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November 24, 2008

Prospectus Today

Moose Tracks

by Joe Sheehan

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It was something of a surprise that Mike Mussina retired last week. Mussina, famously coming off of the first 20-win season of his career, seemed to have a lot of innings left in his arm. He was one of the ten best starters in the AL last season, and had established a new approach to his craft that could have allowed him to be an effective pitcher with a diminished fastball. ESPN's Keith Law had him at 29th on his free-agent list, which would seem to have portended an eight-figure salary for two seasons, at least.

Then again, I would refer back to last week's piece about the intensely personal decisions that people-not players, people-make at times like this. Mussina weighed the money, and his opportunity for personal milestones or a championship, against his desire to continue playing and traveling and forgoing other aspects of his life, and he chose to walk away. It's a little hard for me to separate my personal feelings about this-Mussina has long been one of my favorite players-from the professional aspects, but I think it's fair to say that Mussina's decision means that he walks away from the game, rather than it walking away from him.

Now, it comes time to evaluate that career. Mussina should be a Hall of Famer-he's been that good for that long, and the biggest thing working against him is that his career happened to overlap that of some of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. Just judged on his merits and the established standards of the room, Mussina belongs in the Hall. He had career value, a Hall of Fame peak, solid secondary markers such as Gold Glove Awards and post-season performance, so he loses nothing in any of those areas.

The whole "20 wins" thing was always a ridiculous concept, and the focus on his attempt to win 20 in 2008 was misplaced. Pitcher wins are a terrible evaluative tool, and in an era in which starting pitchers get fewer starts and fewer decisions than at any time in baseball history, Mussina's career isn't just something to admire, it's something to teach off of: Hall of Fame pitchers from the 1980s onward are simply not going to have the win totals of their predecessors, and you have to evaluate them in other ways. Using 20-win seasons, or 300-win careers, as any kind of standard will lead you to the wrong answers.

Mike Mussina is a Hall of Fame pitcher, and he was before he took the mound on the last day of 2008, and for that matter, before he took the mound for his first start of the season. Mussina has performed the actual job of a starting pitcher-preventing the other team from scoring-better than many Hall of Famers ever did. That the accounting didn't add up in his favor is irrelevant.

Just to illustrate the point about how good Mussina has been, let's compare him to one of the top starting pitchers currently on the ballot, and a controversial choice himself, Jack Morris.


Hurler    W   L    Pct.  ERA   ERA+    IP      K   PRAA   PRAR
Mussina  270 153  .638  3.68   123  3,562.2  2813   312   1302
Morris   254 186  .577  3.90   105  3,824.0  2478   -52    897

In wins and winning percentage, the areas where Morris is supposed to be strongest, Mussina beats him handily. I would not at all build a case for Mussina on these data points, but the comparison to Morris makes the point that even in Morris' best categories, Mussina is the better choice. When you look deeper into the record... it gets ugly. Mussina prevented more than 400 additional runs than Morris did, or about 24 per 200 innings over the course of their careers. That's the difference between a number one starter and a number two starter, not just in one season, but in every season for 17 years.

It's the difference between belonging in the Hall of Fame and not.

Put another way, Morris had Mussina's career... and then he threw another 260 innings and allowed about 256 runs. You can't set replacement level low enough to make that valuable, which is one reason why Mussina's edge over Morris becomes larger (405 runs) when you compare to replacement rather than average (364 runs). The differences between the two in Morris' favor are usage patterns, run support, and bullpen support. Mussina did his job-preventing the other team from scoring-better than Morris ever did.

Is there a peak argument for Morris? Here are the two pitchers' best ten seasons by PRAR, in descending order:

PRAR Morris:   85  81  80  80  74  69  61  58  53  49*
PRAR Mussina: 104  94  92  90  89* 88  80  80  80  78

*indicates strike-shortened season

Mussina's top six seasons are better than Morris' best, which I suppose gives us another way of comparing the two: Mussina had Morris' career, but with four seasons of Cy Young-caliber pitching tacked on, which accounts for the 400-run difference between the two in PRAR. This is a massive gap, both in peak and in career value. If you were to look at this from a "pennants added" perspective (both Bill James and Michael Wolverton have done this as a means of determining the season-level value of different career shapes), you'd find that Mussina's performances would have done more to push his teams toward championships than Morris' did. That they didn't in real life is entirely about each players' teammates, not some particular talent or deficit in the two pitchers.

One significant marker that Morris' advocates will bring up is his post-season work, which is really a proxy for Game Seven of the 1991 World Series. Post-season performance should be a positive marker for players who deserve it, and a signature game like Morris' 10-inning shutout in the ultimate game should work in his favor. Like Roger Maris' 61-home-run campaign, however, it merely raises a player not good enough into consideration, rather than pushing a nearly qualified player over the top. Morris' entire post-season career is bolstered by that start, but on the whole, he was ordinary: 3.80 ERA in 13 starts and 92 1/3 innings. He made seven World Series starts with a 2.96 ERA. That's very good.

Mussina, however, was better. Helped by the expanded postseason, Mussina made 23 post-season appearances, 21 of them starts, throwing 139 2/3 innings with a 3.42 ERA. He pitched more, and more effectively, than Morris did even in the postseason. In Mussina's only two World Series, he made three starts-two of them effective, one a disaster-for a total line of a 3.00 ERA in 18 innings. Morris had Game Seven, but Mussina had a number of post-season starts like that:

  • 10/5/97: Seven innings, allowing just two hits and one run to beat Randy Johnson and send the Orioles to the ALCS.
  • 10/11/97: Seven innings, one run, 15 strikeouts in Game Three of the ALCS.
  • 10/15/97: Eight shutout innings and ten strikeouts on three days' rest in Game Six of the ALCS, an elimination game.
  • 10/13/01: Seven shutout innings in Game Three of the ALDS, another elimination game.
  • 11/1/01: Eight innings, two runs, and ten strikeouts in Game Five of the World Series.
  • 10/16/03: Three shutout innings of relief, enabling Grady Little and Aaron Boone and Mystique and Aura. In another elimination game.

The point to make here isn't that Mike Mussina has some special ability to pitch in the postseason. The point is that while he doesn't have Jack Morris' signature moment, he has a whole bunch of October moments that line up just behind it. Mussina's 1997 ALCS against the Indians was one of the dominant performances of the three-level era in playoff history. Look at his work in some of those elimination games: Andy Pettitte has the reputation as the post-season go-to guy, but Mussina went to the mound with the season on the line and didn't allow a run on three separate occasions. There are a lot of guys who can't make that claim. His post-season track record is a huge positive for him, and the fact that his "record" is 7-9 is as misleading as anything you'll find.

Comparing Mussina to a pitcher who is not in the Hall of Fame may not seem like a worthwhile exercise, but when you consider the reputations of the pitchers involved, the reason for choosing the two becomes clear. Mussina, with his lack of 20-win seasons, without a championship team to his name, and pitching with two of the five greatest pitchers ever in his peer group, is perceived as less than he actually was. Morris, who was the second- or third-best pitcher of his comparatively weaker era, is considered the best of his time, has an outsized reputation as a winner which had more to do with run support than any objective reality, and one of the greatest moments in baseball history. From a narrative standpoint, the two are complete opposites, and because of that, it may be hard for the voters-233 of which inexplicably think Jack Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame-to see past the narrative to the performance. The performance is what matters, and Mike Mussina performed not only better than Morris did, but much, much better than Morris did.

It will be interesting, in five years, to see how well that lesson sinks in.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  Hall Of Fame,  ALCS,  The Who,  Mike Mussina

37 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Lou Doench

I certainly hope Moose doesn't fall into the black hole that has sucked up Bert Blyleven's HOF chances. The same one that's waiting for Tim Raines and Barry Larkin.

On Jack Morris, isn't he an example of a class of '80s players who we all Thought would be no brainer HOF'ers at the time, but just ended up dissapointing? Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Orel Hersheiser. Is the 80's as a decade going to feel underrepresented in the Hall when all is said and done? If you'd told me back in 1987 that Jack Morris wasn't going to the Hall of Fame I'd have been almost flabbergasted.

Nov 24, 2008 11:33 AM
rating: 1
 
Michael
(736)

Blyleven got over 60% of the writers' votes for the Hall of Fame.

No black hole sucked up his chances. Blyleven is a near-lock to enter the HOF. The only suspense is whether the writers will do the job before their 15-year election period expires or whether a future veterans committee will do it instead.

Nov 24, 2008 12:26 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

What's happened to the home page? Banner book ads at the left make the page exceedingly long.

Nov 24, 2008 11:38 AM
rating: 0
 
WaldoInSC

This is a straw man argument in that Jack Morris is -- I would venture an educated guess -- a consensus non-Famer, at least among BP readers and writers.

Joe, you could do much more of a service by comparing Mussina to a second-tier HOFer so that we could really determine his bona fides.

Nov 24, 2008 11:42 AM
rating: -1
 
Michael
(736)

Joe wrote:
"That's the difference between a number one starter and a number two starter, not just in one season, but in every season for 17 years."

That's not being fair to Morris. Morris was a number one starter for a long time, earning a slew of opening day assignments. A better statement would be "That's the difference between being merely a number one starter and a top-drawer number one starter who should readily enter the Hall of Fame.

Also, is there any better explanation between the discrepancy between Morris having a career ERA+ over 100 but negative pitching runs above average. Do BP's stats gurus really think that Morris benefitted from that much fielding support over his career? I can buy the argument that Morris was not a Hall of Famer but you'll have to work harder than that to convince me that he was below average.

Nov 24, 2008 12:32 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

I can. Just from memory, these were the Whitaker/Trammell/Brookens infields, with Chet Lemon in center. I should look it up, but I'll tell you now that I think his Tigers peak was spent in front of above-average defenses. These were the teams that made Walt Terrell and Dan Petry look really good.

Moving on, those Twins and Blue Jays teams, especially the latter, were really good defensively as well.

There's probably a decent follow-on article here, but I think we'll find that Morris, in his career, pitched in front of much better defenses than the average pitcher, and the gap might be fairly large.

Nov 24, 2008 13:17 PM
 
diperna

Look, Morris was a good pitcher for a long time. That leaves him with a very good career, but not a great career.

I'd never call him below average. He's just overrated. It's not a negative reflection on him that he's overrated; it's a negative reflection on the people overrating him.

Nov 25, 2008 19:02 PM
rating: 0
 
Schlom

Joe Posnanski already did that:

http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2008/11/17/moose-hunting/

Nov 24, 2008 12:43 PM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

Yeah, Joe P's mystery comp makes a much better case:

Davenport Translated Pitching Stats:

Pitcher A: 3256.3 IP, 3.90 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 2162 K, 574 BB
Mussina: 4218.7 IP, 3.66 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 3215 K, 686 BB

Pitcher A is Juan Marichal.

Oh, and FWIW -- WARP3:
Marichal 83.7
Mussina 132.4

This is a no-brainer; Marichal's only advantage was that he had two tremendous seasons that were a couple of wins(each) better than Mussina's best single year.

Nov 24, 2008 13:40 PM
rating: 0
 
Drungo Hazewood

Good article, Joe.

I'd love to see a comparison against Tom Glavine, who is a lock for the Hall, a contemporary and one who also benefited from winning teams and had a good post-season record.

To me, Moose was far better than Glavine. His ERA+ is significantly better and I'd love to see how much his real ERA was obliterated by that Yankee defense. And he pitched against the deadly offenses in the AL East for his whole career.

I think Glavine should be in the Hall, but I think Moose was better. I'd like to see that comparison because lots of people who will vote for Glavine are on the fence about Mussina.

Nov 24, 2008 12:45 PM
rating: 2
 
Matthew Avery

Well, yeah, his ERA+ is better. He pitched 850 fewer innings!

You're talking about nearly 1000 extra off-peak innings that Glavine pitched that Mussina has chosen to forgo (or didn't get into the bigs in time for).

And that's not to say that Glavine was better. In fact, I think that would have been a far more interesting article, comparing two contemporary pitchers whose public perception is quite different. I tend to think Glavine would've come out ahead, but it's certainly a good discussion.

Nov 24, 2008 13:32 PM
rating: 1
 
Corkedbat

Nice article. Saddest day of my college years was the day I found out Moose left Baltimore to go to ur arch-enemy the Yankees. I think the Yankees Championship draught should be called "the curse of the Moose!"

Nevertheless, I think something that is not usually talked about in this piece is the off the field person he is. He has been a coach in a High School and if I remember correctly he headed up the players union sporting that Stanford degree at one point.

Remembering The Moose

Nov 24, 2008 13:26 PM
rating: 1
 
Hands22

What Moose did in those 97 playoffs has to be one of the most dominant stretches that no one really knows about. He beats the Unit twice in the ALDS (2 starts, 14 IP, 3 runs allowed, 16 K's) shutting down a Seattle offense that had the 5th best OPS+ in the past 40 years, trailing only the 76 Reds, 71 Orioles, 82 Brewers and the 2000 Giants.

The in the ALCS he goes against the Indians who were the 2nd best offense in the AL with such guys as Ramirez, Thome, Justice, Matt Williams etc. He pitches 15 innings over 2 starts, allowed 1 run and struck out 25, and the Orioles ending up losing both games...

Without doing the research I'm guessing this has to be one of, if not the best performance by a pitcher in the playoffs in a losing effort.

Nov 24, 2008 13:31 PM
rating: 3
 
MikeFetters

Bob Gibson '68?

Nov 24, 2008 17:58 PM
rating: 0
 
Michael Rawdon

I think Mussina probably ought to be a Hall of Famer, but it will be interesting to see whether the voters agree given that his contemporaries include Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. Honestly I would put Mussina ahead of Glavine and Smoltz, but behind the other five. But I could easily see voters ranking him behind even Glavine and Smoltz.

(Will any of Maddux, Glavine, Schilling or Johnson retire this off-season? If so, then Mussina will face them head-to-head on the ballot, never mind whatever hitters and pitching holdovers are on the ballot that year.)

Anyway, due to those factors, I think Mussina could have a tough hill to climb to get into the Hall.

Mussina is a true hard-luck pitcher: Played on crummy Baltimore teams for the 90s, unceremoniously ousted in their one great season, then he went to the Yankees just *after* they finished their championship string. And now this.

Nov 24, 2008 14:03 PM
rating: 1
 
pearlysoames

OK, I'm convinced that Mussina has been a better pitcher, and has had a better career, than Jack Morris has. Of course, I already believed that before reading the article, and already (and still) believe that Morris does not belong in the HoF. I'm also not sure that Mussina himself belongs in the HoF, and the article doesn't really back up your assertion that he does. Sorry, but I don't get the point.

Nov 24, 2008 14:30 PM
rating: 3
 
mafrth77

A better comp for Morris is David Wells

Nov 24, 2008 14:42 PM
rating: 0
 
jdavlin
(630)

Great article, Joe. I've long thought Moose to be a first-ballot HOFer. To me, a great comparison is with another great Oriole, Jim Palmer, a pitcher no one would ever call a borderline HOFer. The only difference between Moose and Palmer, in my view, is the context in which their careers played out. Palmer played for great teams with very good defenses, during an era in which starters threw a ton of innings, mostly in 4-man rotations, in a relatively low-scoring environment. If you subtract Palmer's injury-plagued 49-inning 1967 season, they both pitched 17 relatively full seasons and 1 half-season. Palmer's ERA+ is 126, Mussina's is 123. Palmer's career WHIP was 1.180, Moose's was 1.192. The only real difference is IP and decisions, numbers Moose has no control over.

I suspect that Moose will get into the HOF, but it might take a couple years, due to the mind-numbing stupidity of so many voters.

Nov 24, 2008 14:45 PM
rating: 1
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

The comparisons to Blyleven seem apt. Both guys were heavily underrated by conventional statistics, and didn't have the sort of singular moments of greatness that the media like to remember when thinking about a player's career -- even though any serious reading of their careers would show each guy was one of the top 5 starters in the league for a decade or more.

It will be interesting to see how Mussina does in comparison with Curt Schilling. Schilling clearly has the "great moments" narrative and playoff performance voters love to cite, as well as a gaudy ERA, K totals, and a well-earned rep as a media darling. But having just 216 wins (assuming he's done) will keep his vote total down.

Nov 24, 2008 15:29 PM
rating: 1
 
judgejhnsn
(191)

Joe's excellent article made me curious -- if you rank pitchers with 3500 or more innings by ERA+, Mussina is 13th (right between Marichal and Plank) while Morris is 47th (right between Pennock and Lolich). Circle-Me-Bert is 19th, between Ted Lyons and Glavine, btw.

Going into the article I thought Blyleven should be in, Morris out, and wasn't sure about Mussina. I'd put him in now, and on an early ballot.

Nov 24, 2008 16:06 PM
rating: 0
 
diperna

Pearlysoames: "OK, I'm convinced that Mussina has been a better pitcher, and has had a better career, than Jack Morris has. Of course, I already believed that before reading the article, and already (and still) believe that Morris does not belong in the HoF. I'm also not sure that Mussina himself belongs in the HoF, and the article doesn't really back up your assertion that he does. Sorry, but I don't get the point."

Pearlysomes, "the point" is that too many Hall of Fame voters can't tell the difference between Mussina and Morris.

Voters such as Bill Madden of the NY Daily News, who -- actually it's worse than not being able to tell the difference -- votes for Morris every year YET IS TORN ON MUSSINA:

"Mussina, on the other hand, figures to require a lot of thinking since there are a lot of intangibles about him above and beyond his 270-153 record. For now, and for argument's sake, I prefer to compare him to Jack Morris, who gets my vote every year but hasn't been able to muster more than 42% in nine years on the ballot."

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/columnists/madden/index.html

Nov 24, 2008 17:07 PM
rating: 0
 
pearlysoames

Thanks Ray. I guess I was looking for a little more support for his assertion that Mussina should be in the HoF, which is where it seemed the article was going at first.

Nov 25, 2008 10:22 AM
rating: 0
 
diperna

Well, one component of the argument is to show that Mussina is clearly better than the players not elected. Morris is a data point in that argument, particularly since Morris is a pitcher that has received a measure of support from the electorate -- and has a vocal fan club.

Nov 25, 2008 11:24 AM
rating: 0
 
diperna

Madden also goes on to cite things like 20-win seasons and complete games in his comparison with Morris, without even realizing that those things are harder to get in the current era -- particularly the complete games.

The fact is that this lack of 20-win thing was always lunacy. Even if pitcher wins _were_ meaningful, which they're not. Mussina won 16 games in 1994 and was on pace for **23** when the strike hit. He won 19 games in 1995, another strike-shortened (144 games) season.

And then, in the biggest reason why attacking him for 20 wins is idiotic, in 1996 he left the game in line to pick up his 20th win -- pitching 8 innings of 1 run ball -- and Armando Benitez blew the save.

I dare anyone to construct a coherent argument why Armando Benitez blowing a save meant that Mike Mussina didn't have the ability/character/whatever to win 20 games.

Madden trumpets one of Morris's calling cards -- "winningest pitcher of the 80s" -- without recognizing that (A) it was easier to get wins in the 80s, (B) there is nothing magical about 1980-1989 as opposed to, say, 1984-1993, and (C) despite all of that, MUSSINA FINISHED WITH MORE WINS THAN JACK MORRIS.

Nov 24, 2008 17:18 PM
rating: 3
 
diperna

"I think Mussina probably ought to be a Hall of Famer, but it will be interesting to see whether the voters agree given that his contemporaries include Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. Honestly I would put Mussina ahead of Glavine and Smoltz, but behind the other five."

Michael, Glavine belongs ahead of Mussina and Smoltz, given the difference in innings.

And Kevin Brown should be on the list somewhere.

The lack of appreciation for Mussina is nothing compared to how Brown gets shafted in these discussions.

Nov 24, 2008 17:32 PM
rating: 1
 
Michael Rawdon

Glavine pitched more innings than Mussina, but Mussina generally pitched better innings, and certainly with a better peak. (Figuring out Smoltz is a little trickier given the years he spent as a reliever, and I haven't spent the time to think about it very deeply.)

Kevin Brown is another interesting case, I agree. I'd put him behind both Mussina and Glavine. He pitched somewhat fewer innings than Mussina, and his peak tails off rapidly - several excellent years surrounded by a lot of mediocrity. Still a very good pitcher overall. Hall-worthy? Hmm, I'm not sure.

Joe was using PRAR to compare Mussina and Morris. Using that metric, Glavine and Mussina are very close in total value (Glavine's slightly ahead), while Brown lags them by a fair margin (about 17%). It's not necessarily definitive (if it were we wouldn't be having this conversation :-) , but all things considered I'm comfortable ranking them Mussina-Glavine-Brown.

Nov 24, 2008 23:55 PM
rating: 1
 
TheDunneDeal

I find it curious that, os all the pitchers out there, Joe took the time to compare Moose to Jack Morris. My guess would've been that the average reader on this site doesn't consider Morris to be a Hall of Famer, and nothing I've read in the comments section is convincing me otherwise. So, essentially, Joe is arguing that Mussina should be a Hall of Famer because he's a better pitcher than a guy who none of the people reading the column is a Hall of Famer.

I'm not saying Moose shouldn't be a Hall of Famer - I think I'll need to sit back over the next six years and really consider his career in context to determine that. It's just that, strong cases have been made that Orel Hershiser and David Cone were better pitchers than Morris, and neither of them belong in the Hall. So saying that Mussina is better than Morris just isn't enough for me. Let's compare him to Blyleven and Sutton and the other borderline candidates.

As to jdavlin, who made the interesting comparison between Mussina and Palmer, with their ERA+ values being quite similar: don't just dismiss the value of all of those extra innings that Palmer threw. Yes, it may have been out of Mussina's control whether or not he was able to throw those innings, but 300 innings of 125 ERA+ ball is significantly more valuable than 220 innings of the same.

Nov 24, 2008 17:47 PM
rating: 0
 
diperna

"As to jdavlin, who made the interesting comparison between Mussina and Palmer, with their ERA+ values being quite similar: don't just dismiss the value of all of those extra innings that Palmer threw. Yes, it may have been out of Mussina's control whether or not he was able to throw those innings, but 300 innings of 125 ERA+ ball is significantly more valuable than 220 innings of the same."

Whoa. The difference in innings was nowhere near that large: the delta is 23 innings, not 80. Palmer averaged 248 innings per 162 games and Mussina averaged 225.

Palmer deserves credit for throwing more innings at a slightly higher effectiveness (126 ERA+ to 123), but let's not overstate the case.

Nov 24, 2008 18:08 PM
rating: 1
 
TheDunneDeal

Comparing their peak seasons, however, and the difference IS nearly that large.

Conveniently enough, Palmer and Mussina both had 11 seasons where they pitched 200+ innings. In those 11 years, Palmer pitched 3070 innings, an average of 279, while Mussina 2437.3, an average of a little over 221. So we're talking an extra 58 innings per season, during their peak seasons. Their mean ERA+'s during those seasons were about identical (Palmer's about 133, Mussina's about 131). I know those Oriole defenses in the early 70's were quite good, but not enough to make up the nearly 60 innings a season in their peak years. Palmer still has a huge lead over Mussina for me.

That's ok though, since most Hall of Famers weren't as good as Jim Palmer.

Nov 24, 2008 18:48 PM
rating: 1
 
Tony Mollica

Palmer pitched in the four- man rotation era, and Mussina pitched in the five-man rotation era. More starts is going to result in more innings pitched.

Nov 24, 2008 20:05 PM
rating: 1
 
TGisriel

For what it's worth, Palmer has consistently said that Mussina is a better pitcher than he was.

I can't say I agree, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Nov 25, 2008 12:49 PM
rating: 0
 
Tony Mollica

I buy the idea that Mussina is a Hall of Fame quality pitcher.
However the reference to game 3 of the 1997 ALCS is a little misleading. I was at the game in Cleveland with my son. Off the top of my head I believe the game started at 4:00 or so and the shadows made it hard for the batters to see. A past his prime, fastball-gone, Orel Hershiser struck out 12.

Nov 24, 2008 20:01 PM
rating: -1
 
diperna

Actually, Hershiser struck out 7, in 7 innings.

Hirschbeck was the home plate umpire. Mussina struck out 15 in 7 innings. All other pitchers combined struck out 18 in 16.1 innings.

If we're going to take a game like this away from Mussina, I don't know what we're doing, exactly, or what the point of all of this is.

Nov 24, 2008 22:56 PM
rating: 1
 
Tony Mollica

I looked up the boxscore, and I stand corrected. My memory was faulty. It was actually the Indians team that struck out 12 in 12 innings. The Orioles struck out 21 in 11.1 innings (with Mussina striking out 15 in 7 innings). Interestingly though Mussina was losing 1-0 to Hershiser when he left the game.
I wasn't trying to take the game away from Mussina, just reminiscing about a game that I attended with my then little boy, and explain the game conditions as I remembered them. There was a lot of grumbling then about the TV forced twilight start to the game, and how it put the batters at a disadvantage.

Nov 25, 2008 19:07 PM
rating: 0
 
TGisriel

I was at the 10/5/97 ALDS deciding game between Mussina and Randy Johnson with my son, who was then 8 years old.

It is probably my second favorite all time baseball memory, surpassed only by attending game 3 of the 1966 World Series with my father. O's won 1-0. I was 13.

These memories will live with me always.

Nov 25, 2008 12:57 PM
rating: 0
 
tommybones

Some Statistics:

Jack Morris
18 Yr WL% .577 W-254 L-186 GS-527 CG-175 SHO-28 IP-3824.0 H-3567 ER-1657 HR-389 BB-1390 K-2478 ERA-3.90 *lgERA4.08 *ERA+-105 WHIP-1.296

Mike Mussina
18 Yr WL% .638 W270 L-153 GS-536 CG-57 SHO-23 IP-3562.7 H-3460 ER-1458 HR-376 BB-785 K-2813 ERA-3.68 *lgERA4.51 *ERA+-122 WHIP-1.192

Initial comparison gives Morris the edge in innings pitched and complete games, both clearly effected by the era in which the two players performed. Morris played during an era where starters generally pitched more innings and had more complete games, while Mussina pitched the bulk of his career during the era of specialty relievers and shortened innings by starters.

Mussina gets the edge in Wins, winning pct., K’s, ERA, and WHIP. Additionally, his edge in ERA is even larger when one looks at the league adjusted ERA columns. Ultimately, the numbers tell us that Morris was more of a workhorse than Moose, but Moose was the better overall performer.

Postseason
Of course, Jack Morris is most famous for his performances in the post season, as they have rightly achieved legendary status. This begs the age-old question as to how much weight do we put into post season numbers when discussing a players career worth? Morris pitched a total of 92 1/3 innings in the post, compared to 3824 IP in the regular season. Mussina has pitched 139 and 2/3 innings in the post. The difference in innings again falls back to the era in which both played, as Moose has played during the expanded playoff era, while Morris did not. Before deciding how much weight to put into the playoff performances of these two ace pitchers, we should study their playoff performances.

Morris’ first postseason came in 1984, his 8th season, and he didn’t disappoint, posting a 3-0 record with a 1.80 ERA, including two complete games in the World Series. Truly dominant and noteworthy. If not for Alan Trammel’s awesome performance, Morris would have surely won the WS MVP. His next post appearance came in 1987, and he started and lost his only game of the ALCS, getting knocked around to the tune of 6 ER’s in an 8 inning game. He had to wait until 1991 to make up for that poor performance, which he did with a vengeance. Morris won the World Series MVP that year as he made 3 WS starts, going 2-0, with a miniscule 1.17 ERA. His game 7 performance, in which he out-dueled John Smoltz, by pitching 10 shutout innings, will live forever as one of the great achievements in modern World Series play. His ALCS included winning both of his starts, though more due to his team’s offense than anything he did on the mound as he gave up 17 hits in 13 innings, while allowing 6 earned runs, for a 4.05 ERA.

Morris’ final postseason appearance came in the following season. His team won yet another title, but Morris could hardly claim much credit for the achievement, as he lost both of his World Series starts, posting an horrific 8.44 ERA in the process. His ALCS was almost as bad, as he posted a 6.57 ERA and lost his only start in that series.

Overall Post season statistics:
4 Lg Champ Series G-6 ERA-4.87 W-3 L-2 CG-2 IP-40.2 H-39 ER-22 BB-14 K-24
3 World Series G-7 ERA-2.96 W-4 L-2 CG-3 IP-51.2 H-44 ER-17 BB-18 K-40
7 Postseason Ser G-13 ERA-3.80 W-7 L-4 CG-5 IP-92.1 H-83 ER-39 BB-32 K-64

3 World Series Rings and one World Series MVP award

Mussina’s first postseason appearance came in 1996, his 6th season, and was a disappointing performance in two starts, one each in the division and championship series. Combined, he was 0-1, with a 5.27 ERA. He didn’t have to wait long for a chance to make up for that sub par performance, as his team made the post again the following year. Moose’s dominance in the 1997 postseason cannot be overstated. Moose began the 1997 postseason with two ALDS starts against the M’s, going 7 innings in each start, while allowing a total of 3 runs and posting 16 k’s. He was 2-0. In the ALCS, he stepped into unhittable territory. In his two starts, he went 15 innings, allowing only 4 hits, 1 earned run, while punching out 25 of the very dangerous Cleveland lineup. His teammates failed to score a single run for him in either game, eventually losing both in extra innings. His next foray into the post season came with the Yanks in 2001. His first start in the post as a Yankee came in game three of the ALDS, with the Yanks already in an 0-2 hole and facing elimination. Moose rescued his new team by throwing 7 shutout innings and winning a 1-0 nail biter. Moose had a disappointing game 1 start in the ALCS, lasting only 5 2/3 innings, while giving up 4 ER in the loss. He pitched much better in his next start, going 6 2/3 IP, with 10 K’s, but allowed 3 ER’s and was once again out-dueled by Tim Wakefield, who was making his own case for an ALCS MVP award. Moose had a final chance to contribute in the ’01 ALCS, and he didn’t disappoint. The now famous game 7 match-up between Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez quickly fell apart for the yanks, as the Sox knocked Clemens around for 4 runs before placing runners on 1st and 3rd with nobody out in the top of the 4th inning. With the Yanks already down by 4 runs, and facing a red hot Pedro Martinez, Moose had to stem the bleeding. He made quick work of Jason Varitek, via strike out, then followed it up by getting Johnny Damon to ground into an inning ending double play. It is safe to say that Moose’s performance once again saved the entire Yankee season. The late inning heroics may never have been enough had he not stopped the Sox from tacking on what appeared to be an easy run in that situation. Moose’s clutch performance helped his team advance to the World Series, where he dominated in his only start, out-dueling fireballer Josh Becket, in route to a 6 to 1 yankee win. Moose went 7 innings, allowed a single run, while striking out 9. His teammates failed to carry their weight and he never got another start in the series. In the 2004 ALDS, Moose battled with Johann Santana, who shut the yanks out, which wasted a very good start by Mussina, who went 7 innings, while allowing 2 ER with 7 K’s. He went on to start game 1 of the rematch in the ALCS with Boston, facing off against Curt Schilling. Moose’s final numbers for that game don’t tell the story at all. Moose dominated. He pitched 7 perfect innings to start the game, staking his team to an 8-0 lead, before tiring (or having a let-down, following the yanks offensive explosion in the bottom of the 7th) with 2 outs and one on in the 8th. He gave up 3 runs before leaving the game in the hands of Tanyon Sturtze, who promptly gave up a HR, giving Moose 4 ER on the game, which was hardly indicative of his overall dominance. His next start was game 5 against Pedro Martinez and he out-dueled the greatest pitcher of his generation through 6 innings, allowing 2 runs with 7 k’s. He would have won the series clinching game if not for the Red Sox 9th inning comeback. His postseason performances in the subsequent years were consistently mediocre. From 2005 through 2007, he made 4 appearances, pitching a total of 20 innings, allowing 23 hits with a 1-2 record and a 4.95 ERA.

Overall Postseason statistics:
9 Lg Div Series GS-10 ERA-3.60 W-4 L-4 0 IP-65 H-61 ER-26 BB-15 K-56
5 Lg Champ Series GS-8 ERA-3.34 W-2 L-3 0 IP-56.2 H-42 ER-21 BB-13 K-66
2 World Series GS-3 ERA-3.00 W-1 L-1 0 IP-18 H-18 ER-6 BB-5 K-23
16 Postseason Ser GS-21 ERA-3.42 W-7 L-8 0 IP-139.2 H-121 ER-53 BB-33 K-145

So, while Mussina doesn’t have the hardware that Morris has in the post, his overall performance has been more dominant, if not quite as legendary as Morris, in particular during the 1991 World Series. Does the 1991 World Series performance outweigh Mussina’s overall edge with the numbers? Depends on who you ask, but one thing is clear, one cannot make any claim that Mussina has not performed well in the post. His overall numbers are fantastic and suffer only from the lack of run support throughout his postseason career. Mussina’s teammates scored one run or less in 10 of his 21 postseason starts, which means he would have to throw a shutout in nearly half his games, in order for a chance to win or tie. In any case, one could make a case that but for the performance of his teammates, Mussina could also be carrying a bit of hardware himself. However, a strong case can be made in favor of Morris’s ability to control his own destiny much longer into the night, therefore taking the bullpen out of the equation. Both players have much to be proud of.

Awards and Leader board Comparisons
Gold Gloves – Mussina 7, Morris 0 big edge = Mussina
Top 10 MVP - Mussina 0, Morris 0 draw
Top 10 Cy Young – Mussina 8, Morris 7 small edge = Mussina
Top 10 ERA - Mussina 11, Morris 5 big edge = Mussina
Top 10 Adj. ERA – Mussina 11, Morris 4 big edge = Mussina
Top 10 Wins – Mussina 9, Morris 12 moderate edge = Morris
Top 10 WHIP – Mussina 12, Morris 5 big edge = Mussina
Top 10 Hits/IP – Mussina 9, Morris 6 moderate edge = Mussina
Top 10 K’s/IP – Mussina 10, Morris 5 big edge = Mussina
Top 10 IP – Mussina 8, Morris 9 small edge = Morris
Top 10 CG – Mussina 7, Morris 10 big edge = Morris
Top 10 Shutouts – Mussina 11, Morris 8 moderate edge = Mussina
Top 10 K/BB Ratio – Mussina 15, Morris 3 big edge = Mussina

Most comparable player YTD career statistics:

Mike Mussina – Juan Marichal
Jack Morris – Dennis Martinez
Edge = Mussina

HOF Metrics
Jack Morris:
Black Ink: Pitching - 20 (89) (Average HOFer ≈ 40) 

Gray Ink: Pitching - 193 (47) (Average HOFer ≈ 185) 

HOF Standards: Pitching - 39.0 (73) (Average HOFer ≈ 50) 

HOF Monitor: Pitching - 122.5 (64) (Likely HOFer > 100)
Overall Rank in parentheses.
Morris is HOF worthy in 2 of the 4 metrics.

Mike Mussina:
Black Ink: Pitching - 15 (141) (Average HOFer ≈ 40) 

Gray Ink: Pitching - 244 (23) (Average HOFer ≈ 185) 

HOF Standards: Pitching - 54.0 (28) (Average HOFer ≈ 50) 

HOF Monitor: Pitching - 120.0 (70) (Likely HOFer > 100) 

Overall Rank in parentheses.
Mussina is HOF worthy in 3 of the 4 metrics.
Edge = Mussina

JAWS analysis by BP’s Jay Jaffe
Jack Morris:
“Jack Morris continues to poll better than Tommy John, but the merits of his candidacy just as surely eroded with the DH-era adjustments. Like fellow candidate Alan Trammell, Morris was part of the homegrown nucleus that anchored the Tigers' fine 1984 title team, and the gritty ace on World Champions for two other clubs. He racked up some high win totals over the course of his 18 seasons and put up some stellar performances in the postseason (7-4, 3.80 ERA), most notably an unforgettable 10-inning 1-0 shutout in Game Seven of the 1991 Series. Morris acquired a larger-than-life reputation based primarily on that performance, and for a while it seemed like it might carry him to the Hall of Fame. But his career ERA--which would be the highest of any enshrined pitcher--and subsequently his WARP-based totals are nothing to write home about. In fact, his PRAA total is actually in the red; aside from 1991 and 1992, he was at least 10 runs below average in each of his last seven seasons. To borrow one of Bill James' more dubiously applied phrases, if that's a Hall of Famer, I'm a lug nut.

Supporters have dismissed Morris' high ERAs with claims that he "pitched to the score." Research by Greg Spira and Joe Sheehan put the lie to this claim. Poring over Morris' career inning-by-inning via Retrosheet, Sheehan concluded: "I can find no pattern in when Jack Morris allowed runs. If he pitched to the score--and I don't doubt that he changed his approach--the practice didn't show up in his performance record." Morris' record is more a product of strong run support (107 SUP) than it is special strategy. For all of his extra wins and post-season success, his case rests on a distortion of the value of one shining moment rather than a well-rounded career.”

*Mike Mussina:
“At 39 and now reduced to employing a fastball that wouldn't get ticketed in a school zone, it's a safe bet that the Moose isn't going to become a member of the 300 win club. Which isn't to say that he doesn't have Hall-worthy numbers, at least from a JAWS standpoint. As with Smoltz but to a lesser extent on both scales, Mussina's ahead on career and short on peak numbers, with PRAR and PRAA numbers (284 and 1221, respectively) that also surpass the benchmarks. What Mussina doesn't have going for him, particularly relative to Smoltz, is the hardware which will augment his much more traditional case: no World Series ring, no Cy Young, no 20-win season (he's had 18 or 19 five times) and "only" five All-Star appearances. His post-season record is "just" 7-8, albeit with a 3.42 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 139 2/3 innings; the fact that his teams have scored just 3.2 runs per game for him is a big reason, and certainly hasn't helped his quest for a ring.

In Mussina's favor is a long stretch in which he could lay claim to being one of the league's best pitchers; he finished in the top five of the Cy voting six times from 1992 to 2001, with two sixth-place finishes as well, and has eight top five finishes in ERA, and eight top 10 finishes in strikeouts. While not the equal of Clemens, Johnson, or Martinez, he was one of the league's top-shelf hurlers for a good long time. He's probably facing a tooth-and-nail fight, but it ought to turn out in his favor.”
• latest Mussina analysis was made prior to his 20 win 2008 season.

Conclusion
Neither Mike Mussina nor Jack Morris can be considered all time great pitchers, but both have had excellent careers. One pitcher, however, has earned a place in the Hall of Fame, and that player is Mike Mussina. His career numbers clearly outshine Morris by most measures, and it’s not very close. Morris will forever be famous for his magical 1991 WS game 7, but that performance should remain in the Hall of Great Achievements, not the HOF. It’s safe to say that Morris will be forever remembered for that great performance, and that should be enough. Mussina had already earned a place in the hall prior to his 20-win 2008 campaign, which should hopefully seal the deal in the minds of most voters.

Dec 01, 2008 16:04 PM
rating: 0
 
tommybones

Seems my cut and paste had some problems... but you get the idea. I actually put that analysis together a couple of weeks before Sheehan, in a debate with a fantasy baseball friend.

Dec 01, 2008 16:07 PM
rating: 0
 
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