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Mike Mussina vs. Current Hall of Fame pitchers: A comparison

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Although the main argument against Mussina is that he never "looked like" a Hall of Famer, his results absolutely stack up to a ton of Hall of Fame pitchers.

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Few players were as integral to the success of the Yankees in the 2000s as Mike Mussina. Due to their high payrolls, it was just expected that they would win the AL East division title every year. Mussina was a free agent import himself, having been signed away from the Baltimore Orioles when owner Peter Angelos did not aggressively pursue him once he hit the open market. However, his six-year $88.5 million contract turned out to be one of the rare free agent deals that worked out beautifully for both sides, as Mussina's consistency in the starting rotation made him a fan favorite. Other starters like Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, and Carl Pavano all faltered, but Mussina was a constant winning presence.

Mussina posted terrific numbers over the course of his 18-year career, but he flew under the radar in comparison to all-time greats like Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez. That should not detract from his Hall of Fame case though. That trio featured perhaps the three greatest pitchers in the history of baseball, not just Mussina's era. Even if one wants to throw a Walter Johnson or a Tom Seaver into that mix, a list of the top 10 starting pitchers to ever play the game would be incomplete without including all three of them. However, one does not need to be among baseball's Mount Rushmore of pitching to make the Hall of Fame.

BBWAA voters have acknowledged this as fact in the past--that's why they have inducted slightly lesser pitchers than the top 10, like Tom Glavine, Jim Palmer, and Don Drysdale. They are certainly worthy Hall of Famers who are not quite in the Pedro league, like Mussina. Some people consider the Hall of Fame to be an honor for only the best of the best, but the vast majority of its members simply don't make that cut. That's just a fact. It's far too late to act like baseball should only allow the Madduxes of the world into Cooperstown.

Hall of Fame expert Jay Jaffe has already done a phenomenal job laying out Mussina's case and explaining why he should make the cut. His article is a must-read. I felt that another good exercise to add to the cause would be to compare Mussina to every starting pitcher in the Hall of Fame.


Photo credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Methodology

The Hall of Fame's official website notes that there are 77 pitchers enshrined in Cooperstown. Dennis Eckersley, Hoyt Wilhelm, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers all made it by virtue of their work in relief, so they will not be included. Ten more pitchers (Satchel Paige, Martin Dihigo, Leon Day, Bullet Rogan, Bill Foster, Hilton Smith, Joe Williams, Ray Brown, Andy Cooper, and Jose Mendez) made their case in the Negro leagues at a time when baseball was disgracefully segregated and the numbers were imprecise, so it would be folly to include them in this comparison.

Then, there is the matter of baseball's most obvious all-time great Hall of Fame pitchers. Here they are, in no particular order:

Greg Maddux

Cy Young

Randy Johnson

Pedro Martinez

Grover Cleveland Alexander

Tom Seaver

Walter Johnson

Lefty Grove

These pitchers plus Satchel Paige and the excommunicated Roger Clemens make up the ten best starting pitchers of all-time. Other people's top ten lists might differ somewhat, but I think it would be pretty hard to dispute these ten starters. As awesome as he was, Mussina was not among the ten best pitchers in baseball history, so there is no point comparing them.

Taking those eight pitchers out of the equation leaves 54 starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame. The exercise is simple enough: Mike Mussina will be compared to each of these 54 pitchers to decide who is superior. Career statistics, peak value, and each player's personal histories will all be considered to judge the comparison. Since there are 54 names to go through and I don't want this article to quite be Bleak House, I will be brief in my verdict comments.

Addie Joss vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (1)

Joss's career was tragically cut short at age 31 after just nine seasons by tuberculosis, but while he was excellent, it's too much to assume that he could have kept up the pace in his 30s like Mussina did. Like many Hall of Fame pitchers, Joss plied his trade in the Deadball Era, a much more favorable time for pitchers than Mussina faced from 1992-2008.

Amos Rusie vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (2)

Rusie only pitched nine full seasons, all in the 19th century, before flaming out. His Hall of Fame case is tenuous anyway, so Mussina gets the nod.

Bert Blyleven vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Blyleven.

Mussina is probably the stat community's top project on the Hall of Fame ballot these days, but just a few years ago it was Blyleven, who was oddly forced to wait 14 years before the BBWAA voted him in. He pitched an amazing 22 years in the majors from 1970-92 while remaining quite good as late as 1989, and he's still fifth all-time in strikeouts. That's too much; give me Bert.

Bob Feller vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Feller.

Feller is a tricky case because he made only nine starts between 1942-45, as he served his country during World War II, and he was considered probably the best pitcher in baseball at the time. It's dangerous to assume that his career number might have been substantially higher though because his arm began to break down at age 33 anyway, so it's possible that with those four full seasons in the 1940s added to his record, his decline could have begun even earlier. Nonetheless, there's plenty to be said in a Hall of Fame case for peak value, and Feller was simply unhittable at his best.

Bob Gibson vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Gibson.

Gibson's just on the outside looking in of baseball's best pitchers, and he ended his 17-year career with over 3,000 strikeouts and a peak matched by only a handful of players. Although the purely statistical comparison by some measures is probably closer than one would think, the edge has to go to Gibson.

Bob Lemon vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (3)

Like his teammate Feller, Lemon's career was interrupted by the war, but he had not debuted yet. When he did, he was a rotation staple for a decade, but his career wasn't nearly long enough to match Mussina.

Burleigh Grimes vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (4)

While Grimes ate a ton of innings and pitched effectively during a high-offense era in the '20s, his career ERA- and FIP- of 94 and 96 each don't even come close to Mussina's 82 and 79. Add in the fact that Grimes had several mediocre seasons mixed in and ended up with only about 50 WAR, and this isn't close (still a better fate than Frank Grimes though).

Carl Hubbell vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (5)

This might be controversial since Hubbell is considered the master of the screwball and was one of baseball's best pitchers in the high-powered '30s. He had a terrific peak too, famously striking out Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin in order during the 1934 All-Star Game. By Jaffe's JAWS measure to compare peaks though, Mussina's was actually a little better. Their career numbers are pretty close, so Mussina gets the nod since Hubbell never had to deal with integrated baseball, nearly as rigorous travel, or any other challenges of the modern game.

Catfish Hunter vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (6)

Despite Hunter's reputation, it might surprise people to learn that his career ERA of 3.26 was only slightly better than league average at the time. After an awesome nine-year run from 1967-75, Hunter's game diminished quickly and he was done with baseball before his 34th birthday. Meanwhile, Mussina thrived through age 39 and posted enough superior career numbers to overcome Hunter.

Chief Bender vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (7)

Bender was a fine, reliable starter for some of Connie Mack's best Philadelphia Athletics teams, but once again, this is a problem with a Hall of Fame pitcher only actually being good for about a decade compared to Mussina's 18 years. In Bender's case, it's 1906-14, during which time he had a 76 ERA-. Mussina's entire career was an 82 ERA-, so basically even at Bender's best, he was barely better than overall Mussina (Bender's was 88 for his career, and he was toast at age 31). This isn't close.

Christy Mathewson vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mathewson.

Mathewson very nearly made that "top 10 pitchers" cut, and for good reason. While the hero of Bucknell (my grandma's alma mater) had the benefits of the Deadball Era behind him, his thorough dominance of the competition was remarkable. For 13 years, his ERA was roughly 32% better than the league average, and his "fadeaway pitch" kept his WHIP just around 1.0 for his entire career.

Dazzy Vance vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (8)

Vance had one of baseball's most bizarre careers, making just eight major league starts before the age of 31 and becoming a legitimate Hall of Famer anyway. He was probably the NL's best pitcher in the '20s, but his case to be better than Mussina is really only led by three fantastic years, none of them consecutive. Almost all of his other seasons were either just solid or mediocre. Add in the lack of integrated competition and the decision goes to Moose.

Dizzy Dean vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (9)

A bit of a crazy fact: Dean only appeared in one game in three separate seasons. Had those one-game seasons never happened, he would have had a mere nine-year career and thus would have been ineligible for the Hall of Fame. One of the 1930s' most iconic players, the Diz only had a six-year peak before his career fell apart in a hurry, and he made just 12 starts after turning 30. It's Mussina.

Don Drysdale vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (10)

Here's the funny thing about Drysdale: Like Bob Gibson, he had a reputation of knocking hitters down to make them uncomfortable and dominating at-bats from that point forward. However, even with his prime in the '60s, a favorable era for pitchers, he ended his 14-year career with just a 6.5 K/9 compared to Mussina's 7.1. Batters did strike out more often in Mussina's time than Drysdale's, but given the lore, it should not be so close. Factoring in a shoulder injury that ended Drysdale's career four seasons short with just comparable numbers to Mussina, and the edge goes to Moose.

Don Sutton vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (11)

Sutton and Mussina have similar cases in that they were both very good and healthy for a long time. Sutton however pitched five years more than the Moose, three of which were solid, allowing him to cross the 300-win threshold to make it easier for old school voters to induct him to the Hall of Fame. Since I value consistency, this was a tight matchup, but Mussina has him beat in too many categories (ERA-, FIP-, K/9, and BB/9, to name a few) for me to go against him. (Sutton was also accused of scuffing the ball on numerous occasions.)

Early Wynn vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (12)

Wynn was another pitcher noted for intimidating batters by knocking them down. Like Drysdale, the strikeout numbers don't match the reputation, and overall, his numbers were just a hair better than league average. If not for stretching to reach exactly 300 wins, it's unclear if Wynn would even be a Hall of Famer.

Ed Walsh vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (13)

All but 20 of Big Ed's 315 career starts came in a mere nine seasons. Granted they were nine standout seasons (well, more like seven), but that's not enough for a Deadball Era pitcher to beat Moose.

Eddie Plank vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (14)

The Gettysburg College graduate in me loves everything about Eddie Plank, who has a building named after him there for his exploits on the baseball team (amusingly not as a student). Actually, Plank was basically a Deadball Era Mussina, taking the ball almost every turn for 17 years in a row, never falling short of 20 starts or 180 innings until his final season at age 41. Mussina's ERA- was 82 and Plank's was 81; that's just the beginning. Tie goes to the modern pitcher.

Eppa Rixey vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (15)

The former Reds and Phillies ace deserves credit for surviving past the Deadball Era and establishing a Hall of Fame career even as offense grew. He wasn't quite at Mussina's level of consistent play.

Fergie Jenkins

Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Fergie Jenkins vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Jenkins.

This is a narrow margin. The Cubs legend finished with an ERA- and FIP- somewhat worse than Mussina (87 to 82 and 88 to 79, respecitvely), but he also pitched almost 1,000 more innings and never faltered too much from his standard. His peak JAWS is even higher than Mussina's, 68.3 to 63.8, and it's not like he was playing in pitcher's parks either (Wrigley, Fenway, Arlington Stadium).

Gaylord Perry vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (16)

Perry ended his 22-year career with a longer tenure and better numbers than Mussina, but the Moose had superior rate statistics. More importantly, Mussina didn't make his living with a pitch that was illegal and yet casually ignored by umpires for decades, even after he admitted using it in an autobigraphy in the middle of his career(!). Cute.* Most pitchers doctor the baseball in some way, but Perry took it to the next level.

*The baseball community's tacit approval of Perry openly cheating is why my eyes roll out of the back of my head whenever writers prattle on about the "sanctity of the game." Care about the sanctity of the game? Then don't vote a blatant spitballer into the Hall of Fame while giving legends like Clemens and Barry Bonds the shaft. That's a load of crap, and you know it. /rant

Hal Newhouser vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (17)

Newhouser was an excellent pitcher, but his peak occurred while most of baseball's stars were either serving in World War II or shaking off the rust (1944-46). He also didn't pitch nearly as long as Mussina.

Herb Pennock vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (18)

Joe Posnanski once wrote that Pennock was "the Jack Morris of his time... admired for his baseball intelligence, general gutsiness, and for winning a lot of games for very good teams." Even at his peak, his ERA was only 13% better than league average, but since those Yankee teams of the '20s were so strong, he won 155 games in 10 years. While Pennock deserves some credit for getting the job done, if he happened to pitch for the St. Louis Browns, he would not be in the Hall of Fame.

Jack Chesbro vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (19)

Barely an 11-year career, a Deadball Era pitcher, and a short peak. Next.

Jesse Haines vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (20)

Ryan Fagan of The Sporting News named Haines the worst Hall of Fame pitcher in history, and there is a legitimate case. Haines was absolutely a pick made possible by Veterans Committee cronyism from teammate Frankie Frisch. Unless one considers the likes of Jake Peavy a Hall of Famer, Haines belongs nowhere near Cooperstown.

Jim Bunning vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (21)

Bunning was steady for a nice 11-year stretch, pitching a no-hitter and a perfect game while leading the league in strikeouts a few times. Outside that period though, he was forgettable, and even during it, Mussina had better peak performance.

Also, obligatory:

Jim Palmer vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Palmer.

The two greatest Orioles pitchers of all-time square off. I'm pushing back on the stats a little on this, because Mussina easily has him beat in FIP-, most WAR measures, and strikeouts. Palmer is on top in other categories, and his 11-year peak from 1969-79 (72 ERA-), appears to be better than Mussina's top measures, even if JAWS says otherwise. Palmer also had an underrated ability to keep the ball in the park (0.69 to Mussina's 0.95), including never surrendering a grand slam.

Joe McGinnity vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (22)

Like Chesbro: Only effective for eight years, done after 10, Deadball Era pitcher. Next.

John Clarkson vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (23)

The closest comp to Clarkson would be a longer-lasting Old Hoss Radbourn, but only by a few more years. Although he had an impressive run from 1885-91, he didn't last past 33 and didn't encounter Mussina's quality of competition.


Photo credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

John Smoltz vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (24)

Smoltz and Mussina have extremely similar career numbers, but Smoltz only needed one year on the Hall of Fame ballot to make it in due to random extra credit earned by relieving for a few years. Let Ben Lindbergh explain this oddity:

The portrayal of Smoltz as a Swiss Army ace relies on shaky logic: Every elite starter has the ability to be a dominant closer, and Smoltz shouldn’t get extra credit for the fragility that temporarily forced his team to use him in a less valuable role. After all, Mussina wouldn’t be a better candidate if he’d taken a sabbatical from starting to pitch out of the bullpen for Baltimore.

Bingo. Mussina didn't need to take a hiatus from starting, so why should he be punished?

Juan Marichal vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (25)

Marichal was wonderful for the Giants from 1962-69, making the All-Star team every single season with a 72 ERA- and an 84 FIP-. It was an excellent peak but very taxing on his arm, and after one more good year in 1971, he was never the same from age 34 onward. It certainly didn't hurt pitching in Candlestick Park, which knocked down countless potential Willie Mays homers, but also pushed potential homers off Marichal from over the fence into Willie's glove.

Kid Nichols vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Nichols.

I've generally been reluctant to place Deadball Era pitchers ahead of Mussina, but Nichols's case is so quietly overwhelming that he passes the bar. For 11 years, his ERA was 30% better than league average, he typically pitched at least 360 innings per season, and he passed 100 WAR in that stretch alone. Ty Cobb called him one of the toughest pitchers he ever faced and fought vigorously for Nichols's Hall of Fame case, even carrying around the man's statistics in his wallet. Cobb was a terrible person, but earning his devoted endorsement was no easy feat.

Lefty Gomez vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (26)

Read about Lefty Gomez if ever given the opportunity--he was one of the smartest and funniest players to ever appear on a major league field. Despite his sterling numbers in the '30s, he received plenty of help from potent offenses powered by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and more, then made just 42 starts after turning 30.

Mickey Welch vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (27)

Welch's pinnacle was 1883-90, when his ERA was 20% better than league average... and his FIP was 5% worse. He made just 16 more starts afterward and his career was over at 32. Easily Mussina.

Mordecai Brown vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (28)

The legend of "Three Finger" Brown exceeds his results. He deserved recognition for overcoming the farming accident to have such a storied career, but this Deadball Era Hall of Fame story is repeated over and over. Brown had an elite peak, didn't last long enough, and was only a tad better than adequate the final few years of his career, which stooped short at 14 years.

Nolan Ryan vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Ryan.

Imagine, just for a second, how otherworldly Ryan could have been with Mussina's control--that would have cut his career BB/9 down from 4.7 to 2.0. Yikes. Maybe that wouldn't have made Ryan "Ryan" though. As it is, the ludicrous total of 5,714 strikeouts and 27 (!) mostly healthy seasons surpass Moose.

Old Hoss Radbourn vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (29)

I love so much about Old Hoss, from the 80 grade Twitter account to his absolutely absurd 1884 season, during which he made 73 starts, pitched 678 2/3 innings, won 59 games, and finished with a 1.38 ERA and 19.1 WAR. Lol. Just lol. (Read the book about that year, too. It's outstanding.) Unsurprisingly though, that year fried Radbourn's arm, and from 1885 until the end of his career a mere six years later, he was just okay with a league average ERA. An excellent five-season run does not make Old Hoss better than what Mussina consistently did for almost 20.

Phil Niekro vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Niekro.

One does not spin a 20+ year career with a knuckleball by accident. "Knucksie" was the unquestioned master of this bizarre pitch, and he rode it to 97.4 WAR and an 86 ERA- in almost 5,500 innings, a truly amazing total for a post-Deadball Era starter. The most ardent of Mussina supporters have to give this decision to Niekro.

Pud Galvin vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (30)

Galvin recorded 31.5 WAR combined between 1884 and 1885. That's not a typo--he had 20.5 in 1884 alone thanks to over 600 innings and 70 starts. Baseball was not really baseball then at all. Galvin was also baseball's first well-known juicer, once using an elixir "based around extracts from guinea-pig and dog testicles." Lovely! It certainly can't be ignored that he pitched over 6,000 innings, but outside of those couple years, his performance was not exactly groundbreaking. Galvin finished with a 94 ERA-, a 95 FIP-, and a roughly equal WAR. He just pitched a lot for 14 years in a completely different era.

Red Faber vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (31)

Faber pitched in anonymity for 20 years on the White Sox, mostly for second division teams. He was the American League's last legal spitballer, and he rode it to fine career numbers. However, there's a reason that probably 95% of fans have never heard of Faber. He just wasn't that outstanding, and he never had to face the Josh Gibsons and Buck Leonards of the world due to baseball's segregation.

Red Ruffing vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (32)

Take everything I said about Lefty Gomez and put it here--the only differences are that Ruffing was righthanded and less colorful, save for his nickname. Ruffing was a durable, consistent starter but not quite at Mussina's level.

Robin Roberts vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Roberts.

The Phillies Hall of Famer had a killer peak from the get-go, pitching over 2,300 innings with a 77 ERA- and 83 FIP- during his first eight seasons. The rest of his career wasn't as sharp, but his ultimate career numbers were pretty close to Mussina. The better peak gets the nod here.

Rube Marquard vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (33)

As Posnanski said, Marquard would not be in Hall of Fame had it not been for his dazzling Big Fish-like storytelling in Lawrence Ritter's classic The Glory of Their Times. His career most closely resembles a Deadball Era version of Derek Lowe, so...

Rube Waddell vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (34)

The superior Rube, Waddell was another fascinating character who led the AL in strikeouts for six consecutive seasons, setting the AL's single-season record for lefties, which still stands (349). Yet after an awesome nine-year run, he began to decline and managers grew weary of his hard-living lifestyle, driving from the game. After two more starts at age 33 he was done, and he died just four years later at the same age Mussina was still pitching.

Sandy Koufax vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Koufax.

Any time a comparison to Koufax comes up, this question must be raised: How much can one value a peak? Koufax's peak from 1961-66 was among the most masterful ever seen in the game, a mere six-year period that led to 1,713 strikeouts, three no-hitters, a perfect game, five ERA titles, six straight FIP titles, a 0.97 WHIP, 35 shutouts, 46.6 WAR, an NL MVP, and three Cy Young Awards. Gracious. Sadly, that was it! Agonizing arthritis in his magical left elbow ended his career after just 12 years. Perhaps modern treatment could have extended his baseball life. As tempting as it is because of Mussina's everlasting health, I can't vote against Sandy; he was just too overpowering.

Stan Coveleski vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (35)

Stop me if you've heard this story before: Pitcher from the 1910s and 1920s pitches well for 10 years, barely does anything outside of it, and gets elected to the Hall of Fame. Look, it's fine that these people were elected. Whatever. I just don't understand why people act like only the Walter Johnsons and Randy Johnsons should be in the Hall of Fame when that's so clearly not the case. People who have been dead for decades are over-represented.

Steve Carlton vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Carlton.

Carlton is insane, including beyond his baseball career. Until Randy Johnson came along, he held the record for career strikeouts by a lefty with 4,136, which led him to an outstanding 20+ years in the game. Sorry, Moose.

Ted Lyons vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (36)

Lyons had one of baseball's more unusual careers, one which I'm not sure we would see today. Heavy use early on led to shoulder pain, and the White Sox carefully monitored his workload. He pitched 13 years after he turned 30, but never again did he make even 28 starts in a season. Before long, his manager designated him the "Sunday starter," and he started just once per week from then onward, becoming a real fan favorite. Lyons did well in these 20-25 start seasons, but Mussina would be the better choice for a career since he did not require such limitations.

Tim Keefe vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (37)

Keefe had a career which fits in nicely alongside the John Clarkson/Pud Galvin mold. So he's not better than Mussina either. A key element that people sometimes miss with these 19th century careers is that they were not superhuman; they were just used differently and faced far inferior competition to today's game. So essentially, if a Mussina or a David Cone was dropped into 19th century baseball, the experts say they would similarly dominate the game. This is why when the numbers are close, the modern player should almost always be the better choice.

Tom Glavine vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (38)

When Glavine and Mussina were both on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2014, the BBWAA favorite Glavine (of course a member of the 300 wins club) was easily elected with 91.9% of the vote while Mussina languished at 20.3%. Yet Mussina and Glavine's numbers are startlingly close outside of pure wins, a figure made possible by Glavine pushing on into his early 40s while Mussina called it a career. Just before Glavine's induction, John Schmeelk of The Cauldron published a fantastic article comparing the two, and that thoroughly explained how Mussina was most likely the better pitcher. Even if they were roughly a draw, or if Glavine was a touch better, the voting margin between them should have been far closer in 2014 than 70%. That was extreme.

Vic Willis vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (39)

Willis Moose

Waite Hoyt vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (40)

Hoyt was one of the Yankees' most dependable pitchers in the '20s and forged a somewhat forgotten second half as a swingman for a number of NL teams in the '30s. However, his ERA was only 20% better than league average in three seasons out of 21, something Mussina did 12 times. Diet Moose is not better than regular Moose.

Warren Spahn vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Spahn.

In my first draft of the top 10 pitchers, I included Spahn, who is right up there with Randy Johnson and Lefty Grove as baseball history's best southpaws. This is no contest.

Whitey Ford
Photo credit: Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

Whitey Ford vs. Mike Mussina

Verdict: Mussina. (41)

Yankee diehards won't like this. When one objectively compares Ford and Mussina's careers though, Mussina beats him in starts, innings, FIP-, strikeouts, fewer walks, and fewer times scuffing the baseball with a wedding ring. Sure, Casey Stengel limited Ford's innings early on and he also missed time due to the Korean War, but once the reins were off in 1961, Ford did not last much longer in the game, even in a pitching-rich era. Once he turned 37, his tenure as a regular starter was all but over while Mussina threw three more full seasons.

***

So out of the aforementioned 54 pitchers, only 13 were judged to be superior to Mussina. Even if one wants to dispute my more controversial rulings and say that Drysdale, Glavine, Hubbell, Marichal, Smoltz, and some of the Deadball Era pitchers were better than Mussina, that would be just about 20 out of the 54. Going by that logic, Mussina would still be right in the middle of all pitchers in the Hall of Fame.

Mike Mussina belongs in Cooperstown. He's made some strides in BBWAA voting early on this year, and hopefully that trend will continue. If anything else, his resume would definitely not look out of place mixed in with all these forgotten pitchers from yesteryear. It's not that he's just better than a handful of enshrined pitchers--that kind of logic leads to more questionable inductions.

When a pitcher is so thoroughly above and beyond so many other starters though, his absence from baseball's most hallowed grounds appears to be all the more absurd. It does not matter if a voter thinks Mussina "looked like" a Hall of Famer or not. He easily makes the cut of pitchers who already have plaques there.

In Moose we trust. Moose for Hall.


Photo credit: Al Bello/Getty Images