Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Case For Moose

Yesterday we posted about the possibilities of Mike Mussina winning a Cy Young this year. In all honesty, its the only good story this season. We had several comments about this possibility and what people's thoughts were. So today, we will make our case for Mussina's Cy Young. To begin we need to review the likely competition. By my count there are probably 3 other pitchers who are competing for a Cy Young: Cliff Lee from Cleveland, Roy Halladay from Toronto, and Dice-K Matsuzaka from Boston with Cliff Lee likely being the favorite. Here are their numbers:

Cliff Lee
2.43 ERA, 17-2 record, 134 strikeouts, 24 walks, 170.2 innings, 18 quality starts.

Roy Halladay
2.64 ERA, 14-9 record, 159 strikeouts, 32 walks, 191 innings, 18 quality starts.

2.77 ERA, 15-2 record, 109 strikeouts, 77 walks, 126.2 innings, 11 quality starts.

Mike Mussina
3.35 ERA, 16-7 record, 106 strikeouts, 21 walks, 153.1 innings, 18 quality starts.

Now if you were to look at the numbers, you'd easily put Moose at the back end of this group, but with the Cy Young being a pitching award and all, we need to consider how well these pitchers pitched. Dice-K has a low ERA and a 15-2 record, but throws way too many pitches and walks way too many batters. He walked 77 guys to his 109 strikeouts. Not a good ratio. Also, he's lasted only 5 innings 7 times this season, and has given his team 11 quality starts as compared to the 18 each other candidate has given theirs. Not to mention that his team drives in more runs than Cleveland, Toronto or New York. Sometimes the numbers don't tell the whole story.

Let's move on to the case for Mike Mussina. Moose is a finesse pitcher nearing the end of his career. His velocity dips into the mid 60 mph range on his off speed stuff, and tops out regularly around 85 mph on his fastball. He relies on hitting his spots and outsmarting batters. He can't dial it into the 90's like Lee and Halladay, instead he needs to hit corners and hope it doesn't catch much of the plate. With that said, he avoids the walks, which is surprising (21 walks to 106 strikeouts in 153.1 innings). Halladay and Lee both are smart pitchers, and Lee doesn't rely on power necessarily, but bring both of those guys down to an 85mph fastball, and I wonder how well they'd pitch. The fact is, Mussina has to pitch more than those guys. He doesn't have a great sinker like Halladay, and he doesn't have a deceptive delivery like Lee. He has an 85 mph fastball, and the ability to place his pitches where he'd like. If he misplaces his pitches, they get smashed.

Lee and Halladay are phenomenal pitchers and I take nothing away from them. All three of these pitchers have thrown 18 quality starts for their teams, meaning that all three of them have given their team 18 chances to win. But out of those three players, Moose easily has the weakest stuff, and he still manages to stay in there with them. I would be fine with Lee or Halladay winning the Cy Young, but don't throw Moose out of the race just yet.

More than likely what we see down the stretch will determine who will win the Cy Young. None of these teams are locks to make the playoffs this year with the Yankees being the closest at 6.5 games back of the wild card. If Mussina pitches well down the stretch, wins 20, and lowers his ERA while giving more quality starts AND the Yankees make the playoffs, then I think he becomes the favorite. If he does all that but the Yankees don't make the playoffs, then it will likely go to either Lee or Halladay because I just don't see either of those guys blowing it down the stretch. But, I could be wrong.

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