Everyday until spring training begins the "Respect Jeter's Gangster" blog will review one player from the Yankees roster. We will review a total of 27 players, the 25 we believe will be on the active roster after spring training, and 2 we believe should be on the active roster but won't be for one reason or another. Our reviews are all edited by Carl Pavano himself to insure they're up to the stringent "Pavano Tough" standards.
Mike Mussina had one of his roughest seasons in the majors last year as he posted a 5.15 ERA, with a 11-10 record and 91 strikeouts in 152 innings. He started 27 games, but was dropped from the rotation late in the season because he was absolutely horrendous. Many people say that Mussina's career is over, and those numbers would seem to suggest that, however I'm not jumping on the "Mussina is done" band wagon yet. One season ago, Mussina posted a 15-7 record with a 3.51 ERA for the Yankees. His fastball was just as mediocre as it was this year, but he seemed much more confidant. You would see him place that 88 mph fastball right where he wanted it, and even more impressive, the batters would miss helplessly. He struck out 172 batters that season. Although his fastball was slow, his changeup and curveball kept hitters off balanced and made his fastball look much quicker than it was. So what happened in 2007? By the sounds of it, he stopped believing in himself. All that talk we heard about Mussina being a creature of habit who can't break his schedule is garbage. He was giving himself an excuse to fail in case he did fail, and once you've set a safety net its much easier to fall into it. I remember hearing something near the end of the season where he said that he felt like the worst was going to happen every time he took the mound. Once that's in your head, its difficult to pitch an effective game. His knucklecurve is still a great pitch, his changeup is still deceptive, and his fastball is still the crap pitch its been for the last few years.
My Fearless Prediction:
Mussina will step up next season and win 14 games with a low 4 ERA. He will feed off the energy of the young pitchers, and will be thrust into a teacher role with Ian Kennedy. The added pressure of having a younger version of him looking to him for answers will be a boost. I do not believe he will make it through the entire season without an injury, but that will allow some of the baby Yankees to step up.
A Riddle: The turtle and the hare ran a mighty race! Upon the finish line they came who got last place?
Answer: Many would say the turtle, he's slow, he'll take the fall! But the one who came in last was Mike Mussina's fastball. Oh Snap!