We’re back—for hopefully the final time—with another round of player comparisons. Our goal is to assess how Mike Mussina lines up with other players on the Hall of Fame ballot. We’re going to break it down three ways: Using traditional stats, examining sabermetric stats, and looking at “extra stuff.” There are different types of voters, and broadly speaking, these categories will cover all types.
Today’s guest: One-time Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte.
Mussina: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 536 GS, 3,562.2 IP, 57 CG, 23 SHO, 2,813 K, 3.58 K/BB
Pettitte: 256-153, 3.85 ERA, 521 GS, 3,316 IP, 26 CG, 4 SHO, 2,448 K, 2.37 K/BB
You can see here that Mussina holds, at worst, slight edges in every category, with significant edges in K/BB rate, and complete games and shutouts. We can break these down further by looking at the number of times each pitcher led and finished in the Top 5 and 10 in the league in some of these stats. We’ll do so by listing the numbers, so 1/3/5 means they led the league in a category once, finished in the top 5 three times, and finished in the top 10 five times.
You can see Mussina pulling away here, especially in the ERA and K categories.
Mussina: 123 ERA+, 82.9 bWAR, 44.5 WAR7
Pettitte: 117 ERA+, 60.7 bWAR, 34.1 WAR7
This is where Mussina really makes his mark. The ERA+ marks are about what we’d expect, given the raw ERAs. But Mussina has a significant edge in WAR. Some of that is in due to the extra 200+ innings he threw, but most of it is just because Mussina was a better pitcher year to year
>4 WAR seasons
4 WAR seasons
5 WAR seasons
6 WAR seasons
7 WAR seasons
8 WAR seasons
Andy Pettitte was a very good pitcher. But Mussina was better. In fact, Mussina had more 5-WAR seasons than Pettitte had 3-WAR seasons.
So if Mike Mussina is clearly the superior pitcher, why are we even bothering with this comparison? Heck, Mussina even finished better in Cy Young voting (6 top five finishes to 4 for Pettitte). What else is there? Well, there is this:
Pettitte: 19-11, 5 WS rings
Mussina: 7-8, 0 WS rings
Here we go again. The old, “He wasn’t a ‘winner’/’big game pitcher'” arguments are going to get trotted out, just like they did for Jack Morris.
But as we’ve pointed out, that argument is flawed in many ways. Mussina’s postseason resume had a lot of big-game moments. It’s not his fault the Orioles didn’t score for him in the 1997 ALCS when he was the best player on the field, that Mariano Rivera blew a save in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, that the rest of the team couldn’t deliver after he won Game 3 of the 2003 World Series, and that everyone remembers Aaron Boone and the Jeter Flip more than what Mussina did to make those possible.
Mussina had a much better postseason ERA than Pettitte (3.42 to 3.81), a much better K/BB rate (2.41 to 4.39), and allowed significantly fewer hits per 9 innings (7.8 to 9.3). It’s basically an extension of the regular season numbers. Mussina was better.
Best-of-5/7 series are subject to all sorts of randomness that make for strange outcomes. There’s no real reason why Mike Mussina wasn’t a part of a World Series winning team, while Hideki Irabu, who was shelled in the only postseason appearance he ever made, was on two.
At the end of the day, though, this stuff matters to voters. After all, Jack Morris got into the Hall of Fame, despite our objections. So expect a chorus of people telling you Pettitte was better, citing the rings.