Mike Mussina Defied His Age, and His Velocity in 2008

C Sven JenkinsContributor IApril 2, 2009

BOSTON - SEPTEMBER 28: Mike Mussina #35 of the New York Yankees throws against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park September 28, 2008 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Mike Mussina, at 39 years of age, became the oldest first-time twenty game winner in MLB history last season.  He posted his lowest ERA since 2001, and the lowest full-season walk total of his career, going 20-9 as the only reliable pitcher in the Yankees’ rotation.


He did all this after an awful 2007 campaign that almost forced him into retirement.  Simply put, Mussina was getting rocked.  With his fastball velocity down below 90mph, and usually around 85mph, he couldn’t miss a bat.  The curveball, Mussina’s best pitch, became worthless if he couldn’t set it up.  Mike looked tired, and his face looked pained.  An old shoulder will do that to you.  Even all the different arm angles he tried didn’t seem to help, there just wasn’t enough zip on his pitches.


Coming into 2008, Mussina was a huge question mark.  He won himself a rotation spot, but started the year a little shaky, getting banged around by the Red Sox twice in April.  However, Mike earned his second win of the year on April 22nd in Chicago and never looked back.  He was using a lower arm angle to produce an excellent 2-seam sinking fastball around 85mph.  The sinker was getting Mussina ahead in counts or inducing quick groundball outs.  Then, after his sinker, the 89mph 4-seamer looked like mid-90s heat.  His curveball seemed to come back to life, biting hard and late to get Ks.  Mike’s multiple arm angles turned his four-pitch repertoire into a six or seven-pitch repertoire, without losing any command.


Here is Mike Mussina’s career scouting report that I previously published at 60ft6in.com:


Mussina ended his career with a fastball that touched 88mph, but got significant movement due to his varied arm angles.  In his early years, he threw mostly 4-seamers, but could consistently hit the low-mid 90s.  His signature pitch was a good knuckle-curveball.  He mixed his arm angles with this pitch too, dropping down to throw it practically sidearm.  Moose didn't stop there though, he'd try anything to get an out.  He had a little slider which he started relying on more on more, especially inside on LHs.  Then he mixed in some straight changes that were really slow.  At different times, Mike tried mixing in split-finger pitches, but that pitch never stuck in his repertoire for very long.  Mussina had great command of all his pitches and that was likely his best asset.  3/11/09 CSJ


*Late career: fastball(82-90), slider(78-85), curve(61-78), change(65-71), splitter

*Early career: fastball(89-95), curve, change, slider


Mussina finished the 2008 season with six shutout innings in Boston, earning his 20th win of the season, and the last of his 18-year career.