In 2001, Pedro Martinez, at the greatest peak anyone has ever seen, was injured during half the season. Opening up an opportunity for another “lesser’ pitcher to win the Cy Young award. And I say “lesser” with much respect. The two most deserving pitchers during that 2001 season were Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina. Both Hall of Famers in my opinion. Although Clemens was great at the time, Pedro was the best at the time. And although Mussina was great, he really wasn’t quite what the other two were.
Except for that one year…
Where Mike Mussina might have been the best pitcher in the AL. Thanks to Pedro’s injury somewhat. But also thanks to Mussina having what may have been the best season in the league, because of talent, which is that thing that great players tend to have.
I touched up on two of the reasons that Clemens received more support than Mussina:
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)
The above quote was an excerpt from my “Glavine vs. Mussina” article.
The first, and probably most obvious reason for Clemens’ winning of the award was his “won/loss” record.
Clemens, as mentioned, went 20-3. That looks incredible. And any pitcher that goes 20-3, probably pitched very well. That “very well” is no exception in this case. But that does not mean that he necessarily pitched better than everyone else.
Mike Mussina “only” went 17-11. Which is good, but the 20-3 appears to much better. I mean if someone only gave me those two records and said, “guess who was better?” Then I would have to say the 20 game winner, because, well, the odds are with me.
But it doesn’t mean that the 20 game winner would actually be of higher quality.
In this case, it is close. Definitely.
But Mussina threw eight more innings. Mussina recorded an ERA+ of 142, while Clemens’ was 128. Mussina struck out one more batter (one batter is irrelevant). Mussina, as I mentioned in the excerpt, walked fewer batters, and had a pretty good edge in WHIP.
Mike Mussina was probably the better pitcher that year.
The run support was the obvious reason that Clemens ended up with the better record. Unless he has some weird “intangible” that makes the hitters better during his starts, which I highly doubt.
And Roger Clemens had the “reputation.”
At the time Clemens had 5 Cy’s on his mantle. Mussina zero.
Mussina was “good,” but he wasn’t Clemens.
Mussina was actually “great,” but I said “good” because that is most likely the way that the voters thought him to be. Even though I have to disagree now.
And it’s funny, but back in 2001 I probably would have agreed, even though I have felt that my understanding of the “win/loss” record has been decent for a long time now. I actually do my own research. I let others voice their opinion, but then I do research, and either agree or disagree. Back then, Sportscenter and newspapers basically made up a lot of my mind. I was just out of high school, and the stats within USA Today were all I really had outside of my television.
Isn’t is likely that the voters voted for Clemens because he was Roger Clemens?
In addition to the 20 wins, he was also a legend.
Mike Mussina received zero first place votes that season. Zero! And actually finished fifth on the ballot behind; Clemens, Mulder, Freddy Garcia, and Jamie Moyer.
So anyone who uses the “Mussina never won a Cy Young” argument when his time comes in five years. Do some research. Indulge yourself in the numbers. Mussina was the better pitcher in 2001. It may not have been by some incredible margin, but he was still better.
Mussina’s numbers were the best in the league. WARP1 had him at 2 wins better than Clemens. And Mussina deserved that award.
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.
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.
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 Here. I 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.