Well, other than the 3000 strikeouts, Mussina never had direct control of any of the other categories. If there were better pitchers in any given year, Mussina couldn’t change that. If his team couldn’t score when he was pitching, he wouldn’t get the Win. If his team played poorly in playoff games in which he wasn’t even playing, he couldn’t do anything about it.
While all of that probably sounds like excuses to some of you, I would argue instead by putting forth the things that Mussina did do that might qualify him for the Hall of Fame.
For starters, Mussina is 19th all-time in fWAR for pitchers. Every other pitcher in the fWAR Top 20 is either in the Hall or will likely be there someday (Schilling and Clemens). Second, he’s also top 20 all-time in strikeouts. He didn’t get to 3000, but he is still the 19th best ever. His 13.9 K-BB% ratio is the same as John Smoltz and Roy Halladay, and is higher than Jon Lester or Johnny Cueto.
More impressively, his career 82 ERA(-) is just a touch below Hall of Famers Juan Marichal (81) and Bob Gibson (78), and a touch better than Hall of Famers Don Drysdale (83) and Warren Spahn (85).
As for Mussina not being a “winner” because he never got a ring, let’s take a look at his playoff contributions. Was it his fault his teams didn’t win, or not? In 139.2 innings over 23 playoff appearances, Mussina’s K% rose from his career regular season 19.3% to 25.3%. (Madison Bumgarner’s was 23.1% in 2014.) His ERA was 3.42 with a WHIP of 1.10, both better than his regular season averages.
Add to these totals 7 Gold Glove Awards, and we have a very strong case.
To re-address some of those who have proclaimed 300 Wins or 3000 strikeouts as Hall of Fame “standards”, you might need to reconsider… but not because of Mussina. 300 Wins would exclude Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale and Whitey Ford. In fact, all of those players I just named finished with fewer than Mussina’s 270 Wins. Only Bob Gibson would pass the 3000 strikeout test, while Mussina again finished above all the rest (plus Warren Spahn, Bob Feller, Lefty Grove…)
As for the “dominance” factor, Mussina won 18+ games six times, finished top 5 in ERA seven times and top 5 in strikeouts six times.
While I wouldn’t call Mussina a shoo-in or a black & white Hall of Famer, I would say that if Tom Glavine is in, and if John Smoltz and Curt Schilling get in, then Mussina would surely have to join them.
Bob Gibson 251
Juan Marichal 243
Whitey Ford 236
Don Drysdale 206