In 1997, Mussina struck out 15 Cleveland Indians (in only seven innings) to set an ALCS record. That total is also the most strikeouts by a starting pitcher in a postseason game that his team lost.

Mussina isn’t exactly remembered for his ability to strike out hitters. Instead, he’s often thought of as a cerebral pitcher who pitched with craftiness and guile. While some of this sentiment is true, it misses the fact that Mussina was actually a hell of a strikeout pitcher. One of the best of all-time actually. Let’s take a look at the facts.

There have been thousands of men who have pitched in MLB. Only 18 of them struck out more hitters than Mike Mussina. Mussina finished with 2,813 career Ks, more than HOF pitchers Tom Glavine (-206), Warren Spahn (-230), Bob Feller (-232), Don Drysdale (-327), and Juan Marichal (-510). Mussina’s total is considerably more than some of his contemporaries who the media considered “strikeout pitchers”: David Cone (-145), Javier Vazquez (-277), and A.J. Burnett (-300). It’s also higher than contemporaries who have been or will be considered for the HOF: Jack Morris (-335), Jim Kaat (-352), Andy Pettitte (-365), Jamie Moyer (-372), and Roy Halladay (-696)

All but three of the top twenty strikeout pitchers of all-time are not in the Hall of Fame: Mussina, Roger Clemens*, and Mickey Lolich.

Between 1995 and 2003, Mussina struck out more than 150 hitters each season. For his career, he had 12 seasons with 150 or more strikeouts.

Finally, let’s remember that Mussina balanced his strikeout prowess with exceptional command. Among retired starting pitchers who started their career after 1900, Mussina ranks 8th in strikeout to walk ratio (3.5834). Patrick would be unhappy if I did not mention that Dan Haren is 3rd on this list (4.0260).


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2 thoughts on “Mike Mussina: Strikeout Artist

  1. The Spahn statistic underscores the problem of looking at a career through the Sabremetrics filter. It nullifies the fact that Spahn won 100 more games than Moose and was the all-time winningest lefty. Strikeouts should not be the measure of a pitcher’s worthiness for the HOF. Won-loss is. Forget “the era in which they played” or rabbit balls or PED’s … did the pitcher win games, and certainly Moose won a lot more than guys in the hall. He has virtually the identical record to Jim Palmer — a first ballot inductee. Forget ERA or he didn’t win 20 until his last year. Mike Musica is a hall of fame pitcher. Period.

    1. David—

      It’s important to note several things:

      1. Strikeouts are not a sabremetric statistic. The strikeout has been an integral part of baseball (statistics and otherwise) long before we knew what WAR was.

      2. Ryan was simply putting Mussina’s strikeout numbers into context, not advocating for them to be used as the reason for his induction.

      3. Regarding the validity of W-L record as a measure of a pitcher’s worthiness, I’m curious as to your thoughts about the 1997 ALCS in which Mussina allowed one run over 15 innings and the Orioles failed to score a single run while he was the pitcher of record. How was he supposed to win Game 6, in which the Orioles failed to score a run for 11 innings?

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