Up until this point, The Official Mike Mussina Hall of Fame campaign page has focused on debunking myths surrounding supposed black marks on Mike Mussina’s career. But now, we get to the meat of the page: Why Mike Mussina should be in the Hall of Fame

1. He wins

Isn’t this the primary job of a starting pitcher? Winning a game? Well, Mike Mussina has done that quite often. Often enough to put him in the Hall of Fame. His current win total is 261, 39th on the all-time list. There are currently 34 players with that many wins who have been eligible for the Hall of Fame. Of those 34, 27 of them, or 79%, have been inducted. The seven who have not, with their respective win totals:

Bobby Matthews– 297

Tommy John– 288

Bert Blylevyn– 287

Jim Kaat– 285

Jim McCormick– 265

Gus Weyhing– 264

Mussina will, in all likelyhood, pass McCormick and Weyhing, only increasing the percentage in question.

2. He doesn’t lose

According to Tim McCarver, there has not been a single pitcher since 1900 to finish his career more than 100 games over .500 and not make the Hall of Fame. Mike Mussina is currently at 111 games over .500. While it’s not a lock he can keep himself above this mark, his history–just one losing season–indicates that he may very well be able to. His won-loss percentage is currently .635, good for 41st on the all-time list. It’s difficult to predict what the % itself means for the Hall of Fame, since it’s better than pitchers like Greg Maddux and CY Young, but essentialy the same as Doc Gooden’s, but McCarver’s statistic is enough to give you something to chew on.

3. Fans, fans, everywhere

Strikeouts are a “modern” statistic–Cy Young once threw 453 innings in a season and struck out a mere 168 hitters–and thus, also difficult to gauge in terms of importance for Hall of Fame induction. However, Mike Mussina’s total of 2731 ranks him 21st all-time, right behind the immortal Frank Tanana. Of the 14 players ahead of Mussina who have been up for induction, 11 of those are in the Hall of Fame. The six pitchers ahead of him who are not yet eligible are: Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. Of those six, four of them are first ballot HOF’s–excusing for the moment, Clemens’ off the field issues. Smoltz and Schilling are tougher calls, but adding the other four to the Hall list means that at least 15 of the 20 players with more strikeouts than Mussina are in the Hall of Fame. That’s another good percentage.

Remember, with these three statistics, it’s worth noting that even though there are some non-Hall worthy players ahead of Mussina in certain categories, not many of those players can claim to be high up in all three. For example, Tanana, Kaat and Tommy John all had mediocre winning percentages–mostly due to the fact that they weren’t as good as people remember. John’s ERA was only 10% better than league average, Kaat’s 7% and Tanana’s 6%.

The beauty of Mike Mussina isn’t that he wins a lot, or rarely loses, or that he strikes out a lot of players. It’s that he does all of these things. Few players can claim to be as adept as Mussina for such a long period of time.

4. Grey is my favorite color

Mike Mussina’s career may not have those peaks of dominance that some voters look for in a candidate. But, we here at The Official Mike Mussina Hall of Fame campaign page want to remind people that it’s not simply about looking at the best 5-6 years of a player’s career. (If it were, Don Mattingly would be in–but that’s another webpage) It’s about a player’s entire career good and bad, and because it is, things like consistency over a long period of time matter.

For example, say you have two pitchers

Pitcher A goes 24-8 in one season and 12-10 in the other

Pitcher B goes 18-9 in one and 18-9 in the other.

Pitcher A may have the gaudy 20 win season, (and probably a Cy Young award, knowing the voters), but that second year counts too! And over both of those seasons, pitcher B, while maybe not as flashy, still puts up the consistent numbers his partner lacks. While Mike Mussina may not have been a league leader in a lot of categories, he was always lurking. And, the Hall of Fame does not require you to be the best pitcher of your time frame, just one of the best

It is with this in mind The Official Mike Mussina Hall of Fame campaign page presents to you: The Bill James grey ink test.

Taken from Baseball-Reference.com: “[The Grey ink test] counts appearances in the top ten of the league. This method penalizes more recent players as they have 14-16 teams per league, while the older players had just 8. To get a point you must be in the top 10 in the league in that category.”

While this statistic does not measure leading the league in a category, it is a good way to see if a pitcher was cosistently among the top pitchers in the league. And again remember, this statistic is biased against a modern pitcher like Mussina due to league size. As of this writing, Mike Mussina scores 236 points on the grey ink test. James has an “Average” Hall of Famer at 185, a mark Mussina easily eclipses. While it’s difficult to know what an “Average” Hall of Famer is, we can use a method of prediction similar to the one we used when discussing wins and strikeouts to illustrate Mussina’s career.

Mussina ranks tied for 26th all-time on the grey ink test. Of the 23 pitchers eligible for the Hall of Fame ahead of, or even with Mussina on that list, 21 of them, or 91% are in the Hall of Fame! And the three pitchers who are not eligible yet who are ahead of him are Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens who are all worthy of the Hall based on their numbers.

The two who aren’t in the Hall but are/were eligible;

Bert Blylevyn, (who, if recent voting trends are any indication, will be soon, and should be anyway)

Bobby Matthews (Who pitched in the 1800’s and was simply not that good–an ERA 7% below league average???)

And, since Blylevyn is a mere 1 point ahead of Mussina on the list, and Mussina’s score can only go up, it’s possible that by the time he retires, the ONLY player ahead of Mussina in the grey ink test who is not in the Hall of Fame is a mediocre pitcher from the 1800’s, who, by the very nature of the test, had an easier time scoring higher.

And, for those of you content to point out that finishing in the top 10 in a category is easier than leading a category and thus scoring high on the grey ink test is easier and not as relevant, we at the The Official Mike Mussina Hall of Fame campaign page would like to list four of the players who have equal or lower grey ink scores than Mike Mussina:

Whitey Ford

Jim Palmer

Bob Gibson

Fergie Jenkins

Those are five legendary pitchers, all of whom were, at their best, better than Mike Mussina. But, they were unable to match Mussina’s consistency over the entire lengths of their careers.

Mike Mussina’s career cannot be summed up by one statistic. Or one season. Or even his best 4-5 seasons. To truly appreciate how good of a pitcher he is/was, it is necessary to look at his entire body of work, over his entire career.

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9 thoughts on “Just the facts

  1. I was just wondering if you’ve done any research or have seen any statistics that might project what Mussina’s career stats could be if he had played in the national league. I’ve always felt that Mike’s career stats compare closely to Tom Glavine’s, with the exception Glavine’s multiple 20 win seasons (which I think is overrated a bit). To me, it would not be inconceivable to think Mussina could have 400 more K’s, 25 more wins and half-run lower ERA over his career if he had pitched in the NL. With theoretical stats like that, I think it would make Mike a more qualified candidate than Glavine, who most consider a shoe-in.

  2. JMan,

    You might want to check out the recent book “Living on the Black” (or something like that) it’s a side by side comparison of finesse artists Mussina and Glavine with a special highlight on the ’07 season. Great read!

  3. MussinaHOF,

    These are some good predictors that show Mussina has a good chance of making the HOF. However, I’m less interested in seeing that he conpares to those who are already in. It is a different matter entirely to argue who *should* be in! Mussina should be in because he has been consistently excellent throughout the steroid era. He has pitched in the more difficult league and constantly made adjustments to have 17 of the most successful consecutive seasons on record. Analyze that! đŸ™‚

  4. For what it’s worth, the argument for the black ink, 24-8 season with the mediocre followup is that you are more likely to ride that pitcher to a World Series Championship in the first year. See, e.g., Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson in 2001.

    Not that it matters; Moose deserves to be in the HOF when eligible. His lack of black ink has more to do with pitching in the same league as 3 guys who you could argue are in the top-10 of all time (Pedro, Clemens, Johnson; yes Johnson’s argument is weaker but you could make the argument).

  5. JMAN, it boggles the mind that more people don’t point out what you did, the difference in pitching in the two leagues. And it isn’t that difficult to project, Randy Johnson’s AL only era is 3.60, his NL 2.90, Kevin Brown’s AL 3.93, NL 2.60 as just an eye opener. ANd Randy Johnson’s 140 or so starts agaisnt AL East opponents is over 4.23. Mussina pitched his entire career in far and away the best division in baseball, during the setroid era, and in two of the most hitter frendly parks in baseball. The real NL comparison to Mussina is Maddox, not Glavine. Put Glavine in the AL and he is Pettitte, not Mussina. Mussina is the most underrated player of this era, Mike Mussina’s numbers are essentially equal, actually a bit better as Mussina was far more of a strikeout pitcher, than Jim Palmer, and Palmer was elected with 92% of the vote first ballot, Mussina deserves same.

  6. Guy-

    I think you’re overstating the league effect a little bit if you’re comparing Maddux to Mussina

    Looking at Maddux’s peak years, there’s just no comparison.

    1) During a seven-year stretch from 1992-1998, Maddux had an ERA+ of 191. That’s 28 points better than Mussina’s BEST individual season. Likewise, his WHIP in that stretch, 0.97, is significantly better than Mussina’s career best, 1.06. Hits per inning? Maddux’s average was 7.3 in that span. Mussina’s best was 7.6. You could pick and choose Mussina’s best in essentially any rate statistic and it wouldn’t compare to Maddux’s seven-year stretch.

    2) In 1994, Maddux’s ERA was 1.18 better than the league runner up. The next season, it was 0.91 runs better. He won the ERA title four times.

    3) Look at the Black Ink scores: Mussina– 15, Maddux– 87. Grey Ink– Mussina– 244, Maddux– 333. Not even close. There’s simply no comparison. Maddux is arguably, the greatest right-hander of this generation. There’s simply no comparison

  7. Maddux is the greatest right hander of this generation? Roger Clemens, at the age of 42, moved to the National League and posted a 2.40 era in 3 years. The 5 years before he had a 3.99 era with the Yankees and the year he returned his era ballooned well above 4. If anything I underestimate the difference in the two leagues not overestimate. I like Maddux, can’t stand Clemens, but to say Maddux is better than Clemens is absurd.

  8. Guy,

    I’m fully aware of the differences between the leagues. Hence why I used the word “arguably”. My statement of “There’s simply no comparison” was talking about comparing Maddux to Mussina

  9. I would like to commend the netleetwsr for a wonderful job. i go with Fischer. Perhaps he was Dwight Gooden amazing stuff and almost unbeatable. Both you could call prodigies Gooden 24-4 at age 20 and Fischer US champ at 15 in a pre-computer age. I remember the absolute disbelief when Bobby skunked Larsson and I was at his first US championship and that feeling. They both had fatal flaws, the doc had his addictions and Bobby’s craziness. But for a short blazing time Bobby was the best. The distance between he and his contemporaries was extraordinary. Mitchell

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