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:
IP: 2,979 1/3
*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.