Who Was Better? Glavine or Mussina?

     Both are probably Hall of Famer’s, both are basically done–even though Glavine is still pitching–and both have similar ERA+’s.  Similar, not identical.  Mussina actually has the better ERA+ of 123 to Glavine’s 118.  But Glavine has thrown more innings, so naturally, it is going to be difficult to pitch at the same rate.  They both have strong cases for induction to the Hall, Glavine’s a bit stronger in actuality because of the 300 Wins.  But Wins are overrated, although in this case they are an indicator of Glavine helping his team win more, due to pitching longer, at a slightly lesser rate than Mussina. 

The Regular Season    

     Glavine:  Tom Glavine is the lesser of the “trio of greatness” that Atlanta had during the 90’s.  Smoltz was more dominating.  Maddux was even more deceptive.  But Glavine was great in his own way.  One does not win a Cy Young, or two in this case, award by being mediocre.  Glavine accumulated 4,413 innings over his career.  Struck out 2,607 batters while walking 1500.  Glavine’s ERA+ was 118.  He had an astounding ten seasons greater than 125 in the ERA+ category.  And like Greg Maddux, Glavine was a very, very durable pitcher.  17 times starting 30+ games, and no fewer than 25 starts in a season, if one were to exclude his 2008 where he started only 13 games at age 42.  Tom Glavine was a great pitcher, and like I said, Glavine’s ERA+ is lower (higher the better) than Mussina’s because he has pitched more innings, and pitched 2+ seasons longer than Mussina, meaning that Glavine was older and closer to average, Mussina chose to retire. 

     Mussina:  Mike Mussina’s case has grown a lot since his near-retirement, and ultimately his actual retirement.  So what if Mussina wasn’t Pedro, Randy, Maddux or Clemens.  Mussina was pretty darn close to Smoltz, Glavine, and Schilling.  If over a period of over ten seasons, a pitcher is one of the eight best, even if he is the eighth best, is that not great?  One thing that can be held against Mussina is the zero Cy Youngs.  But that is subjective analysis at its best.  I don’t ignore the votes, or the awards, but I try and dig deeper, because it is very possible that the best pitcher doesn’t always win. 

     Speaking of:  In 2001 Roger Clemens won the Cy Young award, now I don’t know who deserved the award most, but Mussina had a lower ERA on the same team, and had the same amount of strikeouts, but about 20 fewer walks.  Clemens finished 20-3.  Mussina 17-11.  But Mussina received only 4.09 Runs/Game, while Clemens had 5.88 Runs/Game behind him in his victories.  That is pretty close to two runs a game extra that Clemens received.  Now I am not saying that Mussina deserved the award, as there were other good pitchers that year too.  But voters chose Clemens based on his record, and I am sure partially on his reputation.  He WAS Roger Clemens after all.  ( I stole JoePo’s format of using italics when I digress)

     Back to Mussina’s numbers though, which I kind of need to get out there.  ERA+ of 123 as I mentioned; 3,562 Innings, 2813 K’s, 785 walks.  Mussina wasn’t as durable as Glavine, and I believe this is where he will be hurt most in the comparison.  12 times Mussina starter over 30 games, and of course Mussina retired earlier than Glavine did.  But it isn’t as though Mussina spent chunks of time on the DL either.  Mussina threw fewer than 30 games on five different occasions, yet still never threw fewer than 24. 

     Mussina’s WHIP was 1.192, clearly better than Glavine’s 1.314.  You don’t like WHIP for some reason?  Well, Mussina allowed fewer baserunners based on whatever metric you choose to use; .297-.319.  And Mussina’s “opponents OPS” was .696 versus .697 for Glavine–virtually identical–except…Mussina had to face a DH his entire career, Glavine had to face pitchers and pinch hitters instead. 

   The Postseason

     Glavine spent an absurd amount of time in the playoffs, opportunities that Mussina did not have while with the orioles.  I firmly believe that if Mussina takes Glavine’s spot on that Braves roster, then the Braves would of had the same kind of success.  Glavine pitched a full season’s worth of innings in the postseason; 218.  His ERA was actually lower at 3.42, pretty close to his regular season ERA of 3.54, but the playoffs have stronger opponents.  Glavine was a good postseason pitcher, as he was in the regular season.

     Mussina never won a World Series, but was on the cusp of one, and it wasn’t his fault that Rivera blew a save, even though he never blew saves.  Mussina’s sampling of the postseason is smaller than Glavine’s, however, still much greater than most pitchers will experience:  139 innings and a 3.42 ERA, which is exactly what Glavine’s was.  Crazy, I know.  Mussina too had success in the postseason, even though some seem to think otherwise.

     Both experienced good postseason’s on an individual basis.  Both were great in the regular season, although not the best of their time  Both were in the Top 10, which is pretty good in my book, the book that I haven’t written of course.  Both all around were eerily similiar.  Glavine pitched longer, and owns the counting numbers.  Mussina owns the rate numbers.

     So, there you have it.  After all that.  A bunch of numbers and some distant memories. 

     Who was better? 

UPDATE/EDIT:  Jason, from the blog “Baseball and the Boogie Down” already compared Mussina and Glavine HereI guess maybe that is why I chose the two, because it seeped into my brain a while back after I read it.  I don’t know.  But for the record, I was not intentionally ripping off anyone’s ideas.  I simply forgot that Jason had explored this already.  However, I do explore it in a different manner, so enjoy the slightly different perspectives. 


  1. juliasrants

    That’s interesting when you say that wins are overrated when it came to the 300 Glavine has. In all the discussions around here on whether Jim Rice belonged in the HOF or not, everything seemed to rest on the “magic numbers” that the nay-sayers said that Rice didn’t meet. And for pitchers “300” wins seems to be one of those “magic” numbers. So I don’t know if that will affect some voters opinions of Mussina.


  2. joefromnewhampshire

    Glavine is a Hall of Famer. But I think Mussina is too. I am not fond of Wins as an indicator of true value. But Glavine was great anyway, aside from his 300 wins. I know that I am a Red Sox fan, Julia, but I am on the fence about Rice. The numbers are good, the Home/Road splits say something, but what do they say? Either Rice’s swing was made for Fenway, or Fenway just helped him so much that his numbers overall are much better than they would have been in a neutral park. I am not AGAINST Rice, but Dwight Evans was probably as good as he was, and where is Evans?

  3. joefromnewhampshire

    Plus my Dad who watched every game Rice ever played, just about anyway, does not think that Rice is a Hall of Famer. I am sure that has something to do with my thinking.

  4. hardballblog

    As a Braves fan I was able to watch Glavine pitch much more than Mussina. But Mussina is the “hometown” hero as he grew up about three minutes from my house. He is from Montoursville while I am from Williamsport. They are right next to each other, literally. So I did get to see my fair share of Mussina games. I think Moose was a really good pitcher but not great. My opinion on the Hall of Fame is that if when you look at the stats and think about the player and don’t immediately think Hall of Fame they shouldn’t be in. The Hall should be reserved for the most elite. If a player is “on the fence” then I think they don’t deserve it. I think Hall of Fame when I think of Glavine, not so much when I think about Moose. If you let the “on the fence” guys in then it will become the Hall of anyone that was really really good. I have to give the nod to Glavine.

  5. joefromnewhampshire

    Jeff, That is the same reason that I think Craig Counsel is a better hitter than Albert Pujols. 🙂

  6. joefromnewhampshire

    There are plenty of debatable Hall candidates, and Moose is one of them. I believe he is worthy, barely, but I also believe that he was great.

  7. jboogie

    It’s an interesting question and I posed the same question on my blog a few months ago. My answer then and my answer now is Mike Mussina. I put more stock in the “rate” numbers than I do the “counting” numbers. Anybody can compile good career #s if they play long enough. Both have logged enough innings that it is like comparing apples to apples. Moose pretty much beats Glaving in every category. These are the 162 game averages from baseball-reference, Moose’s #s are listed 1st.

    Avg win-loss record: 17-9 to 15-10
    Compelte games: 3 to 2
    Shutouts: 1 to 1
    IP: 225.7 to 220.0
    Hits: 219 to 214
    Walks: 49 to 78
    K: 178 to 129
    WHIP: 1.192 to 1.314
    ERA: 3.68 to 3.54
    ERA+: 123 to 118

    If you stacked those 2 side-by-side and didn’t know whose numbers were whose, I’m sure all would agree whose numbers were better. I find it to be particularly impressive that Moose’s #s are better considering her pitched in the AL his whole career, in the AL East no less, where he didn’t have the benefit of facing pitchers and pinch hitters.

    It’s hard to say what Moose’s win total would have been had he pitched the same # of seasons as Glavine. Through their 1st 18 seasons, Moose’s win-loss record was 270-153 (536 starts). Glavine’s after 18 = 262-171 (570 starts).

    As far as the Cy Youngs go, Moose has received votes for the award 9 times. In a 10 year span, he placed on that list 8 times. Glavine only received votes 5 times. Glavine finished in the top 5 in ERA 5 times and top 5 in wins 7 times. Moose was top 5 in ERA 8 times and was top 5 in wins 7 times. I know Glavine won the Cy 2x but he wasn’t exactly pitching in a league with stud pitchers. In 91 he bested fellow SPs John Smiley, Jose Rijo, Dennis Martinez, Steve Avery and Andy Benes. His 98 win was a little more impressive when he beat out Kevin Brown, Maddux, Smoltz, Leiter and the Big Unit.

    And anyone that thinks Glavine’s ring makes him better needs to remember that Moose’s biggest shot was spoiled by arguably the greatest postseason closer of all time. You can’t fault Moose for that. He also won his start in the 2003 World Series. And for thos that don’t remember, Moose took on Randy Johnson twice in the 1997 ALDS, beating him twice, pitching 14 innings, giving up only 7 hits and 3 ER, while whiffing 16. His most dominant postseason performance though was in the 1997 ALCS. He started twiced, went 15 innings, gave up only 4 hits, 1 earned run and he struck out 25. Too bad the O’s couldn’t score runs. Moose picked up the ND in both games. Ans as you pointed out, they had the same postseason ERA.

    It’s a great debate and both are definitely worthy of the HOF. Glavine is thought of to be the better pitcher purely off his win total and 2 Cy Youngs but for my money, I’m going with Moose. The “rank” numbers don’t lie. He was better.


    And yes, it’s a Mike Mussina blog.

  8. joefromnewhampshire

    I visit your blog regularly, maybe that is why I compared these two, it probably seeped into my subconscious. I wish I had some info on the defenses that played behind both, because that does effect ERA. I think that the Braves had a good D, but I am not sure (numbers wise) about the Yankees and Orioles D that Mussina had behind him.


  9. joefromnewhampshire

    Typo fixed! Thanks for pointing that out. I’m surprised no one recognized that. I assume that people know that, the lower the WHIP, the better.

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