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Early numbers put Mussina among best ever


It doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine that Mike PTC Mussina wasted no time going to the head of the pitching class.

What may not be understood is the quality of the company he's keeping. Three years doesn't make a career, but it's long enough to provide a good indication.

Mussina has moved past Toronto right-hander Juan Guzman to claim the best winning percentage among active pitchers. His 49-20 record works to a .710 percentage (Guzman is 47-20, .701).

However, what Mussina's numbers don't easily relate is his standing on the all-time list. It is impressive enough to start mentioning the 25-year-old right-hander in the same sentence with the Hall of Famer against whom Orioles pitchers are compared.

Jim Palmer finished his career with a 268-152 record, a .638 winning percentage that is eighth best on baseball's all-time list of those who have won 200 or more games. Mussina is not only well ahead of that pace -- he's ahead of just about everybody who threw a pitch in the big leagues.

Whitey Ford's winning percentage of .690 (236-106) is the best of any pitcher with at least 200 wins. It is also the second best of those with 50 wins, behind Spud Chandler (109-43, .717).

With his next victory, Mussina will own the second-best winning percentage of all-time among those with 50 or more victories. And if he wins his next two decisions he will be alone at the top.

That is very impressive for someone whose career, basically, is in its infancy. Mussina hasn't even been around long enough to qualify for arbitration (though he will be next year).

With a 13-4 record, Mussina has at least a reasonable chance at the Orioles' club record of 25 wins in a season, established by Steve Stone in 1980.

Before his career is over, assuming he spends all of it with the Orioles, Mussina could rewrite Palmer's club record book. But even if his career includes other stops, Mussina is on a pace to go where no other pitcher has gone.

It may be unrealistic to expect anyone to maintain a winning percentage in excess of .700. Nobody has done that in the history of the game.

But that's where Mussina's numbers are now. At a young age he has established a reputation for consistency that is virtually unmatched.

If the season proceeds without interruption, it will be interesting to see how Mussina's numbers mount. The Orioles' chances of winning a division title probably will be proportionate.

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