Well, not enough of the season has transpired for me to comment extensively on it. So I thought it might be fun to look at a player’s potential Hall of Fame resume. We’re blessed with seeing some hurlers who will go down in history as among baseball’s all-time greats: Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux. Among these four superstars are 19 Cy Young Awards. There is one hurler who has flown just under the radar of our fab four that has quietly put together a potential Hall of Fame career. What’s fascinating about this is that at age 30, this pitcher didn’t look even remotely as a Cooperstown candidate–after all, he was just a .500 hurler (52-52) and was coming off a 9-10, 3.19 ERA season.
Hardly jumps out at you, does it? His resume just screamed “journeyman.”
Since he turned 30 is another story. All he’s done is go 132-71, 3.24 ERA (lg. ERA: 4.37), struck out 1945 hitters (while walking just 347!), pitched two teams — one in each league — to a World Series Championship (and won a World Series co-MVP), enjoyed three 20-win seasons, was a Cy Young Award runner-up three times in four years, was a back-to-back The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year winner in 2001-02, and will be forever remembered as the man who helped end the Boston Red Sox World Series drought while basically pitching on one leg.
Of course we’re discussing Curt Schilling.
In his book The Politics of Glory, Bill James introduced another way of looking at a player’s Hall of Fame case: “The Ken Keltner List.” It’s a series of subjective questions about a player’s accomplishments and recognition during his career. The questions are as follows, with answers as they pertain to Schilling:
- Was he ever regarded as the best pitcher in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best pitcher in baseball?
- Was he the best pitcher on his team?
- Was he the best pitcher in his league?
- Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
- Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?
- If he retired today, would he be the best pitcher in baseball not in the Hall of Fame?
- Are most of the players who have comparable triple-crown stats in the Hall of Fame?
- Are the player’s totals of career approximate value and offensive wins and losses similar to those of other Hall of
- Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his
- How many Cy Young-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win a Cy Young Award? If not, how many times was he close?
- How many All-Star type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most other players at his position who made he Hall of Fame play in a comparable amount of games or have a comparable amount of All-Star seasons?
- If this man was the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
No, although it should be noted that his contemporaries will go down in history as among the best ever (Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux). It should be noted however that he was The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year in 2001 and 2002.
Yes. The 1993 Philadelphia Phillies and possibly the 2004 Red Sox being the most notable.
No, but from 2001-2004 he was runner-up for the Cy Young Award three times.
Yes: 1993, 2001, 2002 and 2004.
He’s 132-71, 3.24 ERA (lg. ERA: 4.37) with almost 2000 (1945) K since the year he turned 30 — so yes.
No. I’d give that nod to Bert Blyleven. He’d be neck and neck for second with Tommy Bridges.
No, but he has a few years to get there.
Sandy Koufax and Dizzy Dean — so yes
He’d probably have more wins had he played on some better teams. In 1992 he pitched 226.1 IP with an ERA+ of 150 and was 14-11. In 1996, Schilling threw 183.1 IP with an ERA+ of 138 and was 9-10. In 1998 he tossed 268.2 IP with an ERA+ of 134 and finished 15-14. In 2000, Schilling pitched 210.1 IP with an ERA+ of 124 and ended up 11-12, and in 2003 he threw 168 IP and posted an ERA+ of 159 and finished the year 8-9. That’s five seasons with ERA+’s of 150, 138, 134, 124, and 159 and a won-loss record of just 57-56.
Four top five finishes, three of which was a runner-up (2001, 2002 and 2004).
He’s been named to six All-Star teams, a good total for a pitcher.
Schilling does well on various HOF tests (thanks to the good folks at Baseball Reference):
Black Ink: Pitching – 40 (Average HOFer ~ 40)
Grey Ink: Pitching – 192 (Average HOFer ~ 185)
HOF Standards: Pitching – 42.0 (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Pitching – 151.0 (Likely HOFer > 100)
Interestingly, despite doing well on these tests, he totally tanks when you compare his career to his top 10 most similar pitchers….
1. Jimmy Key (914) 2. David Cone (912) 3. John Candelaria (910) 4. Dave McNally (904) 5. Bret Saberhagen (903) 6. Mike Cuellar (902) 7. Mike Mussina (902) 8. Dazzy Vance (899) * 9. Art Nehf (898) 10. Dwight Gooden (897)
Only one Hall-of-Famer in the bunch — Dazzy Vance. Of course, the comparison in stats doesn’t adjust for parks or era, so we’ll toss Schilling in with the nine non-HOFers and see how he stacks up using two measurements that do–adj ERA+ and RSAA.
Player adj ERA+ RSAA 1. Curt Schilling 131 327 2. Jimmy Key 122 210 3. David Cone 120 228 4. John Candelaria 114 134 5. Dave McNally 106 63 6. Bret Saberhagen 126 241 7. Mike Cuellar 109 92 8. Mike Mussina 127 291 9. Art Nehf 105 42 10. Dwight Gooden 110 105
We see that Schilling is clearly the best of the lot. The closest is probably Mussina who is building a Hall of Fame resume of his own. Schilling has several clear advantages over Mussina above and beyond his numbers. Schilling has had three 20-win seasons, Mussina has yet to win 20. Schilling has the high profile October heroics including the distinction of ending the Red Sox eight plus decades of futility.
Other factors in Schilling’s favor include the second best K/BB ratio in baseball history (qualifier: minimum 2000 innings pitched) just behind Pedro Martinez (4.31 to 4.30) and is sixth all-time for K/9 IP (qualifier: minimum 2000 innings pitched). Another entry on his docket is a trio of 300 K seasons. The only other 20-21st century pitchers to accomplish this are Randy Johnson (six), Nolan Ryan (six), and Sandy Koufax (three).
One thing that jumped out at me while going over this was when I checked RSAA among pitchers since expansion is that seven of the top ten in this category are still active; Mike Mussina checked in at eleventh. It should give you some idea of what we’ve been privileged to witness since the 1980’s.
The top 10:
1. Roger Clemens 645 2. Greg Maddux 553 3. Randy Johnson 511 4. Pedro Martinez 477 5. Tom Seaver 361 6. Bert Blyleven 344 7. Curt Schilling 327 8. Kevin Brown 321 9. Jim Palmer 316 10. Tom Glavine 294
Personally, I feel Schilling is already there and would feel comfortable with him in the Hall of Fame. The only number where he might be lacking in the minds of voters is career wins. Schilling is at 184. He’ll be 38 this year so unless he’s victimized by a career ending injury, Schilling should reach 200 (not to mention 3000 K). The Red Sox ace also has the Hall-of-Fame “intangibles” (read: fame) due to his performance in the 2004 ALCS and World Series.
I wonder which cap he’d have on his plaque?