Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Gotta love the Moose

If the Yankees have less than a one percent chance to make the playoffs this season (as Baseball Prospectus leads us to believe), then it makes sense to start taking solace in the smaller things in life. Will Derek Jeter finish over .300? Will Mo get to 40 saves? Will Abreu crack 100 RBIs? Will A-Rod misjudge a popup and have a crippling emotional breakdown?

Most important on this list of personal quests centers upon Mike Mussina, who is going for 20 wins for the first time in his utterly solid career. Mussina moved one step closer to that milestone on Tuesday, going six-plus innings in the Yankees' 7-2 win over the AL East-leading Rays. Tampa Bay is still in first place? What world am I in? This is like a Tom Berenger movie.

Mussina is now 17-7 and he will have five more starts this month to get three wins. He’ll face Seattle, Tampa, Chicago, Toronto and Boston before the regular season wraps on Sept. 28. It's difficult to fathom how a man with 267 career wins can never have reached the 20-win milestone, but with Moose there is a reasonable explanation. From 1994-1996, Mussina could have, probably should have, had 20 wins in each season, but he came up empty each time. In '94, he had 16 wins before the strike wiped out the season in mid-August. The 1995 season was affected by the labor strife as well, not beginning until April 26. That lost time cost Mussina five starts. He finished 19-9. In 1996, he was at 19 wins entering his final start of the season against Toronto. He left the game with the lead after eight innings, but Armando Benitez blew the save (and probably Mussina's mind).

Mussina has now won at least 17 games in four of his eight seasons in New York. His highest win total with the Bombers was 18, achieved in 2002. His 3.39 ERA is the lowest mark since he sported a 3.15 mark in his first year in the Bronx in 2001. Mussina is one of, if not the best, free-agent signing of the Brian Cashman era.

Pettitte faded into oblivion in the second half, wilting when his team needed him the most. Mussina has been a steady presence for five months now, the very definition of a veteran leader. Given the choice to bring one back for '09, I believe it to be a no-brainer.


Howie said...

If Mike Mussina is one of Cashman's best FA signings, that only serves to illustrate just how bad the Yanks' FA signings have been. Until this year, Mussina has never exceeded expectations and has been quick to give us the reasons why. He has never been particularly strong in the postseason.

All that being said, I'm really rooting for the guy to get to 20 and he is the sole reason I had meaningful games to watch until last week.

DH said...

Though I respect my elders, I must disagree with you Howie.

Mussina hasn't been a postseason stud, I'll give you that. But with exception of '07, Mussina has been a rock solid member of the rotation year-in and year-out for eight seasons. Moose is the rare case of the pitcher who got big free-agent money and actually delivered for the length of the contract.

This year more than ever has taught me the importance of durability. Moose has taken the ball every time this season. In fact, he has started at least 27 games every season in New York.

There has to be credit given for that.

Howie said...


I hear you. But, when the Yanks signed him, he became the 2nd highest paid pitcher in baseball. Has he performed anywhere close to the level that is expected with such a contract?