During Mike Mussina’s last two spring training outings, I noticed Moose throwing a lot of 76 MPH breaking pitches. And, in today’s game, I noticed that Mussina’s fastball was between 85 and 88 MPH.
These observations made me reach for my copy of The Bill James Baseball Handbook 2008 to check James’ pitching leader boards (therein) for some pitch type and speed data.
Of all pitchers in the A.L. last season, with a minimum of 162 IP, after Tim Wakefield (74.2 MPH), Paul Byrd had the slowest average fastball – at 85.6 MPH. No other RHP (in the A.L. with 162+ IP) averaged under 89 MPH. On the season, Byrd actually threw 632 pitches – of all types – that were less than 80 MPH.
So, if Moose is going to feature a fastball in the range of 85 to 88 MPH this season, he’s going to be right up there with the junkiest of junkballers in the league.
Seeing the stats, last year, for Byrd, I noticed that his ERA was 4.59 – which is not terrible. But, his Component ERA was 4.80 (in 192.1 IP).
Last season, Mike Mussina’s ERA was a terrible 5.15 – but, Moose’s Component ERA was 4.87 (in 152 IP). It’s interesting that Byrd and Mussina had Component ERAs that were so close in 2007 – since they were not close in RSAA. (Byrd was +4 last season whereas Mussina was -8.) Byrd also had more value last season in that he gave his team 40 more IP – albeit perhaps driven by some aid.
In the N.L., last season, the slowest right-handed (average) fastballs belonged to Livan Hernandez (83.6 MPH), Greg Maddux (84.7 MPH), Woody Williams (86.5 MPH) and Matt Morris (87.4 MPH). Outside of Maddux, none of these RHP were very effective in 2007.
I would suggest, this season, for Mussina to be effective, Moose should only throw his “fastball” about 45% of the time. And, he should feature that 76 MPH breaking pitch about 25% of the time. For those who don’t want to do the math, that leaves 30% of the time for Moose to throw “something else.” At times, Mussina has featured a slider and a two-seam fastball that acts like a change-up with some sink. While the slider and the change were never main weapons for Moose, he may need to call on them more often now – to fill in that “30%.” He may even want to take a tip from Byrd and throw in an old fashioned full wind-up once in a while too. At this stage, whatever Mike can do to fool a batter, it’s going to help him.