Aaron of pitchers. These two pretty much shatter the perception that you need any sort of overwhelming stats in any given season to make the HOF.

    Aside from seven no-hitters, which I will admit is pretty fluky and amazing (like Mattingly’s season record for grand slams, a fluky product of circumstance), Nolan Ryan only won 20 games TWICE in 27 season, and he started 41 and 42 games those seasons. He, like Mussina, never won a Cy Young Award. He definitely did strike a lot of people out, but that’s due to his style (he was a strikeout/power pitcher). But for someone who played as long as him, according to those who value wins, you really would expect more.

  8. Ryan played on some really crappy teams. In 1987 he went 8-16 with a 2.76 ERA. That’s a pretty good year but either his offense or bullpen was awful (or both). Ryan’s biggest problem is that he walked way too many people.

    Wins are useful only as a proxy, meaning if you don’t have access to any other stats, you can safely assume a pitcher with 300 wins was probably pretty good or he wouldn’t have been pitching long enough to accumulate that many wins. But as a descriptive stat, wins are less helpful than RBI or runs because they hinge on too many factors beyond the pitcher’s control.

  9. I didn’t read through the comments yet but you hit the nail on the add in the reference to me. The overwhelmingness factor is important. You know it is. You know that he was never a dominant pitcher. If you want to be in the HOF, give me some dominance. I don’t care about the stats – this one is easy – he’s not HOF material. At the end of the day, this is probably just a debate about how low to draw the line for entry. To me, Mussina isn’t close to Jeter – even though I don’t think Jeter is a “sure-fire” first ballot based on his play. I grant you that Jeter will get in (probably first ballot) b/c he won championships in NY but Mussina probably won’t even get in. My line is probably higher than Noyam’s. Regardless, as Noyam said, Moose lacks on the overwhelmingnessosity.

  10. You know that he was never a dominant pitcher. If you want to be in the HOF, give me some dominance.

    If you’re talking about a player having a dominant peak, I think that’s a fair point. There’s nothing wrong with saying that a player is only Hall worthy if he had a dominant few years (aside from the fact that it would deny credibility to a number of players already in the Hall).

    But your next statement undermines your point: “I don’t care about the stats.” How does one go about determining dominance without stats? A player’s stats are the best reflection of how well he played baseball, and in the case of really good players how much he dominated.

    It’s like someone sitting on the side of a highway trying to estimate how fast cars are going. “Hmmm, about 75 miles an hour.” “That one is going 80.” “Seems like 100 to me.” Isn’t it obvious that a more effective way of figuring out speed is using a radar gun? And while a radar gun has its flaws (just like stats) wouldn’t you admit that it is probably more accurate than a person’s subjective guesses?

    It’s the same thing with baseball. I could just watch A-Rod play all season without looking at a single stat and realize he’s a pretty good baseball player. But I’m simply not smart enough or capable of storing enough information to determine whether he’s better than Pujols, Magglio or Prince Fielder. I don’t think anyone is. That’s why we need stats.

  11. Noam, I agree w/ you re Wins but I also agree with Kenny (Lord forgive me) that Mussina was never dominant (I was just using the Glavine Wins along with the low ERA seasons to show that he did dominate) . So while I think Mussina will prob. make the HOF for being a very good solid pitcher he never had dominant years like Glavine did. And I agree that a major factor was Glavine’s team but I think part of it was that Glavine was a stronger pitcher for a few “peak” seasons than Mussina ever was. While you use Nolan Ryan to prove that you didn’t need dominant years to make the HOF, you have to admit that Nolan Ryan had dominant years in baseball – 8 seasons with an ERA below 3 is amazing. Mussina has nothing close to that. Nolan Ryan is known for his longevity but he had dominant seasons as well.

  12. Actually Rob, Mussina has had better seasons than Glavine.

    ERA+ By Season, Mussina: 159, 99, 163, 149, 102, 137, 129, 138, 125, 142, 108, 129, 98, 101, 125, 86; total = 123

    ERA+ By Season, Glavine: 81, 99, 94, 153, 132, 127, 107, 137, 147, 142, 171, 105, 136, 123, 139, 94, 119, 118, 113, 109; total = 120

    They are remarkably similar pitchers, once you adjust for outside influences such as league, park and team. Mussina gets a slight edge.

    The point I keep making is that you can’t use Glavine’s “dominant” seasons without adjusting them. The theory is that if Mussina were in Glavine’s position, he’d actually have a better ERA and more wins than Glavine. That makes him a better pitcher.

  13. On overwhelmingness: Some of the greatest hitters in the history of the game – guys like Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn – don’t make it into the HOF using this ridiculous “stat”. Only pitchers that win games and hitters that bash home runs (the first stat being completely irrelevant and the second being only slightly more relevant).

    On Mussina: I think he’s a borderline guy, which seems to be the consensus here. My two cents is that the AL East thing isn’t as big a deal as you make it out to be. Sure, Mussina has 52 games against the Red Sox, but it ends there. He’s only pitched 19 games against the Yankees and started in 40 and 29 games against consistently crappy Jays/Rays teams. He’s pitched in nearly as many games against mostly horrible Chicago (37), Detroit (31), and Kansas City (33) teams. As a final point, he’s pitched predominantly in pitcher-friendly parks over the course of his career. It would be one thing if he spent his entire career with the Jays or started with Baltimore a few years ago but 50 games against the Red Sox doesn’t make for a convincing argument.

    Consider the career stats of Dave Stieb and his ERA+ of 122: http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/stiebda01.shtml — I recognize that he was essentially done by the age of 33 (possibly because he was so overworked pitching for god-awful Jays teams in the early 80’s) but it’s not like Mussina has really put up HOF numbers since he turned 33 (2 good years, two average years and a bad year). Or Roy Halladay, to whom the ballpark factor and the division can certainly be factors.

  14. I thought about this and then looked harder at the stats. There are a ton of pitchers who fit into the Mussina category of being great but probably not HOF great.

    Consider the following guys from our childhoods (with props to the baseball-reference.com website for the similar pitchers and some Blue Jays thrown in because that’s just how I roll):

    Jimmy Key
    David Cone
    Bret Saberhagen
    Ron Guidry
    Kevin Brown

    Are they in the Hall? Should they be? They all had great careers but I would

    Damned Jays – I finally want them to start losing and they decide to beat up on the Red Sox. With my luck, they’ll lose all four games this weekend.

  15. Dave,

    I agree about the park and competition arguments, but ERA+ and DERA take that into account.

    From the players you listed, only Kevin Brown, David Cone, and Saberhagen are within 100 runs of Mussina in PRAA, and I think Brown and Saberhagen have a decent case (Cohen is almost 70 runs behind Mussina). The rest of those guys just weren’t good enough for a serious length of time to be comparable, BR’s opinion notwithstanding.

    Brown, Saberhagen and Mussina all have better numbers than many of the pitchers already in the Hall.

  16. Pingback: Hall of Fame: Bernie Williams « The Noy G Show

  17. I just want to add one more thing: the HOF Monitor has Mussina at 109 (likely, but not sure thing to make the HOF) and the HOF Standards has him at 50, exactly average for a HOFer. Pretty much sums up what I said, may not make it, but will deserve it.

  18. Pingback: Why the Win is a Bad Baseball Statistic - Example 2,346,717 « The Noy G Show

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