Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bad Moose Rising

On August 27, 2007, Mike Mussina was the Yankees' pitcher of record in a 16-0 loss to the Tigers. It was his third straight outing with at least 6 ER and brought his season statistical line to 8-10, 5.53 ERA. After the game. it was announced that Mussina was going to be removed from the starting rotation, in the heat of a pennant race, in favor of Ian Kennedy, who was the proud owner of 149.1 professional innings pitched (all minor league). Somewhat embarrassing for the owner of 247 (at the time) major league wins.

Fast forward to June 4, 2008. In tonight's 5-1 win over Toronto, Moose went 6.0 IP, allowing only 1 run and staying in total command of Blue Jay hitters. Since re-entering the rotation in mid-September last year, Mussina has won 12 out of 17 starts, and he is currently your 2008 American League wins leader with 9.

What changed? Well, besides being more reliant on his softer offerings, which make his 88 mph fastball significantly more effective, and limiting his outings (Mussina is basically a 100 pitch/6 inning guy, whichever comes first), I believe that this is a classic case of psychology in sport. Mussina had lost confidence in his stuff. Now, after making some adjustments, he's back believing in himself again.

So much so that he may give back the title of "Winningest Pitcher Never to Have a 20-Win Season" back to Frank Tanana....

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