That’s right. Together with Joe Saunders (LAA) and the ridiculous Cliff Lee (CLE), Mike Mussina has the most wins in the AL: 9.
If Mussina is able to notch just two more wins this season, he will join 10 other pitchers in baseball history who have compiled 17 seasons of at least 11 wins. The other 10 are all HoF’ers or shoo-ins (though chemical Roger’s extra-curricular activities may keep him out). Only in his first year in the majors, in which he only appeared in 12 games, did Mussina not reach the 11-win mark.
If Mussina pitches in ’09 and is able to notch 11 more wins (a greater hypothetical to be sure, but seemingly quite doable if – as it seems – he has figured out how to pitch with greatly reduced stuff), Mussina would join Don Sutton, Greg Maddux, Phil Niekro, and Walter Johnson as the only pitchers in the history of the game with at least 18 11-win seasons.
Mussina has the 8th highest career win percentage (.636) of all players to have thrown at least 300 games in the past 50 years (trailing Pedro, Sandy, Whitey, Roger, Randy, Guidry, and Palmer).
Yes, he plays for the Yankees and therefore gets a good deal of run support, but even his strict pitching stats rank him well among his contemporaries.
From Mussina’s first full season (1992) through to today, only three major league pitchers – and none who have pitched their whole career in the AL – have hurled more quality starts than Mike Mussina, who has tossed 306. Only Randy Johnson (327), Tom Glavine (354), and Greg Maddux (370) have more QS’s and of them, only Johnson ever wore an AL uniform, pitching half his career for Seattle/NY. Mussina of course has pitched his entire career in the offense-rich AL East and more than half that time he pitched his home games in the bandbox of Camden Yards.
Mussina has pitched in 516 games. Of the 17 pitchers who have appeared in at least that many games over the past 3 decades, only 7 (Maddux, Clemens, R. Johnson, Smoltz, Schilling, Glavine, and Dennis Martinez) have a lower career ERA than Mussina’s current 3.71.
Of course, Mussina is probably better known for just falling short than he is for breaking through – he was one strike away from a perfect game in Boston on September 2, 2001, only to have one of the most annoying players in history, Carl Everett, break it up. He reached 18 wins twice and 19 wins twice, but never broke through to a 20-win season. But now, in his 18th season and at the age of 39, he is setting the best wins pace of his career.
He has never come close to cracking my personal list of favorite Yankees (except on a late September night in 2003 – and no, romance was not involved). The reasons have more to do with his smirky personality and touchy attitude than with his performance. But given that – right now – he is our best starter, I’ve got to give him his due. He has figured out how to pitch with what he’s got and as a result is pitching some of his smartest and best baseball.
Here’s to hoping he becomes the first in the AL to 10-wins today (Lee and Saunders both have night games) and that it only accounts for half the games the Old Moose will win in 2008.