The Baseball Hall of Fame voters are slowly but surely supporting Mike Mussina’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Mussina isn’t quite there yet, though statistically there’s not much doubt that he belongs.
This year, Bill James introduced a new Hall of Fame Value Standard in the 2019 Baseball Handbook (excerpted here). The methodology combines James’ Win Shares metric with four times Wins Above Replacement into one number. The cutoff score for Hall of Fame worthiness is 500.
Mussina clears the bar and then some. He’s at 601.8. That’s better than Hall of Fame pitchers Jim Palmer (587.7), Don Sutton (587.1), and John Smoltz (565.2) among others. Mussina is that high because of consistent excellence. Some say he didn’t dominate like a Roger Clemens or a Pedro Martinez. That’s a poor way to judge Mussina’s performance.
Here’s a better way:
James once devised something known as the Gray Ink Test, which rewards pitchers for finishing in the top 10 in wins, ERA, strikeouts, innings pitched, winning percentage, saves, complete games, walks per 9 innings, hits per 9 innings, starts, and shutouts. Each stat is assigned a point value, with wins, ERA, and strikeouts being the most valuable. The stat is actually tougher on contemporary players like Mussina, because they played (and are still playing) in 14-to-16 team leagues and thus have more competition than those players who played pre-expansion.
Mussina scored 250 points by the Gray Ink test, which ranks tied for 21st among pitchers. Of the top 35 pitchers in this stat, 31 are in the Baseball Hall of Fame, with Mussina, Clemens, and two pitchers from the 19th century (Jim McCormick and Bobby Mathews) being the exceptions.
Mussina may not have been the best pitcher of his generation. But he certainly was among the best. The numbers indicate he deserves a spot in Cooperstown.