Don't Shoot The Moose...Yet
April 24th 2008 22:31
The sports world has crushed Mike Mussina for the past couple of years. He is a borderline Hall of Famer with 252 wins but has greatly underachieved in terms of past performance and salary while with the Yankees. If one were to simply look at this season's numbers before last night's start, it would seem like his 39-year-old right arm was washed up.
However, statistics in baseball are overrated. Often times, one needs to look inside the numbers to get a true sense of what is really going on. For example, in two starts this season, Mussina was one out away from getting a quality start. A QS is at least 6 innings pitched giving up 3 earned runs or less. This stat has become a very sexy barometer for starting pitchers. In both of those games, Mussina had runners on base with two outs in the fifth inning. For some reason, in one game, Manager Joe Giradi decided to pitch to Yankee killer Manny Ramirez who responded with a stinging double.
Both of those games got away from Mussina but just as easily could have gone the other way. However, I think he's figuring things out. He tops off at around the mid 80s now. In his dominant Oriole days, his radar gun hit the mid 90s, so he could miss his spots. He has always been a control pitcher with a cornucopia of "garbage pitches." See: the knuckle curve, the knuckle change and what looked like last night to be a borderline effus pitch.
However, now he can't rely on his fastball. Instead, he must throw his changeup for strikes and locate his fastball. If he can throw his "garbage pitches" in the mid 60s, his 85 MPH fastball would have enough difference in speed at 20 MPH. That is enough to buckle the knees of any major league hitter, like in his 7 inning gem against a hard hitting Chicage White Sox lineup.
Also, Jorge Posada usually sits when Mussina starts because The Moose prefers to throw to whatever backup catcher The Yanks are carrying. Last night, the two men seemed to be in perfect rhythm. The overthinking, crossword loving, Stanford grad allowed Posada to call the entire game without once shaking him off. If these two could continue to sync up like they did on Wednesday night, then Mussina certainly has enough for a 15 win type season.
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