• Why The Yankees Should Let Mussina Walk

    Posted by on October 22nd, 2006 · Comments (26)

    I thought this would be as good a time as any to weigh-in, officially, with my thoughts towards Mike Mussina (as a Yankee) in 2007 and beyond. This way, next season, if the Yankees retain Mussina and he tanks, I will have something to point back to and say “Told you so!” Conversely, if Mussina the Yankee is good in 2007, the WasWatching.com faithful can point to this entry and tell me how wrong I was on Moose.

    Let’s start with age. At the close of the 2007 post-season, Mussina will be days away from his 39th birthday. Since you know that Mussina will not sign a one-year deal for 2007, bringing him back to the Yankees ensures that the days of the “40-year old pitcher” will be alive and continuing into the last season of Old-New Yankee Stadium.

    Plus, the only American League starting pitchers, age 38 or older, in the last 30 (or so) seasons do to well have been hard throwers like Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens or extreme-junkers like Jamie Moyer or Charlie Hough. Mussina, as a Yankee, in 2007 will be lucky to be a 15-game winner. In all probability, Mussina wins 12-13 games in 2007. Is that worth having to carry an old-timer the next season? Rasner or Kartsens could probably win 12 games next year with the Yankees in Mussina’s place.

    Secondly, age aside, look at Mussina’s trend in New York. In the first three years of his contract, he was fine. But, the last three seasons paint a different picture.

    In 2004, Mike Mussina was a below-average pitcher. In 2005, Mussina was just barely a league-average pitcher. Last year, 2006, Mussina improved – coincidentally enough in the “option year” of his contract. Will Mussina be that inspired in 2007? More than likely, he reverts to being an average-pitcher again next season, once his contract is secured.

    Also, let’s talk about reliability. It’s reasonable to expect someone in the front-three of your rotation to make 33 starts in a season. Here are Mussina’s start totals the last few years:

    2003: 31
    2004: 27
    2005: 30
    2006: 32

    Notice again that last year. Mussina, lately, was always good to miss 3-6 starts a year – until this past season, his option year. How many starts to you think Mussina will make in 2007? Based on recent performance, you’re looking in the ballpark of maybe 30. That means he misses a half-month of pitching over the course of the season.

    I know that some people out there think “Wait, this is the new Mussina – he’s got that new change-up – that’s the reason why he was great in 2006 – and why he will be very useful next season as well!”

    Check the stats. The “new” Mussina had an ERA of 3.24 before the All-Star break and an ERA of 3.96 in the second-half. Batters hit him for .225 before the break and .268 after the break. So, much for the “new” Mussina, huh? Towards the second half of the season, once he had his stats padded-enough for the year, he once again was a pedestrian hurler.

    The above are cold-hard-stats. It doesn’t even include the issue that the Yankees last won a ring before Mussina got here and have not won a ring since he’s been here. Still, because it would be a hard case to prove that moving Moose might be good for karma, I’ll stick to the facts.

    Mike Mussina – old, unreliable, and pedestrian. And, since pedestrians have the right of way, the Yankees should let him walk now.

    Comments on Why The Yankees Should Let Mussina Walk

    1. baileywalk
      October 22nd, 2006 | 5:37 pm

      Jesus, we get it — you don’t like Mike Mussina. Maybe you should put him and A-Rod in a sack and throw them in a lake.

      I’m not going to rehash all my Mussina defenses, but I will say this suggestion that Mussina pitched well in his option year is wrongheaded, foolish and nakedly transparent bile. It’s coming from your heart and not your head. Mussina was hurt the previous two years. He was healthy this year. End of story. What you’re suggesting is that Mussina “took two years off” — that he didn’t try in those years because he had a guaranteed contract. Even though Moose has never been that type of player and even though he had legitimate injuries. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone who hates Moose THIS much. He seems too unassuming to generate this kind of rage.

      Mussina has always been a first-half pitcher. He runs out of gas. It’s just the way it is. But he has been good in the post-season (for Baltimore and the Yanks). Ted Lilly or Jeff Suppan will not be able to replace Mussina. Plus he’s perfect at a two-year deal, because he will soon step aside and the young guys can take his place.

      David Wells had success at 39-40 and he doesn’t crack 90. Johnson had success after 39 until he came to the AL. Old power guys lose their velocity and get shelled. Unless they’re in the NL. Mussina gets by with his 90-mile-an-hour fastball because he spots it and complements it with a host of breaking balls and off-speed pitches. Nothing says he can’t do that for another two years. Moose as your number three for the next two years — at 10 a pop — sounds good to me.

    2. JeremyM
      October 22nd, 2006 | 5:51 pm

      I agree with bailey. I hope Mussina will be back. I still don’t get the hate that most on the net seem to have for the guy. Sure, he whines a little bit, oh well.

    3. jonm
      October 22nd, 2006 | 5:56 pm

      baileywalk’s right. Mussina is the type of pitcher who will be capable of pitching well into his forties. He reminds me now a bit of Tom Glavine. Citing those start totals seems to prove the opposite of what you’re trying to argue.

      This is all academic, though. I would be absolutley shocked if Mussina isn’t a Yankee next year.

    4. October 22nd, 2006 | 6:46 pm

      Whether or not Mussina is an “ace” anymore or will start over 30 games isn’t the issue here. Look at the dearth of starting pitching available in this offseason. It’s a pretty well established fact that the Yankees need starting pitching, and Mussina is a guy who can handle the pressure of October (his career numbers are better in the postseason than the regular season) and can hadle the media in New York (other than perhaps Kim Jones).

      There aren’t a lot of options out there, so why get rid of a guy who plays a position of current lack of depth?

    5. October 22nd, 2006 | 6:56 pm

      People complain all the time about the consistency of the Yankee rotation every off season. They say they need to find guys who can give them 30 starts and about 200 IP with league average ERA (actually, everyone always says we need 4 “aces” to succeed, but since that can’t happen a 200 IP and 30 start guy with a league average ERA is not bad to have around.)

      With all the lack of starting pitching out there (and the Yankees extreme bad luck with FA pitchers lately), why does it make sense to remove the only consistant starter for the past 5 years?

      This is actually the first season that Mussina has even made a DL stint while with the Yankees (and he still threw 197.1 IP).

      The only problem with Mussina being on the team, is if the Yankees expect Mussina to be their ace. At the age of 37, that isn’t a fair expectation. No, he doesn’t deserve $17 million, but he has been the picture of consistency and is one of the better free agents out there.

      We know exactly what we would get out of him, and that is better than what we can expect from a lot of people.

    6. Raf
      October 22nd, 2006 | 7:00 pm

      Unless you have a better option to start, I’d say keep him. I’m not entirely sold on Kartsens or Rasner. If they can toss near 200 innings, go for it.

      FWIW, he’s only had 33 starts or more 5 times in a 16 year career.

      The reason he was great in 2006 was because he was healthy :)

    7. RICH
      October 22nd, 2006 | 7:24 pm

      You seem to have no doubt Rasner or Karstens’s results will replace Mussina’s. Don’t either of those two give you any cause for concern? Rasner’s shoulder?

      Even if that were to occur you’re still no better off and you’re still short some starting depth.

      Couldn’t you even find one thing positive in Mussina’s performance for the future?

      At least you don’t try to hide your disdain for Mussina.

    8. Raf
      October 22nd, 2006 | 7:43 pm

      Remember, the Yanks need to find at least 3 starters this offseason; Wang’s shoulder’s not guaranteed, neither is Johnson’s back. Who knows when Pavano will pitch again?

    9. October 22nd, 2006 | 8:02 pm

      FWIW, I’m not saying that the Yankees don’t need starters – I’m already on record that they need to get 2 ths winter (after they let Moose and Wright walk).

      Anyway, if Mussina wants to sign a one-year deal for 2007, for around $8 million, I’ll take him back and hold the door open for him.

      It just makes no sense to me to give him a 2-or-3-year deal for $10+ mill a year. And, you know he’ll want at least $10 mill a year – since that’s what Pavano makes. Remember, Moose is a MLBPA-man. He’s not going to give a discount.

      He’s too old now. If he was 3 years younger, I would give him 3 years. But, he’s old.

    10. Raf
      October 22nd, 2006 | 8:14 pm

      It just makes no sense to me to give him a 2-or-3-year deal for $10+ mill a year. And, you know he’ll want at least $10 mill a year – since that’s what Pavano makes. Remember, Moose is a MLBPA-man. He’s not going to give a discount.
      ========
      And why should he give a discount? There are very few cases of loyalty in MLB.

      The Pavano & Wright deals made little sense to me, as did passing on Pedro. But, what’s done is done.

      Given the lack of options, and the flakiness of pitching in general, I’d resign Moose. We’re looking at a current rotation of

      Wang, Johnson, Kartsens, Rasner, & maybe Hughes (or some other guy from AAA)

    11. RICH
      October 22nd, 2006 | 8:47 pm

      Why are fans concerned about the $ value of contracts if we don’t know the budgets available? I can see if we’re noting the difference between a $20 million versus a $2 million contract, but $8 is acceptable yet $10 isn’t?

    12. Yu Hsing Chen
      October 22nd, 2006 | 11:10 pm

      Letting Moose walk isn’t out of the realm of possiblity, but not for your reasoning Steve.

      First of all, i’ve seen Karsten pitch enough times .. and it’ hard to belive he can put up league average quality in a full season. it’s possible (espically if he was traded to say… the Padres or the Marlins ), but it’s also very possible that he gets smacked around.

      I have no idea what gives you so much confidence in the very limited sample of Rasner either. he is getting smacked around right now in the AFL (granted, this is the AFL. but still)

      These two guys give you a decent plan B… but to move them up to plan A right now just doesn’t make any sense.

      As for Moose, well, for a guy who’s suggesting we pay 8m+ to Jeff “career 4.60 ERA and mostly in the NL ” Suppan for 3 years, i fail to see the reasoning that Moose at 10M per for 2 is somehow a worse deal.

      we are talking about Mike Mussina here, a borderline hall of famer, if your going to let him walk you better either
      a. replace him with proven quality that’s a #2 or more.. like Zito or Matsuzaka

      b. a youngster that should project to be a #2 or better

      Rasner is mostly projected as #3 at best. while Karsten right now projects to be a 4/5 .

      the problem with a. is that there aren’t many of those out there, and eveyrone of them will surely sign for more than 2 year 20M range that Moose will. and the problem with b. is that we only have one guy in our system right now that might be that , and he hasn’t even thrown a pitch in AAA.

      So if we let Moose walk, it will mean either.
      a. we traded (presumablly A-rod) for a youngster with great potential and ability and probalby already throw at least a few start in the bigs.

      b. we go out on a mad shopping spree for both Matsuzaka and Zito.

    13. October 22nd, 2006 | 11:13 pm

      t just makes no sense to me to give him a 2-or-3-year deal for $10+ mill a year. And, you know he’ll want at least $10 mill a year – since that’s what Pavano makes. Remember, Moose is a MLBPA-man. He’s not going to give a discount.
      ====

      Or maybe it doesn’t matter if he is an MLBPA-man or not. Maybe what matters is he is very much a creature of habit, wants to stay near his home in Pennsylvania, and wants to play for a team that has a good chance of winning.

      He is an MLBPA-man in that he is very active in his union. That doesn’t mean he won’t make the decision that is best for his and his family’s needs. The union wouldn’t quibble with Mussina for picking a team based on personal preferences as opposed to dollars…they have no right to.

      And I think Mussina knows he is 37 years old when he is negotiating his contract.

      2 years with $14M guaranteed….incentives based on innings allows him to get more money.

    14. Don
      October 23rd, 2006 | 2:59 am

      Why not ask Mussina to find out what magic pill Kenny Rogers is using?

      I ask, is Rogers on ‘roids fury? Even Leyland has noted, post game, that he doesn’t usually like to see players ‘psyched up’ as Rogers has been. Frankly, Rogers’ performance is beyond normal at his age and his actions are very un-Kenny Rogers like.

      Something very funny is going on here.

    15. Raf
      October 23rd, 2006 | 7:58 am

      Nothing’s unusual… Rogers’ performance is about right for a lefty junkballer. Moyer’s still in the league. Wells is still going. Frank Tanana? Tommy John?

    16. rbj
      October 23rd, 2006 | 8:19 am

      I’m with Mr. Faded Glory. Yankees need starting pitching. WormKiller is a good #2; Moose at #3 and Unit at #4 works for me while we wait upon Hughes & Clippard. The problem is a lack of a #1 big game, strikeout guy. (though maybe Wang can be a #1 big game groundball out guy). I just don’t see Rasner or Karstens filling Moose’s shoes. As to $8 mil vs. $10-13 mil, it’s Steinbrenner’s money, I don’t care; I’d much prefer to see Pavano’s contract voided and make the savings up that way.

      And how in hell did Jeff Weaver pitch a decent game in the World Series?

    17. DFLNJ
      October 23rd, 2006 | 8:49 am

      Nothing’s unusual… Rogers’ performance is about right for a lefty junkballer.
      ————————————————
      I’m not so sure Raf. He’s picked up velocity in the playoffs. How many of those guys that you listed (Moyer, Wells, John, etc.) suddenly started throwing harder?

      I’m not saying I’m SURE he’s juicing…but it seems a little fishy.

    18. October 23rd, 2006 | 10:00 am

      Just for the record, the guys, most of them, at BTF think I’m nuts on this too:

      http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/newsstand/discussion/was_watching_lombardi4/

      Good. I’m looking forward to seeing how this whole thing works out.

      If I’m wrong, that’s great, because then the Yankees signed a pitcher who helped them win in 2007. But, if I’m right, I’m going to enjoy pointing back to this.

      I never mind being wrong – if it helps the Yankees. It’s win-win for me.

    19. Raf
      October 23rd, 2006 | 10:43 am

      I’m not so sure Raf. He’s picked up velocity in the playoffs. How many of those guys that you listed (Moyer, Wells, John, etc.) suddenly started throwing harder?
      ====================
      I’m not going to put too much stock in the Fox radar guns.

      Having said that, in a postseason where Jeff Weaver, Kenny Rogers, and Oliver Perez have all pitched great games, I’m willing to chalk it up to planets being in alignment :)

    20. baileywalk
      October 23rd, 2006 | 12:30 pm

      In fairness to Oliver Perez, he was one of the best pitchers in the NL two years ago. He’s regaining his velocity and stuff right now.

      But Rogers is a different story. His theatrics don’t suggest steroids to me (seems more like speed or greenies or some kind of “up”), but his velocity is something else. No, the Fox gun isn’t always accurate, but Verducci was talking about this on “Mike and the Mag Dog” the other day and — baffled — he said Rogers was throwing a legit 91-92 mile an hour fastball (which, if averaged, is very good). Mike said that people within the Yankee organization told him they scouted Rogers’ final starts and that he never got above 86. Even if their guns were off two miles an hour, that’s still a gain of 2-3 miles an hour.

      Also, Todd Jones, who’s normally 89-91, seems to be hitting 93-94, and even got to 95 when he struck out Matsui.

      Are they are ‘roids? Who knows. I’m not going to say that because I have no proof. But it is… ODD… that two old guys who never threw hard came into the playoffs chucking heat. It’s true that Rogers was good this year in the regular season — but we’re not just talking about results; we’re talking about stuff and velocity.

      I’m not going to say he did anything, but it wouldn’t shock me if it came out, either.

    21. jonm
      October 23rd, 2006 | 1:24 pm

      Steve,
      I defended you over on BTF (of course, I had to engage in some armchair-psychoanalysis to do it). ;)

    22. October 23rd, 2006 | 1:31 pm

      LOL! Thanks.

      No sweat. I’ve been bashed at BTF for a long time now. They’re, for the most part, a collection of stone throwers. It doesn’t bother me. I expect that from them.

      You write stuff on the ‘net, you better be ready to hear people who think you’re nuts – and will not be shy to tell you so.

    23. DFLNJ
      October 23rd, 2006 | 1:35 pm

      Bailey, I noticed the same thing about Todd Jones. I haven’t followed his entire career or anything, but I’ve defintely seen him throw before and I had the impression of him as something of a soft-tosser. When he came in and struck out Matsui, I remember thinking, “Since when does Todd Jones throw 95 MPH?”

      In a way, it’s terrible that we’re speculating like this. Maybe, like Raf says, the planets are just in alignment. I don’t find that impossible to believe. But given baseball’s tarnished recent past with regards to steroids, I find it beyond difficult to give anyone the benefit of the doubt.

    24. Raf
      October 23rd, 2006 | 1:44 pm

      Bailey, I noticed the same thing about Todd Jones. I haven’t followed his entire career or anything, but I’ve defintely seen him throw before and I had the impression of him as something of a soft-tosser.
      ===========
      I remember him when he was in the Houston organization. Scouts said he had electric stuff.

      I’ll have to check my old “Scouting Reports” book (if I can find it) to see what they have to say.

    25. Raf
      October 23rd, 2006 | 1:59 pm

      In fairness to Oliver Perez, he was one of the best pitchers in the NL two years ago. He’s regaining his velocity and stuff right now.
      ========
      Regardless, of his 5 years in the league, he has only been “good” for two seasons; 2002 & 2004.

      He has a great arm, and to my knowledge hasn’t lost any velocity while he was struggling. Like Weaver and Rogers, it’s the law of averages catching up to him.

      If he gets right, and I hope he does, the Mets made out like bandits. He’s only 24, so he has time on his side.

    26. baileywalk
      October 23rd, 2006 | 2:23 pm

      Perez struggled because he lost all semblance of control, but he also lost a ton of velocity.

      http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06093/678964-63.stm

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