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The Hall of Fame case for and against Curt Schilling

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

Does Curt Schilling merit a plaque in Cooperstown? (USATSI)
Does Curt Schilling merit a plaque in Cooperstown? (USATSI)

Hall of Fame cases: Luis Gonzalez | Moises Alou | Lee Smith | Fred McGriff | Don Mattingly | Jack Morris | Rafael Palmeiro | Sammy Sosa | Edgar Martinez | Jeff Kent | Alan Trammell | Larry Walker | Mark McGwire | Tom Glavine | Frank Thomas | Mike Piazza

We're mere days away from Jan. 8, when the BBWAA Hall of Fame voting results will reveal who will join managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa in the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class.

In keeping with our previous posts on the 2014 candidates (see the above links), we'll now recap the cases for and against Curt Schilling. As a reminder, we're discussing the Hall of Fame merits and demerits of each player and not advocating one side or the other. After we state the pros and cons, it's up to you (and the voters, of course) to decide whether the player in question is worthy of a plaque.

Now, on to Mr. Schilling ...

The bare essentials

Across parts of 20 major-league seasons, Schilling went 216-146 (.597) with a 3.46 ERA and 127 ERA+ in 3,261 innings. He ended his career with 3,116 strikeouts, and three times he struck out 300 or more batters in a season. Six times Schilling made the All-Star team, and four times he finished in the top five of the Cy Young balloting. As for his postseason bestowals, more on that below.

The case for induction

Schilling is in the top 100 all-time in wins (82nd), WAR (62nd), ERA+ (46th), WHIP (47th), K/9 (22nd), strikeouts (15th), innings (96th) and K/BB ratio (2nd). When you look at the intersection of workload -- nine 200-inning seasons (including four 250-inning seasons) -- and keeping runs off the board -- that top-50 all-time ERA+ -- then Schilling's case is pretty strong as is. But then there's the postseason.

Consider Schilling's playoff dossier: 19 starts, 11-2 record, 133 1/3 innings, 2.23 ERA, 120 strikeouts, 25 walks. Turning to a Bill James called "Game Score," which measures a starting pitcher's level of dominance in a given outing, Schilling is one of just seven pitchers to record a Game Score of 80 or more (which is very, very good) in three or more postseason starts. Along the way, Schilling was named NLCS MVP in 1993 for the Phillies and World Series co-MVP in 2001 for the Diamondbacks. In a related matter, Schilling ended his career with three World Series rings -- one for Arizona and two for the Red Sox.

In terms of dramatic narrative, it's of course hard to top Schilling's "bloody sock" start in the 2004 ALCS ...

Beyond that, Schilling was also a rarity in terms of his stamina, at least in the contemporary era. The innings totals are noted above, and Schilling once led the majors in complete games and three times led his league. Over the first 12 seasons of his career, he completed more than one out of every four starts he made. In the context of his era, when the complete game was in precipitous decline, that's fairly remarkable.

The case against induction

Some voters might see Schilling's 216 wins as being a little lacking, at least as Hall of Fame standards for starting pitchers go. After all, just 16 starting pitchers have made the Hall with fewer than Schilling's 216 victories. In contrast, 44 inducted starting pitchers have more than 216 wins. The flaws of pitcher win-loss records are deep and undeniable, but there's no denying that some voters still weigh it heavily.

On that point, though, it's worth noting that over his career, Schilling didn't enjoy particularly great luck in terms of run and bullpen support. For instance, he logged just 19 "cheap" wins in his career (i.e., wins in which he didn't log a quality start) but was saddled with 41 "tough" losses (i.e., losses in which he did log a quality start).

Otherwise, the case against Schilling in the here and now depends upon where he stands on a ballot positively brimming with worthies. Is he one of the 10 best on the 2014 roll call? That will be the question for many voters.

SATURDAY: The case for and against Craig Biggio

 
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