Debate Schilling's HOF chances with Jayson Stark
THE CASE AGAINST
If you base your Hall decisions just on the old wins column, you won't vote for this man. That seems obvious. His 216 wins are 72 fewer than Tommy John, 71 fewer than Bert Blyleven and 38 fewer than Jack Morris. And none of those guys had a plaque last time I checked. For that matter, if Schilling has thrown his last pitch, he'll also wind up with fewer wins than Joe Niekro (221) or Dennis Martinez (245). And neither of those guys even made it to a second year on the ballot. So clearly, that's what Nelson is referring to when he says "The numbers just are not there."
THE CASE FOR
Ah, but it depends which numbers you're looking at. And I looked at bunch of other numbers--numbers that rank all righthanded starters from 1992, the year Schilling first moved into the starting rotation in Philadelphia, through 2007, the year he apparently threw his final pitch in Boston. Here's what I found: Schilling not only led all of them in complete games (with 83), but only one other righthander in the whole sport (Greg Maddux) was closer than 25 CGs away. Just Pedro Martinez had a better strikeout ratio than Schilling (8.59 K/9). Only Pedro and Roger Clemens had more strikeouts than Schilling (3,116) , period. Just Pedro and Maddux had a better WHIP than Schilling (1.137). And nobody had a better strikeout-walk ratio. In fact, Schilling's K/BB ratio (4.38 whiffs for every walk) ranks No. 1 among ALL PITCHERS IN THE MODERN ERA. So how compelling are those numbers? And I haven't even mentioned October yet--the month in which he did his finest work of all.
I'll be honest about this, because I know people will issue of it: I like Curt Schilling. I've known him a long time. And I covered him when he was at his best. But that's not why I'd vote for him. I'd vote for him because I don't know how anyone could argue he was NOT one of the most dominating pitchers of his time, or that he was not one of the great money pitchers of ALL time. But I certainly don't expect him to sail on into the Hall of Fame without sweating it out for years. And I know not everyone will agree with me that he deserves to get in at all. But that's what we're here for. So let the debate begin.
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Jayson Stark (1:02 PM)
OK, gang. Let's get this chat rolling. It's amazing how many questions we already have posted on this topic, and we haven't even started yet. Ready? Fasten those seat belts. Here we go.
David (Chicago, IL)
Do voters look too much at drama and post season stats? The Hall is for the entire career and the complete player. It is not the post season or dramatic game Hall of fame is it?
Jayson Stark (1:04 PM)
I knew I'd hear this line of thinking. If we were talking about one or two games, with blood on his sock and a big win in the box score, I could understand why people could accuse us of over-dramatizing Schilling's October theatrics. But this man started 19 postseason games, pitched 133 1/3 postseason innings. That's an extraordinarily large body of work to look at, against the best teams and best hitters in the game. And who was more dominant than he was? I'll give you numbers later, but they back up this case. Trust me.
I agree the "wins" arguement isn't always the best to focus on (afterall, Jamie Moyer has ~20 more wins than Schill). But at the same time, if he gets in, most fans will think first of the bloody sock, much before they will think of his lifetime achievements.
Jayson Stark (1:07 PM)
I've been a Hall of Fame voter long enough to know that October freeze-frames become part of the equation. But again, we're not just talking about one moment or two. This guy went 11-2, with a 2.33 ERA, in 19 postseason starts. And if you toss out the ALCS game against the Yankees in 2004, where a normal human being probably would have been in surgery, he'd be 11-1, 1.86. Even with that start, the only starting pitcher in history with a better career postseason ERA (100 IP+) is Christy Mathewson! And nobody beats the winning percentage. So the blood on the sock is just part of the fabric of the October discussion, not the entire conversation.
James (Portland, OR)
Who was more dominant than Schilling in the playoffs? How about Smoltz, significantly. And pundits still debate whether or not he will go the hall. If Smoltz is a maybe, then Schilling is a no.
Jayson Stark (1:08 PM)
Who's debating Smoltz? The sense I get is that he's going to make it easily. And he should. And I agree. He and Schilling are the two most dominating postseason pitchers I've ever seen.
Scott (Altoona, PA)
The is for those who played at a high level all their career just not in the post season. I'm a Curt fan but I don't think anyone should get in because of their post-season record.
Jayson Stark (1:10 PM)
I don't understand why people think he didn't "play at a high level" in his regular-season career. Check out all those numbers I laid out at the top, and explain to me how he didn't pitch at a high level in EVERY healthy season of his career.
"I don't know how anyone could argue he was NOT one of the most dominating pitchers of his time, or that he was not one of the great money pitchers of ALL time." Somewhere, Jack Morris' head just exploded. If Curt had never thrown another pitch after October 2004, I wouldn't love him any less than I do, but until Morris goes in, Curt shouldn't.
Jayson Stark (1:11 PM)
I vote for Jack Morris, too. But I don't see where one has anything to do with the other. I vote on every candidate on his own merits, and other people should, too.
Kman Washington DC
That Schilling never won a Cy Young hurts his chances greatly. He wasn't even close, as even in 2001 when he was second to Randy Johnson he only had 2 first place votes compared to 30 for Johnson. 2nd in 2002 but again way behind Johnson, and second to Santana in 2004, but again with no first place votes. He was 4th in 97. No other year was he in the top 5. Given the voting I think we can say he had a couple very good years, and was clearly an above average ML pitcher, but not HOF
Jayson Stark (1:13 PM)
I completely disagree on this count, too. Don't look at the voting. Look at the three seasons when he finished second. It took historic seasons by Johnson and Santana to beat him out in all three seasons. If you take those three seasons and place them in any normal year, he'd have three Cy Youngs, and then we wouldn't even be having this discussion.
jeff (allentown, pa)
i know you cant separate regular season from post season, but if you did just look at his regular season stats, would he be a hall of famer? and likewise for the post-season? to be honest, i think the question almost doesn't matter, becasue quite frankly the only thing that really matters is the post-season. the regular season stats are for the people who dont get the chance to pitch in the post-season. Based on his post-season, Schilling should definitely get in the Hall of Fame.
Jayson Stark (1:17 PM)
I think you're trying to agree with me, Jeff. But the postseason can't be the "only thing" that matters when we start talking Hall of Fame. The postseason is the frame around the regular-season picture. And my point is that his regular-season performance was good enough that it allows the postseason brilliance to put him over the top.
Alex (Walnut Creek, CA)
I disagree with you Stark. You always taken numbers and want to take them out of their year. You say take Curt's bad postseason outing in 04 and then take his stellar years in put them in good years. He is what he is and we should look at him like that. A HOF quality postseason pitcher a good number 2 regular season pitcher. I don't think 2's belong in the Hall.
Jayson Stark (1:18 PM)
A No. 2? On what teams? The teams with Randy Johnson on them? And what others? And even on those teams he was a 1-A. Ask anybody in baseball, and they'll tell you that, when healthy, Curt Schilling was a true No. 1 for a decade and a half.
Don't we have to start ignoring wins for pitchers of this era? You're not going to see pitchers with 250+ wins anymore. Pedro won't even sniff that number, and he has to be first ballot.
Jayson Stark (1:20 PM)
Right you are, Jay. Pedro has fewer wins than Schilling, by the way, and almost nobody questions whether he's a Hall of Famer. We should not be comparing players today to players in the '60s or even the '80s. We should compare them with players in THEIR time. And again, I invite you to go back to the top and look at how Schilling compares to the other righthanded starters of his era. We live in an age where we should be looking at performance indicators more sophisticated than wins, don't you think?
I'm a numbers guy myself but this is one of those hall candidates that goes beyond just the numbers (and yes im talking about wins). He was dominant in the NL and AL. He was dominant with poor offensive teams and power packed ones. When was he in the post season when he wasn't dominant. I am one of the few that will always remember him for teaming up with randy for the surprise in Arizona and taking the championship from the evil empire. And yes the hall should represent a careers worth of work, in his career he proved he was a champion again and again and again. Thats why they should play the game to win it all, and Schill did it better than anyone.
Jayson Stark (1:21 PM)
Very well said, Will. My friend, Jim Salisbury, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote about this Sunday. And he put it as well as it can be put. Regardless of the numbers, when you watched Curt Schilling pitch, he had a quality that superceded all numbers: Greatness.
I agree that Curt is a great pitcher but don't you also have to take into account all his off the diamond comments and think that it diminishes him a bit. Also, I think if you are talking about hte best post season pitchers ever, Mariano has to be in that group and he should be a first time ballot HOF.
Jayson Stark (1:24 PM)
What do his off-the-diamond comments have to do with anything? We want athletes who are honest, and tell us what's on their minds, right? Well, Curt Schilling sure did a lot of that. Just because many people didn't agree with his comments doesn't mean his performance is diminished one iota. Which comments would keep him out of the Hall? I can't think of one.
Aaron (Boca Raton, FL)
He was the best pitcher on 3 World Series teams (Phillies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox). How many pitchers can make that claim? And yes, the bloody sock is HUGE! Not only b/c of how he performed, but b/c of how he sacrificed the rest of his career in doing so.
Jayson Stark (1:28 PM)
Well, if he wasn't the best pitcher on the 2001 Diamondbacks, he was at least a co-ace. So I agree. I also can't believe how people diminish what this guy did in the 2004 postseason just because they think he over-dramatized the bloody-sock schtick. He made two starts after those procedures on his ankle, faced 49 hitters and only allowed nine to reach base. It's one of the great October performances of all time, especially given the circumstances. And you're exactly right. He sacrificed the ability to be the same kind of pitcher for the rest of his career because of what he did. Amazing performance.
Chris (Richmond, VA)
Assuming he gets in, whose cap should he wear on his bust?
Jayson Stark (1:29 PM)
Tough call, but I would go Red Sox. I think he'll be most associated with the Red Sox because of 2004, and because of his contributions to winning two World Series they never would have won without him.
As you mentioned, you are in the Schilling camp in part because you like him. Obviously, despite what some may say, personality has an impact here. I wonder how many voters share your view of Schilling the man? I have to say, as a baseball fan I have found him to be the most self-aggrandizing attention hog of my lifetime. I know I'm not alone as a fan on this, but we don't have a vote. How does the media see him, and will it affect the vote?
Jayson Stark (1:33 PM)
Eddie Murray didn't talk to anybody, and he got into the Hall of Fame. Steve Carlton didn't say a word to the press, and he got into the Hall of Fame. The writers have demonstrated time and again they'll evaluate players based on what they do on the field, not what they say off the field. But when it's a close call, and Schilling will be a close call, human nature creeps into it. So it wouldn't surprise me if his continuing assaults on the New York press hurts him among some of the voters in that group. But in general, I think the record shows that most voters put all that aside when they vote.
Two WS titles with Boston? I'm sorry, did he even PITCH last year?
Jayson Stark (1:34 PM)
Hey John, what World Series were you watching? He went 3-0 last October.
I am a Schilling fan myself, here, but I do have to disagree about the 2004 bloody sock soap opera. I was a Schill fan since he was with Baltimore... but you know what? I did lose some respect with that sock deal. He made sure that sock was bloody as can be... knowing full well that every TV camera would show it five times an inning... creating this "warrior" legacy that we are now debating about.
Jayson Stark (1:36 PM)
There are a bunch of comments to this effect, and I'd like to know where they come from? What evidence is there that he "made sure that sock was bloody as can be?" His sock was bloody for one reason: He was bleeding. He should never have been pitching. Not in either of those games. He required surgery that put him in a wheelchair for weeks. Look, I think we all know what grade Curt Schilling got in drama class in school. But where the heck is the evidence that he faked the bloddy-sock incident in any way?
You say that off-the field doesn't have to do with whether or not you should be in the HOF. If that's the case why isn't Pete Rose in the hall?
Jayson Stark (1:39 PM)
First off, Pete Rose isn't in the Hall because he was never allowed to be placed on the ballot. Second, that's not what I said. I said that off-the-field comments should have nothing to do with this. Pete is a whole different category of off-the-field.
to be fair, he's on record as saying he didn't experience any pain during those starts in 2004 after the procedure. It sure looked impressive, but once he was on the mound, it was just another day at the office.
Jayson Stark (1:41 PM)
It was another day at the office? His ankle was swollen to twice its normal size. So whether he felt pain or not, there is no way a guy in that condition should have been able to have any kind of normal mechanics or delivery. Do a Google search and look for the photos of that ankle right before the surgery, and tell me it was just another day at the office.
Bob (Raleigh, NC)
good pitcher yes, great pitcher no, in the postseason yes but over a full career that is not even a full season so i devalue that a bit. no cy youngs, and don't give me that 'well is so and so didn't have historic saeson' stuff either, you don't any other pitcher can make that claim, how about those 4 years of Maddux in the mid 90's, you don't think some pitchers could claim 2 more cy's if he hadn't been there ? so no, those arguments don't wash. i just don't think the numbers bear out overall, sorry, a very good pitcher but not HOF worthy in my eyes.
Jayson Stark (1:46 PM)
OK, here are those three seasons just so everyone can judge for themselves. 2001 - 22-6, 2.98, 293 strikeouts. 2002 - 23-7, 3.23, 316 strikeouts. 2004 - 21-6, 3.26. 203 strikeouts in 226 2/3 IP, while pitching in the AL East. How many pitchers of his time have had three seasons that dominating without winning a Cy Young in any of them? That answer is zero, Bob.
Rob (NYC, NY)
How can wins still be considered a primary factor for voters when determing if someone is worthy enough for placement into the hall of fame? In the modern era frequency of starts is far fewer, and one must also consider the run support that a pitcher recieves. Last time I checked Schilling wasnt gifted with the support of a steady offense until he landed in Boston and that wasnt until late in his career.
Jayson Stark (1:48 PM)
I don't think there is any such thing as a magic Hall of Fame number anymore. Again, we live in an age where we should be looking at more revealing numbers and indicators than wins. And some of the people who do that best -- Rob Neyer and Joe Sheehan, of Baseball Prospectus -- think Curt Schilling is a Hall of Famer.
Schilling and Smoltz best postseason pitcher???? Are you forgeting Mariano Rivera the greatest post season pitcher in history, hands down, without a debate.
Jayson Stark (1:50 PM)
If anybody interpreted that as a slight against Mariano, my apologies. Obviously, I was talking about starting pitchers.
Andrei (Hoboken, NJ)
Jayson, you're not doing a very good job of being objective here.
Jayson Stark (1:51 PM)
It's called "arguing my case," Andrei. That's what we do in these debates, I thought.
Lyndon (New York)
If you're going to argue that we should throw out Schilling's ALCS game one start against the Yankees because "any normal person would have been in surgery", then why are you including his starts after surgery? What makes his ankle any better than it really was the week before? In fact, we saw that his sock was bloody as an apparent result of the surgery performed. You can't dismiss the Yankees bombing him in game one then just count the bloody sock game and the game against the Cardinals afterwards. It's not like his ankle was in pristine shape then either. When his record is evaluated, then every game counts. He chose to start and got bombed in game one, then was great the rest of the way. We can't pick and choose what games to include based on speculation.
Jayson Stark (1:52 PM)
Because he had a surgical procedure done in his next two starts that enabled him to pitch. That's why. Seems pretty simple to me.
Craig / Atlantic, VA.
Schilling is not a HOF'er. His numbers are not close. If he gets in.....50 other guys with average numbers deserve the same.
Jayson Stark (1:54 PM)
Which of his numbers are "average?" Let me say this again. Go back to the beginning and read how he compares to other righthanders of his era. Then explain to me how he was "average." His career counting numbers didn't add up because he had two major shoulder surgeries and a major ankle surgery. That doesn't make him "average," does it?
El Duque is right up there with Schilling and any one else in the postseason. He is 9-2 in 14 starts with a 2.58 ERA in 97.2 ip. His #'s are much more dominant when he first came aboard.
Jayson Stark (1:56 PM)
He's been terrific, but he doesn't even have 100 career wins. So I don't get the comparison, other than the fact he was also a fabulous October pitcher.
Sorry Jayson but if your arguments are about "if this guy didn't have such a great season to overshadow Schilling he'd be a Cy Young winner" and "look at how great his numbers are during his healthy seasons" that should be raising big, huge red flags about his HOF candidacy. I look at the outstanding pitchers from my generation as Pedro, Maddux, Smoltz, Johnson, Schilling, and Glavine. When you put his name in there with that group it kinda elicits the response of "Which one doesn't belong in this group" and it's Schilling. He's a no go in my book.
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
Well, I agree to a point. Those other five guys ought to be no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famers. Schilling, on the other hand, is far from clear-cut. But just because he isn't an obvious Hall of Famer doesn't mean he isn't deserving. It just means there's a reason we're having this debate.
ERA+ in those 3 seasons: 157, 142 and 150. Sorry but those are not that great.
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
They're not? They mean he was 57 percent, 42 percent and 50 percent better than the average pitcher of his era. Sounds employable to me. And by the way, Schilling has exactly the same ERA-plus for his career that Smoltz does.
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
Can't believe we're out of time. Let's take one more.
The dominating pitchers of the time were busy winning the Cy Young. Take a look at Marichal's career. Now there is a dominating pitcher that never won a Cy Young. No one can argue his HOF worthiness. Schilling, out by a slim margin.
Jayson Stark (2:06 PM)
I think Marichal is an excellent comparable, to be honest. Marichal had an easier Hall of Fame case because he went out there more and won more. But like Schilling, he was the best pitcher of his time who never won a Cy Young. And I think it's possible to be a great pitcher, even a HOF-worthy pitcher, without winning a Cy Young if you place it all in its proper context. Look, Bartolo Colon won a Cy Young. But Curt Schilling was better, more dominating and more Hall-worthy. Ditto Barry Zito, Jack McDowell, etc. I believe in looking at every credential carefully, not just counting trophies. So I think this guy is a Hall of Famer, Cy Young void or no Cy Young void. But why do I think this debate will be just as spirited five years from now?
Jayson Stark (2:07 PM)
Thanks to everyone who participated here. We had more than 2,000 questions in an hour. So sorry if I didn't get to yours. I can't type that fast! See you in Debate Land next week.
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