Heading into the season, I did not have high expectations for Mike Mussina. The right hander, 39 years old on Opening Day, was coming off his worst season and had been replaced in the starting rotation in September. That the Yanks were counting on Moose this year was, seven months ago, more than a little alarming.
Of course, as baseball fate would have it, Mussina threw one helluva season. After a 1-3 start that saw Moose lose twice to the Red Sox before the middle of April, we were ringing the death knell. But over his last 30 starts, Mussina went 19-6 with a 3.10 ERA.
On the season, he threw 200 innings for the first time since 2003 and racked up 20 wins for the first time ever. He allowed 214 hits and walked fewer than one batter per start. His season ERA was 3.37, and Mussina will garner some Cy Young votes this year.
So what changed? A quick glance at some of Moose’s stats reveal that he wasn’t that was able to change the way batters hit him. While he allowed line drives 21.9 percent of the time as he did in 2007, his ground-ball rate skyrocketed. Batters hit ground balls off of him 48.5 percent of the time this year as opposed to just 41.9 percent of the time last year.
In fact, Moose’s numbers should actually be better than they were. According to Baseball Prospectus, Moose’s BABIP, a measure of opponents’ average on balls in play, was .327, a remarkably high number. So while hitters were markedly worse against Mike Mussina in 2008, he should have been even better this year.
Mussina enjoyed this new-found success simply because he changed his approach to pitching. No longer in possession of a mid-90s fastball, Mussina had to adjust to a breaking ball-based, control approach to pitching. In the words of Hank Steinbrenner, Mussina had to become Jamie Moyer, and while the idea seems a bit preposterous, that’s exactly what Moose did this year. He became the AL version of the NL’s crafty veteran.
Going forward, nothing suggests that Mussina cannot continue to thrive this way. His command has always been stellar, and he’s a smart pitcher. But he also knows that he could go out on top if he retired today, and no one yet knows what the future holds for Mike Mussina. The Yankees need him to provide that solid presence in the rotation. While Mussina needs baseball anymore is anyone’s guess. But one thing is for sure; Mike Mussina’s 2008 was a very unexpected and very welcome surprise.
Two safe, polished, high probability college pitchers with long & successful track records high risk, super high reward high school arms from Texas face off tonight, as Scotty Kazmir looks to even the series at one against Josh Beckett, a.k.a. TEH AWESOMEST PLAYOFF PITCHER EVA!!11!1onehundredeleven!! Superstud Evan Longoria really needs to figure it out and quick for the Rays, he’s only 1 for 16 since his 3 for 3, 2 HR showing in Game 1 of the ALDS.
Rays’ fill-in closer Dan Wheeler has thrown a grand total of two innings in the last 18 days, so he’s got to get some work in today with the off day tomorrow, right?
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, RF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
5. Jason Bay, LF
6. Jed Lowrie, SS
7. All-Star Catcher Jason Varitek, C
8. Mark Kotsay, 1B
9. Coco Crisp, CF
- Scott Kazmir, P (12-8, 3.49) Josh Beckett, P (12-10, 4.03)
1. Akinori Iwamura, 2B
2. BJ Upton, CF
3. Carlos Pena, 1B
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. Carl Crawford, LF – I can’t help but think they’d be better off sliding everyone down a spot in the order & letting him bat leadoff … lengthen the lineup a little bit
6. Cliff Floyd, DH
7. Dioner Navarro, C
8. Gabe Gross, RF
9. Jason Bartlett, SS
- Josh Beckett, P (12-10, 4.03) Scott Kazmir, P (12-8, 3.49)
Oh, and how about them Rangers? Where can the Yanks get a kid like Brandon Dubinsky?
Chad Jennings summarized a few MLB.com minor league recaps that feature some former Yankee prospects. The Pirates are high on Jose Tabata and Dan McCutcheon while one-time pitching stud Tyler Clippard is in danger of losing that coveted “prospect” label. MLB.com will release its Yankee farm system in November. · (0) ·
When the Yankees don’t make the playoffs and finish in third place, someone has to take the fall. So how about the rookie third base coach who showed a tendency to get runners thrown out at the plate? Mark Feinsand reports that the Yanks are considering replacing Bobby Meachem with Luis Sojo. Despite the Yanks’ offensive woes this year, Kevin Long’s job appears to be safe. · (33) ·
James Barron has written one of the most morbidly interesting stories about the impending destruction of Yankee Stadium that I’ve read so far. In today’s Times, Barron looks at the fate of those who have spread the ashes of their deceased loved ones in the House that Ruth Built. Some relatives are sad about the loss of a final resting place while others have some remaining ashes that will become a part of the new stadium. All in all, it’s one slightly disturbing and entirely fascinating article. · (6) ·
While Americans are focused on the plummeting global economy these days, the world of sports is no exception. With two new stadiums on the way in New York, questions about about the state of baseball economics. The numbers — at least for the Yanks and Mets — are pretty encouraging.
From Danielle Sessa, Bloomberg News’ sports writer, comes a tale about the Yankees’ new luxury boxes. The team has just seven unsold boxes at the $600,000 price point. She reports:
The New York Yankees have seven luxury suites priced at $600,000 a season left for sale at their new stadium and the club isn’t concerned that the economic crisis will hamper its ability to sell them, chief operating officer Lonn Trost said.
The $1.3 billion ballpark has 47 luxury suites, though the Yankees aren’t selling all of them. Some will be held for corporate sponsors, Trost said today.
Suites priced at $850,000 to $650,000 are already sold out and for a minimum of five years, Trost said. He declined to comment on how many suites in total were sold.
Across town, the Mets have sold out their 49 new boxes but at a price point of just $500,000. It doesn’t take an economics major to know that the Yankees have already made more on luxury box sales than the Mets with seven boxes remaining unsold. Even in a bad economy, the Yankees manage to come out ahead.
For those of you with a few hundred grand lying around, the new suites come equipped with state-of-the-art luxuries. Much as the suites do in the Meadowlands, the new Yankee Stadium suites will come with indoor and outdoor seating as well as HDTVs and private bathrooms.
In other economic news, MSNBC calculated that the Yanks spent the most per win of any Major League team. The team’s 89 wins cost $2.5 million each. While Tampa — at $451,759 per win — was the most economical team, the Yanks probably earned back more for their wins than any team drawing just over 22,200 per game.
Chad Billingsley and Brett Myers are set to square off in an afternoon affair. I’m not quite sure why the Phillies and Dodgers should draw the day game. After all, it’s 1:35 on a Friday in Los Angeles, and therefore, no Dodgers fans can really watch this game. Meanwhile, you have the biggest West Coast market and second-largest media market in the nation playing a team from the East Coast’s second most populous city. This should really be the night game. For this one, you’ve got your usual storylines. Manny Ramirez is hitting .500 in the playoffs while the rest of the Dodgers are hitting .213. The Phillies have scored most of their runs via the long ball. Can these trends continue? All this and more at 4:37 p.m. · (30) ·
Q: How do you win a political race in Massachusetts?
A: Accuse your opponent of being a Yankees fan.
No, I don’t intend this to inspire political debate at a baseball blog. I just thought it was an interesting article on a slow, slow Friday (until 4:30, that is). It appears that in the Massachusetts Senatorial race, incumbent John Kerry — remember him? — has accused his opponent, Jeff Beatty, of rooting for the Yankees. It stems from an issue in Beatty’s past, where he was photographed wearing a Yankees hat while in Grenada. He was injured while rescuing U.S. hostages, and the hat was supposedly put on his head to keep bandages in place. Whatever the story, it’s kind of funny/sad to see a political race in MA come down to the Yankees. · (39) ·