Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Curt Schilling announced his retirement the other day. As if we didn't know that was going to happen. The only thing that surprised me was that it needed announcing.

Curt has 20 MLB seasons under his belt, 3 World Series rings, an immaculate postseason record, 216 wins, 3,116 strikeouts, and a 3.46 ERA in a hitter's era. So does he get a plaque in Cooperstown?

Here are the arguments for and against induction, followed by my conclusion.

The Argument for Induction:
Curt is one of, if not the best postseason pitchers ever. In 19 stars, he's 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA. In 133.1 IP, he's struck out 120, walked 25, and has a WHIP of 0.968. He was the 1993 NLCS MVP, the 2001 World Series co-MVP, and we all remember The Bloody Sock (the namesake of this blog). In World Series play, he's 4-1, with a 2.06 ERA.

He was a 6 time All-Star, and started the game twice. His 3.46 career ERA came in a highly offensive and steroid influenced era. The League ERA during his career was nearly a run higher (4.41).

He's 15th all-time in strikeouts, and 13th all-time in K/9IP. He's got 83 complete games and 20 shutouts. He has the 2nd best strikeout to walk ratio of all-time at 4.38.

He had three 20+ win seasons (2001, 2002, 2004). He had eight seasons of 15+ wins. He finished 2nd in Cy Young voting 3 times.

He changed the history of franchises. When he came to Arizona, they won their first World Series in his first full season. When he came to Boston, the Red Sox won their first title in nearly 9 decades, largely thanks to his 21-6 record in the regular season, and his 3-1 record in October.

The Argument Against Induction:
Curt's a phenominal postseason performer, but do 19 games make a Hall of Famer? Two full seasons of dominance weren't good enough to get Roger Maris into Cooperstown. Bret Saberhagen also had two utterly dominant seasons, and he's not in. There's no denying Schilling's place among the best postseason players in the game, but is 19 games worth a ticket to the Hall?

To me, there are two kinds of Hall of Famers. Compilers, and dominators. Compilers are consistent over long stretches of time. Every year, they get their 17 wins, or 25 homeruns; and over time, they have impressive numbers. The dominators have stretches of a few seasons in which they obliterate their competition. Think Sandy Koufax's 6 year stretch of unbelievable dominance. And of course, the all-time greats, the Babe Ruths, the Walter Johnsons - they're both compilers and dominators.

But Schilling is neither. His career totals are not overwhelmingly impressive. 216 wins is  very good, but not great. He's 80th in wins, tied with Charlie Hough, and 3 behind Kenny Rogers. Tommy Bond has more wins. David Wells has more wins. Frank Tanana and Jamie Moyer have more wins.

He is 15th in strikeouts all-time, but this is the Age of the K. 3,116 strikeouts are impressive, but when hitters get struck out 100 times a season without batting an eye, is it really that impressive? I'm not saying it's easy, but 3,000 Ks don't mean what they used to. There are 16 members of the 3,000 strikeout club. Before 1998, there were 10. So in 11 years, the club has grown by 60%.

One stat Schilling has compiled is home runs allowed. He's given up 347. That's 26th all-time.

Schilling wasn't a dominator, either. No Cy Young Awards reside in his trophy case. He never led his League in ERA, only led in WHIP twice, only led in strikeouts twice, only led in wins twice.

He finished 2nd in Cy Young voting three times. Two of those times, the winner received all the 1st place votes. In 2001, Schilling received two 1st place votes, compared to Randy Johnson's 30.

His early career is full of inconsistency. He was a journeyman, traded from Boston to Baltimore to Houston to Philadelphia. He was great in '92 and '93, then returned to his inconsistent ways before emerging as a #2 type pitcher in his last years with the Phillies.

Of his 20 seasons, only 10 didn't suck.

Schilling is a great pitcher, and his place in Phillie, Diamondback and Red Sox history/lore is secure. If there were a Hall of Fame just for postseason play, he'd be a first-ballotter. But he does not belong in the real Hall of Fame. He lacks big career numbers, and he lacks individual years of dominance. He was never the best pitcher in his League. And when he was 2nd best, it was a distant 2nd. He has three World Series rings, but always on teams with complimentary elite pitchers like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Josh Beckett.

Jack Morris has 254 wins and is not a Hall of Famer. Bert Blyleven, well everyone knows that story. Schilling will probably get in because of his postseason play, his high profile, and his World Series rings. And I won't protest or be outraged. I'll just quietly disagree, and engage in the argument when it is presented.

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