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2019 Baseball Hall of Fame tracker: Mike Mussina

Photo: Newsday/Paul J. Bereswill, 2005

For a sixth consecutive winter, No. 35 is hoping to reach the magic number of 75.

Mike Mussina, who played 18 seasons as a starting pitcher for both the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles during the peak of Major League Baseball’s “steroid era” (1991-2008), is once again in the running for a permanent plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  The 2019 ballot — which includes Mussina’s former Yankee teammates Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte as first-year eligible candidates — was announced on Monday

The voting results from last winter suggest Mussina is trending toward induction.  Of the 422 ballots that were submitted either publicly or privately by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) in 2018, Mussina received 63.5-percent of the vote, falling 49 votes short of election.  This was a big jump for the 49-year-old, who appeared on just half of the ballots (51.8-percent) back in 2017.  To make the Hall of Fame, a candidate must receive votes on 75-percent of the ballots.  

According to projections from Hall of Fame voting tracker Ryan Thibodaux, there will be 416 ballots cast in 2019, which means that players will need to be checked off on 312 total ballots to eclipse the 75-percent threshold. 

“I pitched in an era where there were a lot of good pitchers who lasted a long time,” Mussina told WFAN’s Sweeny Murti back in January 2017 “Not just good pitchers for eight or 10 years, these guys were good pitchers for 18 or 20 years.  And I feel fortunate that I was able to play with them and compete with them and have the success — or near the success — they had…  I got to win 270 games and I felt tremendously fortunate to be able to do that.  I don’t know when the next 270-game winner is going to be.  It’s not easy…”

The BBWAA election results will be announced on January 22. 

 

THE CASE FOR MUSSINA

– Mussina retired from baseball in 2008 after compiling 270 wins, which ranks 33rd all-time.  In 536 total starts, he finished 117 games over the .500 mark (270-153), and every pitcher in major league history with that same statistical feat has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. 

– According to Baseball-Reference, Mussina’s 82.7 WAR is 24th all-time for pitchers.  In ERA-plus (123), he ranks higher than Don Drysdale, Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, and several other Hall of Famers.  

– In 2008, Mussina won 20 games for the first time in his career, and in doing so, he became the first (and only) Yankees pitcher to win at least 20 games in his final major league season.  Mussina was no stranger to double-digit win totals, however.  In his 18 seasons, he won 10 or more games in 17 of them, and the only pitchers in history with more 10-plus win seasons are Walter Johnson, Tom Glavine, Steve Carlton, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan, and Don Sutton.  

– It’s evident that Mussina has yet to pass the “eye test” — a simple glance at common statistics that shape a career.  But another popular exercise is comparing him to an actual Hall of Famer.  In this case, Mussina’s numbers are quite similar to Jim Palmer’s, as both pitchers finished with identical winning percentages (.638).  Mussina also recorded 601 more strikeouts than Palmer, though his career ERA (3.68) was 0.82 higher.

– Mussina pitched 57 complete games, including nine five-hitters, five four-hitters, nine three-hitters, six two-hitters, and four one-hitters.  Although he lacks individual accolades, Mussina came close to achieving several milestones.  In 2001, his first season with the Yankees, Mussina fell one strike shy of a perfect game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in September.  Two months later, he was a Mariano Rivera save shy of winning the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

– Since Mussina became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2013, five starting pitchers — Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Pedro Martinez — have taken part in induction ceremonies.  Three of those Hall of Famers achieved 300 wins, while two collected Cy Young awards and World Series rings.

– Mussina never led the American League in ERA, but he produced 11 Top-10 finishes, and in six of his seasons, he finished Top-5 in Cy Young award voting.  Mussina also won seven Gold Glove awards and made five All-Star Game appearances (all with the Orioles). 

 

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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