In which Mike Mussina wins again

IDK, my BFF DotF?
Reflecting on New York drafting follies

In Yankee-land, Wednesday, September 12, 2007, was a fairly unremarkable today. The Yanks, riding a six-game winning streak, were in Toronto pushing hard for the Wild Card while the Blue Jays were looking to avoid slipping under .500. The Yankees won that game 4-1 despite mustering four hits, and Mike Mussina would emerge the winner, picking up his ninth win of the season. It was the Yankees’ 145th game of the season.

Flash forward nearly nine months to another Wednesday night, June 4, 2008. Again, the Yankees would be playing the Blue Jays. Only, this time, the Yanks would be looking to inch closer to .500 while the Blue Jays were looking to close the gap in the AL East. Again, Mike Mussina would take the mound, and again, he would win his ninth game of the season. It was the Yankees’ 59th game of the year.

What a difference a year makes. Tonight, sitting in the Upper Deck behind the plate, I saw a completely different Mike Mussina than the one I watched slog his way through 5.2 innings in Toronto in September. Rather, this Mike Mussina, throwing many more strikes than the 2007 version, relied on a well-placed fastball and devastatingly slow off-speed pitches to keep the Blue Jays hitters guessing all night long.

Tonight, Moose was again the stopper for the Yankees. He twirled six innings of five-hit ball, allowing one run on one walk and six strike outs. He finished to a standing ovation and lowered his ERA to 4.01. It was just a few weeks ago that I was lambasting Moose for poor pitching against the Red Sox while hoping he could limit the damage to 4.50-4.75 runs per 9 innings.

Well, he’s done that and more basically by becoming a completely different pitcher. No longer sporting a mid- to low-90s fastball, Mussina mixes and matches. He drops in 65-mph curveballs after 88-mph fastballs. He is relentless in pounding the strike zone, allowing just 11 walks in 67.1 innings this season, and he has mastered a new craft at an old age.

So here we sit with 103 games left in the year, and Mike Mussina has a shot at 20 wins for what would be the first time in his career. I ran into an old friend from high school today at the stadium, sitting in the row in front of me. As the game ended, we said our good byes and pondered Moose’s season. Neither of us could believe that Mike Mussina would be the de facto ace of the Yankee staff come June 4.

In parting, we both wondered if this would be the year Mussina finally reached that magically 20 plateau. He needs to win just three games a month here on out, but that’s not as easy as it sounds. Just ask Chien-Ming Wang. In baseball, they say anything is possible. Let’s see this one unfold with a happy ending.

Game Notes: Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter. That’s some rarefied company on the all-time Yankee hit list…The ball really flies off Wilson Betemit’s bat when he makes contact…Nice work by the pen tonight. Mariano Rivera is truly in a league of his own this year…Johnny Damon is 26 for his last 53. That’s a mighty fine .310/.378/.498 line he’s sporting this year.

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IDK, my BFF DotF?
Reflecting on New York drafting follies
  • Ben B.

    I’ve always followed and loved following Moose. I don’t know whether he’s learned to pitch like Jamie Moyer (he’s actually pitching better) or Greg Maddux, but his career has looked nearly done at times over the last couple of years, and it would be great to see him find something that can bridge the gap to 300 wins over the next (probably) three and a half years.

    If he can win 20 games this year, and 15 each of the next two years, then it’s only two and a half years, but realistically, he probably needs to pitch in his Age 42 season as well in order to make it.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    You gotta know Moose is loving it after Hank called him out publicly and Manny owned him earlier in the year. Moose has an ego the size of NY but I think he’s still a team guy and has a great sense of humor. I like his success and am hoping he gets to 20 games and the rest of the team doesn’t let him down.

    The Moose/Mo combo is a knockout punch and you’d think they’d both be over the hill by now. Moose is sharp by becoming a completely different pitcher. Mo defies all odds by just doing what he’s always done. He’s sharper than he’s been in the past 8 years. Now perhaps we can get someone to fill the gap between them. Dan Giese anyone? Oh wait….

  • Joey H

    moose for cy young! lmao hey i called it in spring. the man has reinvented him self. this is no fluke ladies and gents

    • Marsha

      Um, Mo gets my vote for the CY if he keeps pitching like he has been so far this season.

  • MD

    it just adds to his value when he becomes a free agent….mets got 2 for Glavine, maybe we get 2 for Moose after this year…….

    • TurnTwo

      if i were Moose, i wouldnt hold my breath until i got a 2 year offer from Brian Cashman.

      • steve (different one)

        that ain’t gonna happen.

        i think he’ll head to the NL, but if he comes back it will be on a 1 year deal.

        • mike

          I thought this off-season he would be dealth to Philly, and I can see them make a push for him as well – their pitching stinks, and while Moose will get clobbered in the NL, Moyer has made a living out there

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

            while Moose will get clobbered in the NL, Moyer has made a living out there

            How do you figure? That’s a bit counterintuitive.

            • mike

              I think Moyer has been pitching that way for 10 years, not 10 starts as Moose has and thus I would be a little more confidant in his past performance being a good guide, and Moyer is a lefty – all of whom seem to have a longer life-cycle of effectiveness once they get themselves confidant in their stuff/abilities/limitations

  • Bob

    Great post! In the bigger picture, it doesn’t matter how many games Mike wins; as long as he keeps delivering six quality innings consistently, he is an incredibly valuable pitcher. Just as important was the pitching of Farnsworth and Ohlendorf, who need to hold the fort until the Melancon-Cox combo is ready for prime time. Based on how they are currently pitching, that may be sooner rather than later.

  • Bo

    And the rotation would look formidable right now if Moose was the 5th starter like he should have been.

  • JRVJ

    I’m a big Moose fan, and have posted repeatedly here and at Pete Abe’s about the possibility of resigning the Moose after this year.

    Besides the obvious proviso (the Yankees should wait out the year before making any commitments), it does bear mentioning that while Moose has been a pleasant surprise, he is still not a top 10 pitcher this year.

    (I looked at his stats, and the best two that I could see were Wins and K/BB, which was actually VERY NICE at 3.55, which places Moose at No. 6 in the AL).

    That’s partially because when Moose is bad (his April 17 start against the BoSox, his May 20 start against the Orioles – to a lesser extent, his April 12 start against the BoSox), he’s been really bad.

    Having said that, I count 6 QS for Moose (Apr 7 vs. TB, Apr 23 vs. the CHWS, May 3 vs. SEA, May 14 vs. TB, May 30 vs. MIN and yesterday vs. Tor).

    Though not QS, his Apr 2 and May 8 starts were close (particularly the May 8 one, where he was only at 86 pitches when he was pulled).

    In summation, Moose has given the Yanks QS in 6/13 starts, clunkers in 3/13 and so-so starts in 4/13 starts (again, 2 of the so-so starts were close to being QS).

    That’s a LOT more than I think Yankee fandom expected from the Moose this year.

  • WRT

    MOOOOOOOOSE

  • mike

    Pleasantly surprised by Moose – while I thought he would win his share of games being the #5 with this Yankee offense, he has not only pitched pretty well, but he has pitched to the scoreboard and gotten much deeper into games than we all anticipated.

    Its amazing how we all spend the Hot Stove going over stats / projections and numbers, but whoda thunk Cano would be this bad (btw how is his ZR so far – he looks ok in the field, actually), Moose would be this good and Matsui would be leading the league in BA (irrelevant stat, but interesting)

  • Whitey14

    I certainly hope the yanks continue to depend on mussina for this year and beyond. I think that would be great news for the Sox ;-)

    Sorry guys, but I think mussina is shooting his whole load now. Nothing from the past few seasons suggests that his hot streak will continue much longer. He’s smart and has seemingly made some adjustments, but thinking this will continue all season is probably incorrect.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      And what facts are you basing that on? Because out of a slow stretch in the middle of 2007, this is right in line with what Mussina has done over the last few years.