Sox-Rays Postmortem III: Curt Schilling HOF Edition

And the goal is attained. According to Josh Beckett, as reported in today’s Herald, Curt Schilling had set a goal at age 30 to win 200 games. That would have been in 1997, when Schilling had 52 career victories, the majority coming from two seasons in the early 1990s.

Now, here he is. There have been more than 16,000 men to ever play the game of baseball professionally. One hundred and four have pitched their way to as many wins as Curt Schilling. It is truly a remarkable accomplishment, particularly in these days of the supercharged offense. Congratulations to Curt, who is a great, great pitcher.

Assuming that Schilling collects the strikeouts necessary to reach 3,000 later this year, is he then a Hall of Fame-worthy player? We all know he’s great. But is he one of the greats?

First, here are Curt’s career numbers:

G: 525
IP: 2,979 1/3
H: 2,675
BB: 669
K: 2,897
W: 200
L: 133
ERA: 3.41*
WHIP: 1.13*
K/9: 8.75*
K/BB: 4.33*
*Not including last night’s game

They’re borderline numbers, as we’ve said. However, every pitcher above Curt Schilling in strikeouts is in the Hall of Fame or headed there when they retire. And remember this: Every pitcher with 3,000 strikeouts is in the Hall of Fame. The only exceptions: Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez (assuming he too collects his 3,000th this year or next). Two hundred wins might not be the new 300 wins, but in this high-offense era, it’s clear that 3,000 strikeouts is still a Hall-of-Fame milestone.

Likewise, with a 15-win season (barring injury, this requires Schilling to win one fewer start over the next four months than he’s won in the past two), Schilling would be tied in career victories with Hall of Famers Hal Newhouser and Bob Lemon, who fall far short in strikeouts. With a 20-win season, Schilling would be ahead of Newhouser, Lemon, Don Drysdale and Jesse Haines, all of whom again are nowhere close to 3,000 Ks. In fact, Newhouser and Drysdale are the only two of those HOFers in the Top 100 all-time in strikeouts.

Remembering that this has all been in the steroid era, Schilling has seven 15-win seasons — three of those 20-win campaigns. He has struck out at least 200 in five years, 300 in three of those. In seasons in which he’s started at least 25 games, Schilling has seven times eclipsed the league-average ERA by at least a third. He’s a seven-time All-Star (likely to be 8 this year), has finished second in Cy Young voting three times and twice finished in the Top 10 of MVP voting.

Excepting the wins/Ks combination, they’re all great-but-borderline numbers. They’re certainly more dominating than those of Mike Mussina, whose name YF threw out there as a comparison. Mussina does have 224 wins, but only 2400 strikeouts. His season-high strikeout total is 218, 100 fewer than Schilling. His WHIP, ERA and adjusted ERA numbers are slightly worse, he’s been selected to fewer All-Star teams, never finished higher than 4th in Cy voting. Most damning: Mussina has no 20-win seasons, although he’s won at least 15 eight times (not his fault, but this is what voters look at). He’s led the league in wins once, but never in strikeouts or ERA. Schilling has led in wins and strikeouts twice each, though his highest ERA finish is second, which he’s done four times. The two do have a number of similarities, but Mussina’s numbers simply aren’t as good. They’re both on the bubble, but Schilling’s stats are quite a bit better.

Baseball-reference uses a Bill James formula to predict Cooperstownability by ascribing points for leading the lead or finishing in the Top 10 in a variety of statistics. In "Black Ink" stats (receiving the bold-faced number meaning you’ve led the league), Schilling receives 40 points, the same as the average Hall-of-Famer gets. Mussina gets only 14. In the "HOF Standards" metric, through which points are ascribed for every season with wins over x, ERA below x, etc., both pitchers receive below what the average Hall-of-Famer receives. And in the final "HOF Monitor" James metric, players receive points for things that voters typically focus on, such as postseason achievement, etc. In that metric, Mussina is truly on the bubble, receiving 102 points (likely Hall of Famer is greater than 100). Schilling blows him away with 151 points.

Curt Schilling’s B-R page
Mike Mussina’s B-R page.

The difference, as SF noted, is the postseason. Here are the pitchers’ stats in October:

Schilling: 8-2, 2.06 ERA, 109 1/3 IP, 22 BB, 104 K, 2 Rings, 1 Bloody Sock
Mussina: 7-7, 3.30 ERA, 128 IP, 29 BB, 137 K, 0 Rings, 0 Bloody Socks

I’m being flippant about the rings and sock, but those type of things get you remembered for being a great pitcher when it comes down to voting time. Schilling has a World Series and a LCS MVP, not to mention the games against NY and St. Louis with the most famous sock in baseball history. Mussina has none of that (though he does have an 0-2 record against the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS).

In the end, I’ll agree that Schilling’s a borderline HOF-er. But with 200 wins, 3,000 strikeouts, 2 postseason MVPs and the Bloody Sock, he’ll be in. And he’ll deserve it.

17 comments… add one
  • Does Schilling get any demerits for being an asshole?

    Joe May 28, 2006, 10:14 am
  • Joe: I think Schilling willl get demerits among some writers for being a hypocrite (see his steroid testimony before Congress) and a jerk, but to me, that’s bs. Looking at this excellent dossier, it’s hard to argue that he does not deserve enshrinement. (And ahead of Moose, who’s also a borderline candidate.) I believe that Jay Jaffe, BP’s HOF expert, thinks both men deserve to have their tickets punched.
    I think the big knock on Schilling is the wins–the fact that he should have more; that he has all but admitted to not being a serious competitor for much of his earlier career, until—and this, of course, is a great story—Clemens pulls him aside and tells him to shape up. So I think that there’s a perception that he could have been better, a perception he might not contest. That he has no Cy isn’t going to help with the voters, either.
    I’d also note that, if you’re going to give him credit for excellence in a hitting era (which he absolutely deserves–his accomplishment is extraordinary), we also have to think that maybe the strikeouts totals are also inflated, as compared to previous, less homer-conscious eras. There are a lot more guys striking out a lot more often these days.
    There’s no denying he’s been a great pitcher, and that he’s been great when it’s counted most, and heroically so. No matter what we think of him as a fellah. Looking over the record, if I had a vote to give, he’d have mine.

    YF May 28, 2006, 11:01 am
  • Thinking about it, to me, an excellent comp for Schilling is Jack Morris—a dominant pitcher for his era and a phenomenal big-game player. He’s not enshrined, and he has a good 50 more wins than Curt. That, I think, is a problem. It’s going to be a problem for Curt, when the voting comes. It should be a problem for the Hall.

    YF May 28, 2006, 11:09 am
  • I don’t know. I guess it’s hard to argue against 200 wins and 3K Ks. But as far as the 20-win seasons go, and Paul you seem to acknowledge this, you can’t really say that it’s a strike against Moose that he doesn’t have any. I’m not sure how to find out the career run-support numbers, but I’d be willing to bet that Moose’s numbers there are way, way lower than Schilling’s. Even during the time that Moose has spent with the Yanks. I mean, taking that into account, it’s sort of amazing that Moose has as many wins as he does. And I still have a hard time giving Schilling huge bonus points for his 01 WS co-MVP b/c a) it was really Unit who shut us down completely in that series, and b) after Sori golfed his splitter deep, we had Schilling’s ass beat in game 7 and were an errant throw from Mo to 2nd and broken-bat bloop from LuGo away from us talking about Mo’s 01 WS MVP, instead. (Not that I’m still bitter or anything.) I’m not gonna even touch that ridiculous sock. Plus, as Joe notes, Schilling is a total jackass, which, y’know, so was Ty Cobb, but also, so was Albert Belle. Can’t help but think that the writers, being human, will think about that a bit when casting votes.
    Having said that, I think he’ll probably get in, and I don’t think Moose will unless he pitches for like five more years, and gets to, say, 280/3000. It’s conceivable. At that point, he’d be a lock as well. I really like Moose, so I hope he does it.

    Spidey May 28, 2006, 11:14 am
  • Plus, also, don’t forget that Schilling has spent the majority of his career in the NL, while Moose has been AL-only. Obviously, a big factor when talking about career (and post-season, for that matter) Ks and ERA.

    Spidey May 28, 2006, 11:22 am
  • There’s a big difference between being a Cobb (spiking opposing players) and Belle (running down kids on Halloween, throwing baseballs at cameramen) and being a Schilling (speaks his mind too much). Let’s make sure our comparisons are true to life here. Schilling will get few demerits from the voters for his outspoken mind because he’s always been friendly to the media, moreso on the Red Sox than Pedro or Manny or Wells.
    Also, YF, I’m not sure what you mean about being hypocritical about the steroids thing. The most obvious way to be hypocritical is to conemn steroid use, which Schilling did, and then take them yourself. I assume that’s not what you’re saying.
    Now, Spidey, the only people who will think about the 01 Series that way will be Yankee fans. When I think about that Series, and when I see highlights of it on TV, what they talk about are the twin shutdowns of the Yankee lineup by Johnson and Schilling. That’s how it will be remembered, like it or not.
    I remember growing up, and Mussina was the one pitcher I hated the Sox to face. I wouldn’t have a problem if he was voted in. But I would have a problem if he was voted in and Schilling wasn’t. I agree, it’s easier to get Ks now (aomething I hadn’t thought of before), and Mussina had it tougher in the AL. Nevertheless, these distinctions aren’t looked at, I don’t think, as closely as the postseason accomplishments and the black ink, regardless of league. Victories are incredibly team-dependent, which is why you can have relatively few (low 200s) and still be in the Hall. Strikeouts, though, you do all on your own, and that’s why Schilling’s going in.
    Later on today, I’ll take a look at Morris, YF, and see how he stacks up because I find this stuff fascinating.

    Paul SF May 28, 2006, 1:27 pm
  • “Every pitcher with 3,000 strikeouts is in the Hall of Fame.”
    Ever heard of Bert Blyleven?

    C. Joseph May 28, 2006, 1:51 pm
  • Blyleven is the most egregious non-electee I can think of, accepting Rose–and then there are extenuating circumstances.
    Paul: Schill’s hypocrisy, as described in Howard Bryant’s brilliant book “Juiced,” was to publicly claim that steroids were a huge problem in the league, and then, when called upon by Congress to testify as such, basically renounce his claims. Bryant’s indictment is pretty solid. But whatever, he still has my vote.
    As for your recollection that the 2001 WS will be primarily remembered for Schilling and Johnson shutting down the Yanks–I really don’t agree. That was an incredible series, and I think what will be remembered, at least in NYC, is the absolutely heroic Yankees bringing a sense of resurgence to this city right after 9/11.

    YF May 28, 2006, 2:24 pm
  • Yeah, goes to show: I figured Blyleven already was in the Hall or had just been elected.
    Yeah, I didn’t like Schilling’s testimony that much either, YF, especially because it’s apparent that it’s a big problem in the game. But he comes off like a saint compared to McGwire — whose testimony we might see the effects of later this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if McGwire’s left off a few ballots this time around.

    Paul SF May 28, 2006, 5:34 pm
  • Looking at Jack Morris, it appears he’s somewhere in between Schilling and Mussina. His postseason accomplishments (3 rings and a Series MVP) are striking, but equally striking are his lack of other key things.
    Only five All-Star Games, for example. He never came close to winning a Cy or capturing an ERA title. He won 20 games three times, but his ERAs consistently were mod-threes. His career ERA+ is only 105 (100 is average), and his career best is just 133. His 254 wins are impressive, but do they outweigh is 186 losses? How about leading the league in earned runs allowed once, wild pitches six times?
    Making the best case for Morris are his career victories and his twelve 15-win seasons. With that, however, are eleven 10-loss seasons. So I’d say Morris is more of a question mark for the Hall than Schilling, and maybe even Mussina.
    Mussina and Schilling both were dominant for the better part of a decade each. Morris’ stats show that he was quite hittable and, with the exception of two or three seasons, far from unbeatable.
    Additionally, Morris’ best season (1986) is beaten by three seasons of Schilling’s (2001, 2002 and 2004) when you look at strikeuts, WHIP and ERA, and it’s about equal to Mussina’s best season (1995).
    He’s also significantly lagging in Black Ink stats, scoring 20 points (average HOF: 40), but he’s ahead of Mussina in HOF Monitor with 122 points, presumably thanks to his terrific postseason stuff.
    Also, I mentioned Schilling has 151 points based on the James HOF Monitor metric. That’s as of the end of 2005. Adding the 200 wins, a 15-win season and 3,000 career strikeouts boosts that total to 173.

    Anonymous May 28, 2006, 8:07 pm
  • Oops, that last post was me.

    Paul SF May 28, 2006, 8:08 pm
  • is there a criterion for HOF selection that deals with character? i ask that seriously.
    even so, i think paul raises a great point re the comparisons with belle, cobb, and schilling. and personally, i don’t believe discussions about whether or not he’s an “asshole” have any place in deciding who’s an HOFer and who’s not.
    i think in general “borderline” hall of famer is accurate. if it were just career W/L, K, etc. numbers he’d be out. but factor in that he may just be the greatest postseason pitcher of all time, and it means a case can at least be made.
    it remains to be seen what he’ll do this season and next season–that could sway things either way, in terms of the numbers.

    beth May 28, 2006, 9:15 pm
  • Paul: I’m a little older, which means that I had the opportunity to see Morris in his prime, and I can tell you that he was most assuredly a dominant pitcher—much like Schilling—the kind of pitcher feared around the league, the last guy you wanted to see your team facing on any given night. We’re also dealing across eras, so a strictly numerical comparison can be a bit deceiving. For instance, both Morris and Schilling have pitched 18 years, but in that time Morris logs an extra 1000 innings. Schilling’s complete game number (82) is awfully impressive for a pitcher of today, but Morris blows him out of the water with 175. So his increased runs and losses are coming with more innings logged, presumably at the end of ballgames. He played all of his time in the DH league, and didn’t have nearly the benefit as Schilling of crappy expansion franchises/talent dilution to help roll up numbers. To me, they’re very similar players; the stats don’t tell the whole story.

    YF May 29, 2006, 10:12 am
  • YF- the hypocrite comment regarding congress presents somewhat of a slipperly slope. he’d be a hypocrite if he said he would turn over names if asked and then didn’t. for him to say that baseball has a steriod problem doesn’t seem to be any more than a meer statement of fact. did anyone really expect him to roll over on players by naming names? congressional hearings represent pomp and circumstance at it’s finest. curt obliged them by towing the players union line. which makes it no different than any other hearings sponsered by fact finding committies.
    the guy can be disliked for a lot of other things. this isn’t one i’d put much weight in.

    sf rod May 29, 2006, 6:45 pm
  • Taking the 20-win thing as a side note, Mussina’s lack thereof is probably more bad luck than lesser pitching ability:
    -1994 – Wins 16 of his first 24 starts, second only to Jimmy Key (17 in 25), players strike.
    -1995 – Wins 19 in the 144-game season.
    -1996 – Standing at 19 wins, goes 8IP/1ER and leaves his last start with a 2-1 lead… …which Armando Benitez promptly blows.
    Yikes. Now that’s unlucky.
    (And if you want to go deeper, how about 2001? He went 17-11 with the 2nd-best ERA in the league, and the 31st-worst run support. His buddy Roger C. got 2 more runs a game and went 20-3 with a worst ERA…)

    Jojo May 30, 2006, 4:18 pm
  • Jojo, good call. Mussina’s seemed to had some bad luck, especially when coming upon certain mile-stones. It still pains me to think about Carl Everett’s hit with 2 outs. It wasn’t bad luck, I suppose, but it felt like an especially cruel twist of fate.

    Nick-YF May 30, 2006, 4:26 pm
  • Hey, I’m with ya on wins and losses. The Sox focused on those pretty heavily when they determined Roger was “in the twilight of his career” despite league-leading ERAs and high K/9 numbers. I’ll never forgive Dan Duquetter for that. Ever. I — and I’m sure every other Sox fan — realized that Roger was victimized by bad defense and poor run support.
    (More present-day example: Tim Wakefield has the same number of wins — and a worse record — than Matt Clement. Why? Wake is last among the 48 qualifying AL pitchers in run support. Clement is in the Top 15.).
    I threw the 20-win thing out as a side note. I know and you know that wins are only a function of the pitcher’s excellence in that if you suck, you’re not going to win as many as if you’re very good. Apart from that, they’re more often a result of luck (or lack of it). But when HOF voters look at 20-win seasons, for Mussina, they’ll see zero. I don’t know how much that’ll affect them, but it’s a plausible concern/factor.

    Paul SF May 30, 2006, 5:05 pm

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