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Just The Sports: Sorry, Murray, But You're An Imbecile

Just The Sports

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sorry, Murray, But You're An Imbecile

I'm not sure why everyone gets down on Mike Mussina, but the bashing of Mike Mussina is completely without basis in fact. Even when Mussina does get compliments, they are of the back-handed sort like the one he got from Murray Chass.

IN his 16-year major league career, Mike Mussina has won 19 games twice, 18 games three times and 17 games twice. He has never won 20 games.

Winning 20 games is an overblown stat, much in the same way 100 RBI has too much emphasis put upon it. For pitchers, win-loss record really means very little for evaluating their success and trying to predict future performance. The reasons are very simple, and yet, sports journalists continue to disregard valuable statistical evidence.

To win a game, a pitcher has to rely on his offense to score runs and unless he plans on striking out all 27 batters he faces, he must also rely on his defense to help him prevent the opponent from scoring. Therefore, if either fails him, if his team cannot manage even a single run or his defense misplays 5 batted balls that turn into ten runs, the pitcher is saddled with a loss no matter how well he might have pitched.

Also, in this era of baseball which is so heavily reliant on the bullpen, very few complete games are being thrown, increasing the likelihood a pitcher will end up with a no-decision. There again, the pitcher can have an excellent outing and receive no "credit" for it in the eyes of cavemen sports journalists.

Pitchers seldom win Cy Young awards if they do not win 20 games.

Since I am too lazy to go all the way back to 1956 and look at the win-loss record for every single pitcher who won the award, I decided to only go back to 1991 and look at the past thirty CY Young Award recipients. Of those thirty, twelve did not win 20 games. For those handy with a calculator, that is 40%. I'm not sure what Murray Chass's defintion of seldom is, but mine sure as hell isn't 40% of the time.

In addition, the pitching win totals of many of the 1970s pitchers were inflated by the fact they regularly started 35-40 games, an unheard of total in this day of five-man rotations.

Mussina simply has not been a dominant pitcher and has too often been disappointing when his team could have used a dominant pitcher.

Mike Mussina has been disappointing? Okay, whatever you say, Mr. New York Times writer. Since wins are so important to you, Mussina has averaged 17 wins over his career, one more than Greg Maddux and the same number as Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens. Are you still disappointed in him?

His ERA+ ranks him 15th among active pitchers.

One more disappointing stat is Mussina's Stuff rating of 24, where the major league average is 10. Baseball Prospectus's stuff rating is a reflection of a pitcher's overall dominance. It seems to indicate Mussina has been pretty dominant in his career.

Last year, with Randy Johnson, the titular head of the staff, pitching inconsistently, the Yankees could have benefited had Mussina stepped up and said "follow me" or "climb on my back, boys."

The first suggestion is meaningless and the second suggestion just sounds like an invitation for a gangbang.

Mussina, however, won only 13 games, one of his lowest victory totals, and had a 4.41 earned run average, one of his highest E.R.A. marks.

Some other awful pitcher only won 13 games last year, too. Who was it? Oh yeah, that fraud, Roger Clemens.

Repeat after me: Wins alone do not tell you how good a pitcher is.


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