During tonight’s Yankees-Blue Jays game, play-by-play man Michael Kay did what every broadcaster must do in a game Mike Mussina is pitching: discuss his chances for making the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, I did not hear Kay’s argument, because I was too busy plotting how to bait my dad into an impassioned debate. I asked my dad if he thought Mussina belonged in the Hall, to which he firmly replied “no.” While I found the immediacy of his response troubling, his final answer remained understandable even if the thinking behind it was, well, hurried.
As any good son would, I quickly devised a way to get my father riled up. This did not take long. I knew that my dad thinks the greatest pitcher of all-time is Warren Spahn. I also knew that I truly believe Mike Mussina is better than Warren Spahn. It was settled.
I rushed off to find some statistics with which to combat my dad, and returned with total confidence. We debated briefly but passionately. I mentioned that Mussina’s raw ERA was indeed higher than Spahn’s, but the former pitched in a more prolific offensive era than the latter. My dad countered with the longevity of Spahn’s career, as well as his prowess as a hitter (which I do not think should be included in an argument about pitching, but okay.) I was going to cite Mussina’s superior strikeout-to-walk ratio, but I’m pretty sure Derek Jeter then grounded feebly to second for the 5,604th time this season, setting me off on an expletive-laced tirade that prevented further reasoned debate.
This brings me to you fine people. My dad thinks Spahn is better. I think Mussina is better. I shall put forth some basic statistics before you, as well as encourage you to do your own research and form your own reasoned opinion:
- 3423.7 IP, 3316 H, 368 HR, 764 BB, 2696 K
- 8.7 H/9, 0.9 HR/9, 1.5 BB/9, 6.8 K/9
- 3.71 ERA, 4.51 lgERA, 121 ERA+, 1.192 WHIP
- 258 W (if you’re into that sort of thing)
- 5243.7 IP, 4830 H, 434 HR, 1434 BB, 2583 K
- 8.9 H/9, 1.0 HR/9, 2.2 BB/9, 5.4 K/9
- 3.09 ERA, 3.65 lgERA, 118 ERA+, 1.195 WHIP
- 363 W (if you’re into that sort of thing)
It’s an interesting debate, and probably quite close. Mussina allowed hits, homers and walks at a lower rate than Spahn, while striking out batters more frequently. This advantage, however, is generally slight. Spahn pitched considerably more innings (even though Mussina isn’t done yet), and “won” more games. This debate might just boil down to two simple questions:
- Which do you value more: extreme longevity and durability with inferior statistics, or a lighter workload with superior numbers?
- Are you above the age of 50?
I prefer Mussina. As Charles Barkley said, “I may be wrong, but I doubt it.” I’d still love to hear any arguments that you might have for or against either one. I’m sure there are several things out there that I haven’t even considered. As long as your argument isn’t “LOOK AT SPAHN’S WINS!!!!1!!!1” or “TEH MOOSE NEVER WON 20!”, I’m all ears. So, who ya got?