Most baseball people (fans, analysts, executives etc.) would probably tell you that Mussina is not a Hall of Famer without giving it much thought. Mario Impemba and Rod Allen advocate the “look test” to judge whether a player should be in the HOF or not. The “look test”, of course, refers to looking at a player’s name and coming up with an answer in three seconds. Thankfully, the “look test” isn’t mandatory for election. Unfortunately, too many people use the “look test” as legitimate research. Impemba and Allen have used it numerous times to give the “thumbs down” to Jim Thome. If Thome isn’t a Hall of Famer then they’ll have to start rescinding membership starting with Harmon Killebrew. If the “look test” keeps a player like Thome out of the HOF, then it’s not worth Nate Robertson’s ERA (6.06). I suspect Mussina will fall victim to the “look test”. I’m not saying he deserves to be elected. I’m just saying he probably won’t get a fair look unless he reaches 300 wins.
Mussina has had a long and successful career that should continue for a number of years now that he has evolved into a finesse/command pitcher. He has been maligned for a). not having a 20-win season and b). not winning a Cy Young. Certainly, it helps your case to accomplish those feats. However, no pitcher has ever finished in the top six of the Cy Young voting as many times as Mussina (8) and not made the HOF. There are a number of Hall of Famers who a). never won a Cy Young and b). didn’t come close to finishing in the top six of the Cy Young voting eight times. Plus, a strong argument could be made that Mussina should have won the Cy Young in 2001 when he had better numbers across the board than his teammate, Roger Clemens. So, it would be nice if the notion that not winning 20-games and not winning a Cy Young precludes a pitcher from reaching the HOF. Look no further than Juan Marichal.
Mussina is definitely not a “slam dunk” HOFer. In fact, it takes a bit of research—research that Mussina deserves—to come to the conclusion that he probably should be a HOFer. This discussion may become moot as Mussina inches closer to the 300-win plateau. However, if Mussina pitches three more seasons (almost a formality barring injury) he’ll reach 4,000 innings pitched. At that point—even without 300 wins—Mussina will have reached a mark that should guarantee his inclusion into the “Hall”. No pitcher in MLB history has pitched at least 4,000 innings with an ERA+ of 120 or better and not been elected into the Hall of Fame. Mussina is at 122. Similarly, no pitcher in MLB history has pitched at least 4,000 innings with a winning percentage of at least .630 and not been elected in the Hall of Fame. Mussina is at .635.
The only way I see Mussina not deserving is if he pitches horribly over the next two seasons, doesn’t reach 300 wins, and falls below a 120 ERA+ and a .630 winning percentage. He would then lose all the precedent that is currently on his side and his case would go the way of Tommy John’s. Ironically, even if that does happen, his numbers will be as impressive as Bert Blyleven who currently holds the title as “best pitcher not in the Hall of Fame.” If Mussina falls off, I don’t expect him to get the same grassroots support as Blyleven but I could be wrong. Although, anyone who thinks Blyleven should be in the “Hall” probably should think the same thing about Mussina.
As for the odds of Mussina reaching 300 wins, they are really good. He should be close to 270 wins by the end of this season. If he continues to pitch for the Yankees or another "good" team, then that would put him 2+ years away from the milestone. So, it might be a good idea for baseball fans to start preparing for Mussina, the Hall of Famer.