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.