The case against Mike Mussina's Hall of Fame candidacy has primarily boiled down to an irrational fascination with round numbers in base 10 mathematics. Until Sunday, Mussina had never won 20 games. That wins are dopey statistic to use to judge a pitcher is an argument for another day. Since his lack of 20 win seasons is (or was) the knock on Mike Mussina, I'll pretend for a moment that wins are the be-all and end-all of a pitcher's value. I will also, for the sake of this argument, subscribe to the ridiculous notion that all benchmark numbers must begin with a non-zero digit, followed by a succession of zeros. I'll make believe that 20 win seasons, 300 career wins, 100 RBI seasons, 500 career home runs, 200 hit seasons, and 3,000 career hits are the only stats with which the Hall of Fame voter should concern himself.
I make all of these concessions to convential wisdom and all I ask in return is that you analyze Mussina's counting stats in base 9. Humanity's use of base 10 mathematics (ten digits in our numeral system) is probably a function of the fact that most people have ten fingers. Therefore it was the most convenient method of counting for our ancestors. Had Antonio Alfonseca been the first man to gain knowledge of mathematics, we would use base 12. Were it Mordecai Brown who made the discovery, 8 would be our base of choice. Incredibly, the fact that we have ten fingers threatens to keep a Moose head from enshrinement in Cooperstown.
It so happens that 20 in base 9 is equal to 18 in base 10. Let us look then at how many 20 win seasons Mussina has had in base 9.
- 1992- Base 9 wins: 20 (Base 10 wins: 18)
- 1995- Base 9 wins: 21 (Base 10 wins: 19)
- 1996- Base 9 wins: 21 (Base 10 wins: 19)
- 1999- Base 9 wins: 20 (Base 10 wins: 18)
- 2002-Base 9 wins: 20 (Base 10 wins: 18)
- 2008-Base 9 wins: 22 (Base 10 wins: 20)
By way of comparison, here is a non-comprehensive* list of Hall of Fame pitchers with fewer 20 win seasons in base 9 than Mike Mussina.
- Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, Lefty Gomez, and Jim Bunning all have five 20 win seasons in base 9.
- Don Drysdale, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, and Phil Niekro are four time 20 game winners in base 9.
Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, and Nolan Ryan. A Hall of Fame without any of these men is a complete farce. One without Mussina would be one as well.
(*Laziness prevents me from researching Hall of Famers inducted prior to 1972. And poor observational skills might have caused me to overlook some players elected after that date.)