Moose and the Hall of Fame

Saturday night open thread: Plans B, C and D
In the weeks leading up to the Winter Meetings

Over the last few days, Hall of Fame talk has inevitably followed Mike Mussina’s decision to retire.

Some writers favor his induction; others don’t. But the debate is more of the same old, same old. The people who will not vote for him can’t get over the fact that Mussina didn’t win 300 games. The people who will smartly vote for him will look at the teams he was on, the teams he pitched against and the general success he enjoyed both relative to the time in which he pitched and to other comparable players.

In my opinion, Mike Mussina is a Hall of Famer. But don’t take my word for it. Just listen to King Kaufman dismiss wins on Many argue, writes Kaufman, that “the Hall of Fame is getting too big. It’s meant to honor the great, not the very good.”

He continues:

Much as I hate to say nice things about a Stanford guy, I think Mussina’s a Hall of Famer, but I understand and respect those arguments. But the real argument against Mussina going to Cooperstown is going to be dumber than that. It’s going to be about how he didn’t win 300 games…

Mussina got his 270 wins in 536 starts, meaning he got a W in 50.4 percent of them. Sutton got 321 wins — he won three as a reliever — in 756 starts, which was 42.4 percent. Tom Seaver, who pitched on a lot of bad teams and a few good ones, got 310 wins in 647 starts, 47.9 percent. Perry won 44.2 percent of his starts.

If Mussina had won at the same rate in Seaver’s 647 starts, he’d have retired with 326 wins. That would have tied him with Eddie Plank for 13th all time, and not only would no one have suggested he didn’t belong in the Hall, no one would have dismissed the gaudy win total because he played on a lot of winners. With Sutton’s 756 starts — including the one during the Battle of Bunker Hill — Mussina would have won 381, more than anyone but Cy Young and Walter Johnson.

Of course, pitching every fourth day, he might have blown out his arm in 1992 and retired with 11 wins. We’re talking about silly stuff here.

But so is talking about 300 wins. Today’s starters only get the ball a little more than 80 percent as often as yesterday’s. Yeah, they have better medical care and aren’t asked to complete games anymore, but they also have to face real hitters from the top to the bottom of opposing lineups, which was not true in earlier eras.

If 300 wins used to be your magic Hall of Fame number, you need to lower it.

This is, of course, but one reason why Mussina deserves a spot in Cooperstown, but it’s a relevant one nonetheless. Maybe someday, the voters will understand that. I guess we’ll find out in five years.

Saturday night open thread: Plans B, C and D
In the weeks leading up to the Winter Meetings
  • Ed

    Stat wise, I think Mussina compares favorably with his peers who come up in Hall of Fame discussions.

    But… I think it comes down to how you look at his overall career vs the peak of it. I feel like Mussina sustained a very good level of success for an entire career, but, he never had the complete dominance that guys like Pedro, Maddux, Clemens, or Randy Johnson did. You never feared facing Mussina the way you feared those other guys.

    • Baseballnation

      He pitched in the A.L. all his career hough and in the quote on quote “steroid era.” If were so quick to call in question a pitchers success if question surround possible steroid use or any player for that matter, then we should equally praise the success Mussina received. Maybe he wasn’t throwing up Koufax peak number years but he was considered for a long time consistently as one of the top pitchers in the pemier league for a long time. Lets not look at the fat he didn’t win 300…He came close. Let’s look at the fact he won 63-65 percent of his career games!

    • Steve

      “he never had the complete dominance that guys like Pedro, Maddux, Clemens, or Randy Johnson did. You never feared facing Mussina the way you feared those other guys.”

      Did anyone ever fear Tom Glavine?

      • Steve H

        No. And Glavine pitched in NL his whole career, Moose in the AL East. Moose>Glavine. If Moose pitched in the NL, we would have well over 300 wins.

      • Ed

        Nope, and that’s why I left Glavine out of that list.

        In the last discussion on Mussina, I pointed out then that Mussina’s stats were much better than Glavine’s other than the win total, so I’d put Mussina in before Glavine.

  • inman

    100% hall of fame material. i must admit i was hoping to see moose throw the first pitch in the new stadium. never the biggest fan, but last year made me want to see him in the pinstripes for another year or possibly two.

  • monkeypants

    I agree that Moose is HOF material. However, Kaufman’s conclusion that the 300 win benchmark needs to be lowered rings a little hollow, given that within a year or so MLB will have seen four pitchers retire at 300+ wins within three years (Clemens, Maddux, Glavine, Johnson). Two have topped 350 wines!

    • Stephen

      That points to how good they were. Maddux and Clemens (just looking at results, no allegations) are two of the greatest pitchers ever. Their success does not take away from Mussina. Tom Glavine pitched for great teams most of his career. Switch him and Moose and Moose might have 300 wins.

    • Aaron

      Statistically you make a valid point. But once Randy Johnson reaches 300 we will have seen the end of the line. The game is different now. We won’t see another pitcher win 300 games for a long time.

      • Steve H

        It’s amazing. CC won 17 games at the age of 20 and has been in double digits every year, yet would still have to average 18 wins a year for the next 10 years to get there. 15 wins a year would get him there in 12 years. Possible, but he’s not even halfway there yet. And that’s a guy who started at 20, has been healthy and good for 8 years.

  • RollingWave

    We could debate that the current hall standards are too low, but given the current hall standards, Mussina / Schilling / Glavine and possiblly Hoffman are all in.

  • Mark B

    I agree Moose deserves a spot in the Hall based on his win total such a small amount of games and his pitching in the AL East against the likes of Boston and New York at one point.

    I think it may be years until he gets in, though, due to the heavy competition he will receive not only from the likes of the Big Unit, Schilling (I say he’s not Hall Material), Pedro (definitely Hall material with his 2.91 ERA), Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz, but also from Jim Kaat (283 wins in 625 starts, 3-time 20 game winner (won 25 in one year), 3.45 ERA); Bert Blyleven (287 wins in 685 starts, 1-time 20 game winner, 3.31 ERA); Tommy John (288 wins in 700 starts, 3-time 20 game winner, 3.34 ERA).

  • radnom

    The people who will not vote for him can’t get over the fact that Mussina didn’t win 300 games.

    I don’t think anyone considers 300 wins a necessity to make the HOF.
    I always thought it was one of those numbers like 3,000 hits or 500 homeruns (devalued after the steroid era).

    Numbers that if you achieve, you automatically get voted it, but are not required to make it.

  • Matt

    I think he’s a HOF, but I wonder if he got some help playing on those Yankee teams that just mashed…

  • Steve

    I’ve made this same argument in recent days. People seem to think 300 wins is a minimum requirement, and its not. It’s not a floor, its a ceiling. 300 means you’re a no brainer, it doesn’t mean that if you fall short you’re disqualified.

    -Half the pitchers in the HOF DO NOT have 300 wins, many of whom were pre-WW2 pitchers and some go all the way back to the Dead Ball Era and were contemporaries of CY Young.

    -Whitey Ford, Bob Feller, Sandy Kofax, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, and Carl Hubbell all have less than 300 wins and they pitched every 4th day. If 300 is the standard, you have to take all of these guys out of the HOF. And Pedro Martinez won’t get your vote, either.

    -For those who argue his ERA would be among the highest, you have to take into account the era he pitched in. His ERA+ is the same as (HOFers) Juan Marichal, and higher than Feller, Drysdale, Rollie Fingers, Warren Spahn, Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Tom Glavine and other so-called “Locks”.

    Moose isn’t a first ballot guy, there will be a lot of guys who either are retired or will soon who will go in before him. But doing what he did in the Steroid Era, in the AL East (which produced 8 WS Champs) for as long as he did is a Hall of Famer to me.

  • Matt

    I hate 1st ballot guy, or not…what does he do in between years of eligibility??? Does he strike more people out?

    • Steve

      First ballot is a special distinction, reserved for the best of the best.

      • Matt

        Isn’t the best of the best called the Hall of Fame?

        • Steve H

          Yeah, I can’t stand the 1st ballot stuff. You’re either a Hall of Famer or not.

  • Peter Lacock

    There are a lot of good players in the HOF that should not be there. Moose is just like them and for that reason he should get there eventually. The HOF was cheapened long ago. I stopped paying attention or caring about 20 years ago. Good players get elected all the time and the veterans committee digs up guys that were missed and gives them a bunch of more chances to get in with less scruntity. If that’s the way it is then so be it. I always felt like only the best should be worthy. Only those that were the most dominant at their position, in their era, would attain HOF status. Numbers are part of the story but not all of the story. Under my criteria there would only be about 20 guys in the HOF not the hundreds or whatever it is, that are actually in there. Moose was never dominant. His best season was probably his first full season. He had a nice career and he was a good pitcher but I wouldn’t vote for him because in all of his 18 seasons, there was always someone better.

    • Matt

      And those 20 guys are?

  • dlcb

    For people that do not care about 300 wins as a benchmark, you sure seem to be talking a lot about it. I am not convinced Mussina is a Hall of Famer either. He will probably get in, and he certainly is not the worst candidate. But Mussina was rarely ever great, and the those are the ones you want in the Hall.

    His peak was not particularly high. He was probably the 8th or 9th best pitcher of this generation. And he finished near the top in CY Young voting once. Mussina was an outstanding pitcher and was one of my favorite recent Yankees, but he is not an all time great.

    • Matt

      He finished in the top 5 six times in his career including finishing 2nd in 1999 when he was 18-7…oh, the winner that year, Pedro, when he had that magical 23-4 season with a 2.07era., 0.92whip, and 313 Ks.

      • dlcb

        So he finished near the top in CY Young voting once. Those CYA-5 and CYA-6 are pretty worthless. They mean he received a few third place votes. Even in 1999 when he finished second, he didn’t receive a single first place vote. In fact he received a grand total of three first place votes for CY Young over the course of his career. Mussina was never considered the best at his job, and that is because he wasn’t.

        • Matt

          Oh I agree, but no one got any first place votes except Pedro cause he had arguably one of the greatest seasons by a pitcher ever.

          He’s borderline. i just think he either is one or isn’t one, none of this 1st ballot, 2nd, 3rd, ect.

          • LeftyLarry

            Anybody who doesn’t think that Pedro (my head grew 2 hat sizes) wasn’t a steroid user is kidding themselves.
            He was throwing low 90’s with the Dodgers and was an average prospect and then suddenly was throwing 95-96 during the Steroid era and then started breaking down and went back to throwing 90-91 when they started testing.
            Mussina was absolutely clean.

            • Steve

              Wouldn’t your head get bigger if you were a successful big leaguer?