Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Masterful Moose

Where on earth would the Yankees be this season without Mike Mussina?

The veteran right-hander delivered another gem of a performance on Wednesday against a sloppy Twins team, tossing eight scoreless innings in the Yankees' 5-1 victory. New York has now won all six of its games since the All-Star break and 10 straight overall at the Stadium.

It's a shame that Mussina won't pitch against the Red Sox this weekend at Fenway, because frankly, I'm no longer surprised by what he's doing. I expect him to perform like a front line pitcher. It's almost like the clock has been turned back to 2001 and we have another ace in the rotation. It's incredible.

It's not the same Moose, of course. Much has been made about why Mussina has returned to past glories, the popular theory being that the veteran has mixed up his approach to combat his eroded skills. "Pitching backwards" is the baseball term, though I think that confidence is a big part of it as well. You can see the way he carries himself, he's a different pitcher than the one who got bullied by Manny Ramirez in April.

Remember that Mussina? The Mussina who tried to beat Ramirez at Fenway and watched a game-deciding double slice through the right-center field gap? The Mussina who a week later tried to challenge Ramirez with an 87-mph fastball at the Stadium only to give up a pair of bombs? It was almost sad to watch, a former great player betrayed by age. And now a couple months later he leads baseball in victories? Wow.

His monthly splits tell the story. In April, it was very much the Mussina that you expected heading into the season. But then -- without warning -- he simply took off:

April: 3-3, 4.73 ERA, 32.1 IP, 36 H, 12 K, 5 BB
May: 5-1, 3.72 ERA, 29.0 IP, 34 H, 21 K, 5 BB
June: 2-2, 3.18 ERA, 34.0 IP, 33 H, 25 K, 5 BB
July: 3-0, 1.04 ERA, 26.0 IP, 28 H, 23 K, 1 BB


It will be fun to watch if Mussina can get to 20 wins, a figure he's never reached in his distinguished career (he's won 19 twice, 18 three times and 16 in the strike-shortened '94 season). Working under the premise that he has 13 starts remaining, Mussina will need seven victories to get to 20. Pitching at his current level, this is very possible.

Let me state that I cannot friggin' believe I just typed that last paragraph. With much respect to Mo, Mussina is the MVP of this team right now. He's the reason the race to surpass the Rays is beginning to seem inevitable. He's the reason why this rotation actually has improved since Wang's foot injury. He's the reason the Yankees aren't a .500 team. He is the ace of the New York Yankees.

Who would've thunk it?


SA Yankee fan said...

The question is, do you bring him back for another year?

The Yankees have 80mil coming off the books, they will need a new 1b, lf, rf, 2xsp and some bulpen help.

Quite a list. I would actually like to see them bring back Abreau, moose and andy. Even the 'Stashe will be fun to have back, What do you think?

DH said...

Here's my thoughts:

Abreu - out
Stache - out
Moose - back
Pettitte - back (if he doesn't retire)

The Yanks need to get younger. Coming off what have been good (and in Mussina's case, great) seasons so far, it'd be hard to let either pitcher walk despite their ages.

I think they can upgrade at 1B and RF.

SA Yankee fan said...

I agree with that, especially in light of the trade the Yankees just made with the pirates.

I will be a little sad to see the stashe go, he is entertaining if nothing else.

Given the new universe we now occupy, Abreu is pretty much gone and now I think the 2 big off season moves should be for CC and Texeira.

I think given how muc money the Yankees have coming off they can get both even if they have to overpay a little.

Assuming Andy and Moose come back they are going to have an awefully crowded rotation with Wang, Joba, Moose, Andy, Hughes/Kennedy/other young stud plus hopefully CC. That's alot of starting pitching. Meaning either the Yankees can have everything to wrong like the last 2 years (moose meltdown, wang/pavino + 4-5other SP injuries in 2007 and wang/hughes/kennedy mess in 2008) or they can start dealing them for other needs.

Not a bad place to be really.