Let’s Talk About Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling rates as the 16th best pitcher of all time, according to wWAR. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Last month, I asked you to talk about David Cone, a pitcher who my latest version of wWAR (weighted WAR) deems as Hall-worthy. What makes Cone unique is that he accumulated quite a bit of value in a limited amount of time. It’s not that he didn’t have a long career—it’s just that injuries limited the number of innings he threw.

For example, Cone ranks 50th all time in Wins Above Replacement but 40th all time in Wins Above Average. So, he didn’t last forever and pad his numbers, but he still provided value above average on par with many all-time greats.

Today I want to talk about somebody who is similar to Cone, but takes things to a whole new level.

Let’s talk about Curt Schilling.

Curt Schilling is a polarizing figure. There’s the bloody sock. There’s 38 Studios. There’s the outspokeness. There’s the postseason dominance.

DId I mention the bloody sock?

  • Schilling ranks 26th all time in pitching Wins Above Replacement (Baseball-Reference flavor). But he ranks a staggering 12th all time in Wins Above Average.
  • Twelfth!
  • All Time!
  • Of the 11 pitchers ahead of him in Wins Above Average, only Pedro Martinez threw fewer innings.
  • Schilling has more Wins Above Average than:
    • Bob Gibson
    • Roy Halladay
    • Warren Spahn
    • Steve Carlton
    • Carl Hubbell
    • Old Hoss Radbourn
    • Nolan Ryan
    • Sandy Koufax
    • Juan Marichal
    • and thousands more.

But what makes him so good?

  • 2nd all time in strikeouts per walk (4.383)
    • Tommy Bond, who pitched from 1874 to 1884 (and in leagues like the National Association, Union Association, and American Association), is the only pitcher ahead of him.
  • 15th all time with 3,116 strikeouts
  • Tied for 48th all time in ERA+ with 127
    • Of the 53 pitchers with 1000+ IP and an ERA+ of 127+ (that includes all the pitchers tied with Schilling), only 15 have more innings than Schilling.

Schilling’s Wins Above Average accounts for 70% of his Wins Above Replacement. That’s pretty rare. That means he didn’t just sit around, compiling numbers. He dominated.

How rare is that 70%? Among pitchers with 2000+ innings, these five were above 70%:

  • Pedro Martinez (74%)
  • Roger Clemens (71%)
  • Walter Johnson (70%)
  • Curt Schilling (70%)
  • Bob Caruthers (70%)

Roy Oawalt was there going into 2012 (and he still rounds up to 70%), but he’s technically below it now. Bob Caruthers is a bit different from the others as he has a lot of value from his offense (and WAR and WAA numbers for pitcher offense are generally close to each other). So, he’s one of four natural pitchers. Yikes.

There are traditional methods you can use to rate Schilling that make him look good, too.

  • He may have only 216 wins, but he has a .597 winning percentage. 24 pitchers since 1901 have more wins and a better winning percentage. Just 13 also have an ERA+ on par with Schilling.
    • In the integration era (1947 to 2012), just 13 pitchers have a better win total and winning percentage (while 7 can also match Schilling’s ERA+).
  • He has three 20-win seasons (and led the league twice).
  • He has fanned 300 three times and 293 in a fourth season (led the league twice).
  • He shared the 2001 World Series MVP with Randy Johnson and won the 1993 NLCS MVP with the Phillies.
  • He is one of the best postseason pitchers of all time, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts. He fanned 120 while walking only 25.
  • He led the league in CG 4x, IP 2x, WHIP 2x, K/BB 5x
  • He never won a Cy Young Award, but he finished second three times and fourth another time.
  • In addition to winning the Co-World Series MVP in 2001, he also won the TSN Pitcher of the Year Award, the Babe Ruth Award, the Branch Rickey Award, the Hutch Award, and the Roberto Clemente Award.
    • He also won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1995.

Despite all of this, I feel like Curt Schilling is not being discussed as a Hall of Famer. He’s on the very next ballot, but all the talk is about Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. So, tell me—what do you think of Curt Schilling?


Comments

Let’s Talk About Curt Schilling — 135 Comments

  1. I’d like to point out that Curt Schilling has more career Wins Above Average than Sandy Koufax and 17 other Hall of Fame pitchers (by my quick count) have Wins Above Replacement. That number doesn’t include Hoyt Wilhelm, Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers.

      • …do you really think he’s the 16th best pitcher of all time? Or even close to that?

        Legit question.

        I’m not quite sure how I rank Schilling. I recognize his great peak. I’m just not sure yet where I rank him overall.

        • I’ll admit, it was a bit surprising to me. So, I’ve been digging in to see why he is ranked that high. I keep (and you all keep) coming up with reasons to support it.

          I’ve always thought people were too picky when comparing modern pitchers to the greats of the game. This seems to be another example.

          I thought Cone and Brown were totally screwed in the Hall of Fame voting. I think this is another example.

          I don’t know if I thought Schilling was better than Glavine and Smoltz. But it looks like he might be.

        • Isn’t “do you really think Schilling is the 16th best pitcher of all time?” a different question than whether he belongs in the HOF?

          He may not be the 16th best–but by almost any measure he is in the top 30 to 50. And even in the “wins” category, since the modern era (1901), he’s number 62. For pitchers with more than 3,000 IP, he’s 54th.

          There are about 70 pitchers in the HOF. He seems to belong in that group to me.

      • Tied for 48th all time in ERA+ with 127

        A big factor in this is Schilling’s stinginess in allowing unearned runs. Schilling tops all his contemporaries, with less than 5% of runs allowed that were unearned. And, he got even better at it in the back half of his career, allowing no more than 3 unearned runs per season nine years in a row (1999-2007), including consecutive seasons (2005-06) with none.

        Apportioning team unearned runs equally among pitchers on Schilling’s teams based on their workload would increase Schilling’s career unearned runs by 77, or 0.2 runs saved per 9 innings, hidden value to his teams that isn’t really reflected in his stats.

        See http://www.highheatstats.com/2013/02/masters-and-victims-pitchers-and-unearned-runs-part-2/ for more on unearned run allocation.

  2. As a Yankee fan and a center-left political junkie, I will heed the words of my late Mom, also a Yankee fan and a center-left political junkie, and say nothing,

    • I’m with you on both counts Mike (although I wouldn’t call myself a junkie), but I try to forget about all that stuff when it comes to assessing a player’s all-time greatness. Curt Schilling, in my opinion, should be a Hall of Famer. I’d even put him in the top five on this overcrowded upcoming ballot (that includes Bonds and Clemens).

    • As a Rhode Islander, I have to admit I absolutely despite Curt Schilling and 38 Studios. In fact, my local butcher’s shop closed because of the Schilling deal, as did hundreds of other RI small businesses.

      That being said, his baseball career is definitely HoF-worthy, especially compared to other HoFers.

      And having seen him on ESPN as an analyst recently, maybe he should stay in baseball.

  3. Is there any question that Schilling should be a Hall of Famer? Somebody should do a poll. I think the last time this place had a poll, it was on the B-R blog, and some people might’ve changed their view since then.

    • I’m with you. I didn’t think there was a question of whether he belongs. In.

      Someone please notify me when someone posts a disagreement.

  4. “Outspokenness” — what a sweet euphemism for “fat-headed blowhard-itude”!

    So you know I’m not moved by sentiment when I say, I’m 100% behind his HOF candidacy.

    Eight seasons in the league’s top 5 in WAR/pitchers. Legendary postseason performance — including a 147-pitch WS shutout with his team facing elimination.

    I hate to sound like a blowhard myself, but if someone doesn’t think Schilling belongs in the Hall, I wonder how much they followed the game from 1992 to 2007.

    • Ozzie Guillen can praise a murdering dictator that tramples on the human rights of millions for over 50 years and to this day continues his reign of terror and that’s just fine. Schilling says people should vote for Bush and he’s the diablo.

      • Lots of athletes have political opinions and express them, and they should, if that’s how they feel. Luke Scott ain’t no shrinking violet. Doesn’t mean Schilling isn’t a blowhard who didn’t leave the taxpayers on the hook for a lot of money from a state guarantee that was given by the then Gov. to Schilling’s personal business after Schilling hosted a political fundraiser. There’s a difference.

        • Rhode Island begged him to come, and threw a lot of money at his business as well in the form of tax breaks. So I’m Schilling and I’m thinking, “keep my business in Mass. so they can rob me, or move to RI where they will rob me less.” Schilling has said he lost about $35 million of his own money. I don’t think R.I. should have made the investment in the first place because the nature of business is that they do fail and that is healthy. Since you’re a “center-left” you are no doubt upset that this happened nationally with companies such as Solyndra. By the way, what is a center left? Are you from Europe?

          • Last night on ESPN’s 30 for 30, titled “Broke”, was about athletes
            who have filed bankruptcy.

            Schilling was on it and said he lost
            about 40 million dollars.

        • I’m pretty sure Schilling as an indivdual lost far more than the taxpayers of RI. He had good intentions. I’m just not sure why he thought his ability to throw a baseball also led him to believe he could run a business to such a degree that it was worth risking tens of millions of dollars.

          None of which has any bearing on his HOF chances.

          • I agree 100% with everything you said. He spent his entire life playing baseball and now he’s gonna pretend he’s Mitt Romney.

        • Please at least post facts if you want to talk trash. The fund raiser was for veterans, and I had 6 members of the 101st Airborne as well as 2 currently serving members of the 4th ID at my home for the event. I don’t host fund raisers for people I don’t know or for people because they belong to a certain party. And I’ll ask you, like I asked the asshat Shaughnessey, define blowhard. Is it someone who answers your questions, like the answer or not, with more than a yes/no? Or is it someone who doesn’t align with your beliefs politically or religiously?

          • As you are well aware, it has become endemic in our society to have strong opinions about celebrities based upon sound-bites-worth of information.

            Fantastic to have you in the discussion, C. Schilling. Brings the reality of the actual human being into the realm of intellectual tourism.

    • I’ll listen to Schilling on ESPN. You may not agree with what he says, but at least he attempts to make a point, unlike the countless hundreds of cardboard cut-outs ESPN cycles through Baseball Tonight as analysts.

    • John – what’s the difference between “outspokenness ” and “fat-headed blowhard” in your mind ? Is the latter an outspoken person you disagree with? I’ve heard Schilling on ESPN, while he may not be the finest analyst ever, and he makes at least as much sense as a random HOF second baseman . for example.

      • BryanM — Since this thread was revived by Mr. Schilling’s surprise appearance, I realize that I never replied to your question. First, let me say to you — and to Curt — that I regret the name-calling; it was childish.

        To the point, though — No, it had nothing to do with politics or philosophy. At the time, I just thought his baseball opinions had oversaturated the media. Of course, that’s not necessarily his fault. Media outlets choose to play up his comments because he is articulate and often outspoken.

        In my defense, though, I offer the recent links below: Opinion first, facts second.

        It’s technically true that a player’s public politics are bound to have some effect on some HOF voters. But to imply that conservative views would be a net *negative* with those voters is laughable. Evidence, please?

        And, sorry to bring my own politics in, that opinion smells just like the “liberal media bias!!!” screed that Fox News peddles 24/7, hoping to blind us to their own bias.

        We’re all biased. And I’m often a fat-headed blowhard. And I still think it’s a crime that Curt Schilling has not been elected to the Hall of Fame. Jeez, he was better than Smoltz, how can folks not see that?

        But I don’t think he has an informed opinion on what’s hurting his HOF chances.

        http://blog.masslive.com/redsoxmonster/2015/01/curt_schilling_wasnt_elected_t.html

        http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jan/08/curt-schilling-says-support-for-republicans-cost-him-hall-of-fame-votes

        • My first thought on hearing Schilling’s complaint: I never knew before that Johnson, Martinez, Smolz, and Biggio were Commies.

          Seriously, if ballplayers aren’t apolitical they’re generally well to the right of center, and those hypothetically left-wing sportswriters know it, so it’s no issue. Reminds me, don’t know why, of when some pro golfers refused to go to the White House to be congratulated by Bill Clinton—this was in his first term, not after the Monica scandal broke.

          You’re right, anyway: Schilling’s being slighted, but by a kind of bias different from he thinks.

        • John – Schilling is now saying it was a joke and sending out classless tweets such as the following:

          “Listen to the interview, then shut your pie hole. It was said in jest you dink.”.

          Well Curt I did listen to the interview and it was clear that you weren’t joking. The interviewers asked you point blank if your views had cost you perhaps 100 votes. You responded “Absolutely.”. No one laughed. #zerorespect

        • John@116: Was Schilling really demonstrably better than Smoltz? WAR says that, but if you set aside WAR for a moment, Smoltz’s And Schilling’s raw numbers (ERA, OPS against, wins/losses etc.) as starters are very close, except that Smoltz pitched more innings and started more games. And then of course Smoltz also had a solid few years as a reliever. For their careers as a whole, Smoltz’s FIP was 3.24 and Smoltz’s 3.23. Unless you are looking at WAR, a good argument can be made that Smoltz and Schilling were very comparable starters and and that Smoltz gets the advantage with his relief years. Note also that Fangraphs has Smoltz much closer to Schilling in WAR than b-ref.

        • John , thanks for this after 2 years, you’re my poster child for journalist ethics – while “fat- headed blowhard” is unkind , it’s hardly the most unkind thing said about a Ballplayer here.
          I think that I agree. 100 percent with you on Schilling; he belongs in the HOF, ERA+. Underrated,him as his special skill of not giving up unearned runs went on for too long over too big a sample not to be a talent, probably of a piece with his chip-on-the-shoulder persona, (the world is out to get me , including my own shortstop, but I’m damned if I’m gonna give in) . he was better than Smoltz, although not by much, and he continues to find ways to give people reasons to dislike him. his politics are irrelevant to any discussion about hall-worthiness, and I think a very minor reason why his HOF vote totals are where they are, his general personality being more of a factor. Full disclosure; My own politics are exactly in the center as each day the bloviators on the both left and right give me fresh reasons to despise their views . It’s a lonely place

        • John , thanks for the reply after 2 years, very conscientious . We agree on. Schilling , HOF worthy , with a wide margin., a tad better than Smoltz, his number 1 comp, and a person who continues to give people new reasons to dislike him

  5. Mike Mussina-78.1 WAR.

    I guess it really is not a debate.

    Should he wear an Orioles or Yankees
    cap.

    If they meet in the playoffs, maybe
    Moose can throw out the first pitch.

    • I’d say Orioles. He had a lot of good years with the Yankees, but his really dominant years were mostly with the Orioles.

      Mussina throwing out the first pitch of a Yankees-Orioles series is a fantastic idea.

      Or, maybe Ken Singleton (current Yankees announcer). Yeah…not quite as fantastic. :)

  6. I would say the reason that Schilling doesn’t get discussed much is four-fold:

    1) He spend most of his career being overshadowed by pitchers who were slightly better than him.

    2) Low win total.

    3) Lots of ups and downs in his career.

    4) General dislike of him as a person.

    I’m not saying these are valid reasons why someone should oppose him, just trying to reflect the thought process.

    • 1. Randy Johnson. Anyone else?

      2. Yes. In his first five seasons, 31 of his 142 appearances were starts.

      3. He was a late bloomer. He was worth just 16.0 WAR in his 20s (60.9 thereafter).

      4. There’s a lot of that.

      • 1) Wasn’t just referring to teammates. So Maddux, Clemens, Martinez.

        3) Now I realize it’s a bit more than that. For example, a non-WAR/SABR person would probably look at his ’99 and ’00 seasons and dismiss them as not very good (15-6, 3.54 ERA and 11-12, 3.81 ERA). In other words, they’d see them as down seasons. But his WAR those two seasons was 4.7 and 4.9 despite having fewer than 30 starts each year. So what might look like a couple of down seasons really wasn’t. In ’00 for example, he wasn’t in the top 10 in ERA (or innings pitched) but he was 4th in WAR.

        • Me too. When The unit was a youngster, I always
          associated him with Nolan Ryan for obvious reasons.

          In my mind, the carryover effect of this was that I
          never thought he would become the control pitcher he
          became.

          I sure was wrong, but 5.51, stunning.

          • I was referring to Schilling, but Randy Johnson’s post 20s transformation is similarly impressive:

            1988-1993 (24-29 y.o.): 1.82 K/BB
            1994-2009 (30+ y.o.): 4.27 K/BB

          • @ Jason Z, I call these Meccano stats,ie things just put together. Cy Young pitched 380 innings in 1904 vs 205 for Cliff Lee. In both cases one of the two stats is not particularly impressive for either player.

            Cliff Lee’s low BB count is a function of only pitching 200 innings Contrast that to Fergie Jenkins 37BB in 325 innings in 1971, which in turn is overshadowed by Cy Young’s 29BB in 380 innings.

            OTOH Lee’s K totals are as impressive as Cy Young’s are MoR. I just don’t see any connection.

    • Ed , I don’t know much about Curt Schilling as a person so your point 5 could well be true; he was a fierce competitor, and fans of opposing teams didn’t like him much for that reason. I think that your points 2-4 are certainly contributors , But I seriously doubt that Schilling had many contemporaries who were better than him; Pedro Martinez for sure, I guess you could argue that Clemens was his equal, but that’s about it.
      One stat that argues that Schilling was even better than shown above is his uncanny ability to avoid giving up unearned runs, particularly after 2000. Unearned runs are at least partly under the control of the pitcher, although they all get a complete free pass on them — if you had to get 4 outs in an inning, Curt was among the very best all time.

      • BryanM – I assume you’re referring to my #4 since I didn’t make a #5. Anyway, Schilling has been pretty outspoken politically which has turned some people off.

        Re: the unearned runs. Someone (you?) posted this on HHS recently. Which led me to do some digging. From the data I saw, it’s not that he was particularly adept at getting a 4th out in the inning. The reason he gave up very few unearned runs is because there were very few errors committed behind him. So in fact he rarely had to get a 4th out. Which begs the question of why. Obviously high strikeout rates are part of it but there are other pitchers with similar or better strikeout rates and who gave up more unearned runs. And the most unearned runs he gave up was in ’97 which is also the year he had his highest strikeout rate. Was he particularly adept at inducing weak groundballs and flyballs? I honestly have no idea. I’d love to see more research on this. Looking at his career he gave up fewer unearned runs the older he got. Again, no idea why that is.

        Anyway, I suspect this is why there’s a bit of a disconnect between Schilling’s ERA and his WAR (WAR uses all runs allowed not just earned ones). In most seasons, Schilling’s WAR ranking was higher than his ERA ranking.

        • Ed – you’re right – it was #4, I don’t know how I managed to see #5 that wasn’t there, if Schilling was involved in politics, that would influence people’s impression of him as a ballplayer; not fair, maybe, but understandable. And yes, I have pointed out the low unearned runs elsewhere. I haven’t looked at box scores , but he stands out even among strikeout pitchers, and is low compared to team totals. For example, from 2001-3 with Arizona, if we look at UER/IP, we have C Schilling 6/684, R Johnson 27/624 all others 123/3052; clearly strikeouts , as opposed to BIP outs should logically reduce unearned runs. AZ had good defense in those years, so we would have to come up with a reason why RJ allowed more UER than team average, CS allowed far fewer, or both.
          I have no idea, either, but over this many innings, there has to be more than luck.

    • Jim – No I hadn’t, thanks for sharing! I think the article is fairly accurate. As I mentioned the other day, in my opinion, the FO decisions have been far more damaging to the Indians than anything Acta or Wedge have done. And the fact that the FO has skated by is maddening.

  7. I’ve long thought that we might be over-rating players from earlier generations in particular pre-integration. I also think that the effect of expansion diluting talent is overstated at least in part because of increased scouting in the Caribbean, Latin America & elsewhere. However…

    Prior to expansion, most teams had 9 pitchers on their ML rosters, some 8, maybe a few 10. Add in injuries, someone pitching ineffectively & getting sent down or released and someone called up to replace him and a few other things and most team had maybe 10 to 12 pitchers that threw more than 20 or so inning plus maybe another 2 or 3 that had a handful of IP’s. Now you have someone like the Yankees who had 28 guys who threw a pitch for them in 2011 including 18 who threw at least 10 innings. The 1955 Yankees had 16 guys throw a pitch for them, 12 of which had at least 10 IP’s. I picked those 2 teams & years pretty much at random. Assuming those numbers are close to the average that would mean in 1955 you had 16 teams with 12 pitchers throwing 10 innings or more or 192 pitchers total. In 2011 you would have had 30 teams with 18 pitchers or 540 pitchers. I’m not sure if expanded scouting and everything else could possibly mean that there are almost 200% more qualified major league caliber pitchers around today then there were in 1955. It would seem to me that this would result in WAR showing: a) the average major league pitcher to be worse in 2011 than the average major league pitcher in 1955 and b) the AAAA level replacement player to be worse in 2011 than in 1955 as well and make Schilling to look better when compared to his contemporaries than say Whitey Ford would look when compared to his.

    Am I just not understanding something here or am I so far out of whack I need to go back on my meds:)?

    • Well, Hartvig, if you’re just going by raw numbers you’d have to factor in the increased population of the US. I’m just guessing, but there are probably 100 million more people now than there were in 1955, which probably represents an increase of at least 75% over Whitey Ford’s time.

      • Probably closer to 175 million more, tag. The 2010 census was 310 million, give or take a million or so; I know that the USA didn’t cross even 100 million until the Korean War.

        • No, the USA population crossed 100 million somewhere around 1915:

          1916 – 101,961,000
          1915 – 100,546,000
          1914 – 99,111,000

          source:
          Google Fusion Tables | U.S. Population 1776 to Present
          {sorry, I don’t know how to make that a link}

          This brings up a major, major problem I have with the “proportional population” argumen – I don’t think that these sort of linear comparisons always work, because the very very best talent in any field is NOT distributed proportionately throughout history.

          EXAMPLE:
          Using US population over history: in 1780, the US population was estimated (no official Census till 1790) at between 2.5-3 million, or about 1% of the population today.

          Yet, our leaders in the American Revolution were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson AND Alexander Hamilton AND Benjamin Franklin AND Patrick Henry AND James Madison AND John Adams.

          So – why don’t we have a hundred times that many great statesman and leaders nowadays, or even twice as many? Or even one Thomas Jefferson? Please explain the logical inconsistency of my argument.

          • Good question Lawrence. Maybe we were just lucky to have all those great men together at
            a time that was probably more historically significant than any time in the last, I don’t know how many hundreds of years.

            Think about it, this grand experiment in democracy is still going strong after 236
            years.

            As for George Washington, the man was a stud.

            He did countless great things for this country, but the greatest gift he ever gave us,
            was leaving office peacefully after his second term. The man could have been King. But he wouldn’t have it. And in doing so set an example that was way ahead of its time.

            Final thought, the founding fathers certainly had alot of talent, I bet their average
            PAR (Politician Above Replacement), was at
            least 200.

            And yet just 55-75 years later we were led
            by the likes of John Tyler, Millard Fillmore,
            James Polk and James Buchanan. These are the
            forgettable President’s. So the talent pool
            was much smaller even though the population
            was much larger in the Mid 1800’s than at the
            time of the revolution.

            Enjoy the debate. Even though neither of today’s combatants will ever be confused with
            any of the greats that Lawrence mentioned.

          • Lawrence, Perhaps because nobody needs them ; statesmen are judged in part by the challenges they face; there is a logical inconsistency in the premise “a hundred times that many great statesman ” since we judge contemporaries against each other, we could never “see” 100 people as being “great” simultaneously at the same thing, and they all couldn’t be given enormous opportunities . In sports, you can only beat who you play; we honor those who beat their contemporaries; and really have no idea how Joe Dimaggio would have done against Pedro Martinez, or vice versa.

          • @45 Jason Z,

            Thanks for backing me up. This is somewhat of a “apples and oranges” argument, I must admit, comparing political leaders to baseball greats.

            I also must admit that Bill James (of course) was the source for my line of thought. He was running through the logic of the “increase in population” = “increase in talent” argument. He wondered why there are not more literary talents nowadays on the level of William Shakespeare, since the population of Avon-on-Straton (where Shakespeare grew up) is about the same as Lawrence, Kanssas, where James grew up.

            I disagree with you only slightly in that I think that Polk was an above-average Pres, though the others you cite are definitely not much above replacement-level.

          • Sometimes I get a bit Verbose. Let me now try to answer your question.

            The founding fathers were there at a time when
            what they were doing was brand new. This atmosphere of vibrant political debate and the
            desire for freedom, probably combined to draw
            the top minds of the time into politics.

            Compare this to today. Politicians are mostly despised. Vibrant political debate no longer even exists. Plus, the best and brightest minds don’t usually see public service as an
            option anymore.

            All of this combines to empty the talent pool.

            Several years ago, I took my wife to Boston. We walked the Freedom Trail. I remember standing in the exact spot below the terrace
            where they first read the Constitution in public. Imagine that!

            So I guess my point is, that in the time leading up to the American Revolution, there
            was such excitement over what was occurring, that this is what attracted the best and brightest of that time to enter public service. They wanted to be a part of something special.

            Sadly, those days are long gone.

            Now we have partisan individuals who cannot
            work together. They seem to be more concerned
            with developing contacts for their future careers as lobbyists. This allows them to parlay public service into a personal fortune.

            Now I am disgusted. Time to watch baseball.

            Go A’s.

          • Agreed Lawrence. How else can you explain that a tiny country like Portugal can have an elite soccer team. Or that the country of India can only scrape together one or two Olympic medals despite having over a billion people.

          • Perhaps because we have 100 times as many Wall Street financiers and computer geniuses and social media innovators and pop singers and Hollywood moguls, etc.

            When you’re founding a new country and an Enlightenment democracy, you’re bound to attract top talent. The top talent today tends to go into other endeavors.

          • Jason Z. the founding fathers got together because a county an ocean away was taking their money. If King Edward had done away with his taxation schemes and/or allowed for representation in parliament, we may very well have Queen Elizabeth II throwing out the first pitch at Yankee stadium.

          • Or maybe we just look at them differntly than we do our politicians today. One of the great leaders you mentioned ended up dying from a bullet wound given to him by the SITTING Vice-President. Imagine the fuss in the current day and age if Joe Biden challenged Chris Christie to a duel and killed him. As Ben Franklin says in “1776”, “What will they think we are, demigods?” Well, yes, Benjamin, we do now. Which is why the current politicians pale in comparison.

            And as for the mid 19th century Presidents, sure they don’t look all that great compared to a generation or two earlier, but OTOH, Congress had Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John Calhoun stalking its halls.

          • The problem isn’t that we don’t have leaders. Not everyone can be a Lincoln, or a Churchill, etc. It’s that we don’t have good ones. We used to have serious people of both parties in significant numbers in both the House and Senate. I’m center-left, and I can easily name two dozen Republicans in ten minutes from the 70/80’s that I wish were still there. I have conservative friends of my mid-boomer vintage who can do the same for Democrats. History may judge this “modern” crowd more kindly than I do. And Brent, I love 1776. Great looking Martha Jefferson as well (grew up to be Gwyneth Paltrows’s mom)

      • OK, looked it up to make sure.

        1950: 150,697,361
        1960: 179,323,175
        2010: 308,745,538

        So an estimate of 1955 could be roughly 165 million, with an increase of almost 144 million from then until now.

      • Looking at the increased population of the US alone is misleading. MLB come from many more countries now than they did pre-WWII.

  8. speaking of caps – which one does Schilling wear into the HoF? of his 3 mains squads:

    His biggest success is for the team he played the least (Red Sox).
    By far his most Games Innings Wins etc are all with the Phillies – I am not sure the Phillies would retire Schilling’s number.
    And his other team the Diamondbacks his awaiting their first HoF I think.

    Similar Qs can be asked for Randy Johnson.

    • Schilling should go in as a Phillie, but I suppose a case could be made for the Diamondbacks. He did win a World Series co-MVP there, so I’m not so certain his biggest success is with the Red Sox. The only way I see him going in with a Red Sox cap is if he’s one of those guys with no clear team, so he’s allowed to choose (see Nolan Ryan). But, even then, he’s not very popular around here anymore, so I doubt it.

      Randy Johnson won four consecutive Cy Youngs in Arizona. He’ll go in as a Diamondback.

  9. There are two ways to look at the “cap” when it
    comes to the HOF.

    One way is to determine when the player became the
    player we honor.

    For example, that would make Randy Johnson a Mariner,
    Curt Schilling a Phillie and Mike Mussina an Oriole.

    But if we judge based on historical significance,
    all three of the above change to Diamondback, Red
    Sox and Yankee respectively.

    As Dan said above, the unit won four Cy Young’s in
    Arizona, that is historically significant.

    Schilling just based on 2004 should go in as a
    Red Sox. 50 years from now when people talk
    about Curt Schilling, it will be 2004 they
    discuss.

    Mussina is less obvious. He did pitch for the
    Yankees in a couple of World Series, and yet, I
    still think of him more as an Oriole.

    • But Jason, I doubt that Pete Alexander is wearing a Cardinals cap in the HOF (I assume he wears a Phillies cap) even if that one moment in the 1926 WS is what we remember 85 years later. I would think Schilling is either a Phillie or a DBack.

      • Good point Brent. I just think that 2004, the end of the
        curse, and all that. In my mind that makes him a Red Sox
        in the HOF.

        I do see him as a Phillie more so than a Diamondback.

  10. Btw, the Glenn Davis for Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley trade has to be one of the all-time ripoff trades. (Davis was horrible for the O’s.) Except Houston didn’t begin to reap the full benefits of the trade. They only held onto Schilling for one year and Harnisch and Finley for 4 each. Imagine if they had held onto that threesome longer. Or imagine if the O’s never made that trade and held onto Schilling, Finley and Harnisch themselves. Definitely would have changed a few pennant outcomes.

    • not as lopsided as this one:

      July 31, 1997:
      Heathcliff Slocumb traded by the Boston Red Sox to the Seattle Mariners, for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. Slocumb was mostly terrible over a season+ for the Mariners, and gone after 1998 as a free agent. Score one for the RS GM Lou Gorman.

      • Depends on how you look at it Lawrence. Red Sox certainly got more value out of Lowe and Varitek than Astros did from Schilling, Harnsich and Finley. On the other hand, if you look at it from the perspective of the teams that traded those players away, the O’s lost a lot more than the Mariners.

        • There’s one big “IF” in this – we are assuming that these teams would’ve had these players for the rest of their careers, if they never traded them. However, all we know _for sure_ is these players would’ve been with these teams until they were eligible for free agency – after that, who knows?

          The Orioles probably wouldn’t have had Schilling and Finley for their whole career, or anything close to it; same with the Mariners and Varitek/Lowe.

      • A Mariners fan may have to clarify this – I thought there was some sort of holdout situation revolving around Varitek – He sort of pushed the Mariners into trading him.

  11. Curt Schilling is one of only 4 pitchers all time allowing unearned runs of less than 5% of total runs over a career (min. 1000 IP). The other three (Arthur Rhodes, Jeff Francis, Jon Lester) have each pitched just over a third of Schilling’s innings.

    Schilling allowed 3 unearned runs or less for 9 straight seasons (1999-2007) and had a streak of 90 straight games not allowing an unearned run from June 22, 2004 to May 17, 2007.

  12. Recall the trade: Glenn Davis for Curt Schilling, Steve Finley and Pete Harnish. I doubt there is a trade with a greater career WAR imbalance in the history of baseball.

    • I will leave the details to the learned panel but Tigers traded John Smoltz (39th career WAR for pitchers) for the tail end of Doyle Alexander’s career (who went 9-0 after mid-season 87 trade but 0-2 in playoffs) and a career WAR for pitchers 230th.

      • robb, I know you did not make any judgment of the Smoltz-Alexander trade, but I’m Pavlovian on this subject, so:

        Trading Smoltz for Alexander was completely justifiable, given what Smoltz was at that time and the need that Alexander filled.

        Smoltz was drafted in the 22nd round in 1985 and made his pro debut in ’86. His first two minor-league years are utterly unpromising. His control was bad, his K rate average. In ’87 he had more walks than strikeouts, and gave up 19 HRs in 146 IP. Kudos to Atlanta for spotting a diamond in the rough, but I can’t fault the Tigers any more than I can fault the Mets for trading Nolan Ryan. The percentage of modern pitchers who progress from giving up 5 walks a game to becoming MLB stars is mighty small.

        Meanwhile, the ’87 Tigers had an honest chance to win it all, maybe their last with that core group. But they badly needed a quality starter; their #4 and 5 starters both had ERA+ under 80.

        And Alexander without a doubt saved our season and got us into the playoffs. It’s not just that we won all 11 of his starts. Even after the first 9 of those, Detroit was in dire straits going into his 10th start, having dropped the first 3 games of a series in Toronto to fall 3.5 games back with 8 to play.

        Alexander, starting on 3 days’ rest for the 2nd straight time and coming off a 2-hit shutout, gave up a run in the first. Detroit tied it in the 9th, went ahead in the 11th. Alexander was still going, and should have gotten the win, but an error extended the 11th inning and he allowed a 2-out run. Still, Detroit won in 13 to start the comeback. His last start opened a 3-game season finale with Toronto, Tigers needing 2 to tie. It wasn’t his best game — Manny Lee hit a 3-run HR — but he gave no other runs in 7 innings, got the win, and the division was tied.

        In all, it was an epic performance. In 11 games, he averaged 8 IP and 1.45 runs allowed. B-R rates it 4.3 WAR, about a 13-WAR pace; only Walter Johnson (1913) has ever reached that mark for a season, and only Pedro Martinez (2000) has ever equaled that rate of 0.39 WAR per game.

        Maybe they didn’t have any right to expect that kind of value in the trade. But they needed it. And they didn’t have any reason to expect Smoltz to win 200 games.

        • I know you’ve talked a lot about the Alexander/Smoltz trade, JA, but I never actually realized how great Doyle was in his abbreviated time with Detroit in ’87 until you listed his WAR total. The similarities between Alexander ’87 and Randy Johnson ’98 with Houston are amazing:

          Alexander ’87 9-0 11G 3SHO 1.53 ERA 4.3 WAR
          R Johnson ’98 10-1 11G 4SHO 1.28 ERA 4.2 WAR

          Just guessing, but Doyle may have nudged out The Unit in WAR because of a slightly lower park factor, 96.4 to 98.8 for RJ, and 4 more IP for Alexander.

          • Thx for the details John. Forgot how great Doyle was for the 87 season. Sincerely hope Jacob Turner isn’t John Smoltz 2.0 for the very un-Doyle performance Tigers received for Omar Infante, tho of course I will be cheering like crazy for Omar tonight.

  13. Schilling is way underrated, for all reasons mentioned abve. Look at it in the most crude terms, not even considering advanced stats, & some credit he must deserve for very few unearned runs & great post seasons.

    Pitchers overwhelmingly only have significant control over HRs, Ks, & BBs.

    Considering a career exactly tracking the heart of the ‘roid era, he was moderate in HRs allowed, 1.0 per 9. 2nd all time to an ancient pitcher in K/BB during a moderate length career…

    These facts alone show he is a certain & easy HOFer.

    Notice how his rWAr became better & closer to the FIP dependent Fangraphs one after they revised the formula?

    The drama & politics has nothing to do with him being a pretty great pitcher.

  14. So based on actual statistics, Smoltz and Schilling are virtually tied in every way including the postseason. WHo’s better? Who would you rather have as a teammate?

    • Smoltz was more consistent, Schilling was more dominating (but also had more sucky years). NO QUESTION who I’d rather have as a teammate, give me Smoltzie any day. I think it was Schilling’s own manager who called him “a horse every five days and a horse’s ass the other four.”

      Schill blew it BIG TIME with 38 Studios. I bet it’s going to sway the voting mightily and I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes him double-digit ballots to get in…but he will sniff the Hall someday.

      • Which were the sucky years of Schilling, Zane? I count a dozen seasons with 100+ IP and an ERA+ of at least 118, and one season with 100+ IP and a 99 ERA+. He had 2 injury-shortened years, one year as an effective reliever, and his first 2 years getting his feet wet with a couple of games.

        Smoltz had 11 years of 100+ IP and ERA+ of at least 111. He had 3 years with ERA+ from 102-105. He had a sucky rookie year and final year, both partials, and he missed the whole 2000 season and most of ’08. He had 3 good years as a closer, but only one of those was great.

        If you break it down by WAR, you get about the same picture:

        8+ WAR: Schilling 2 years, Smoltz 0.
        6+ WAR: Schilling 4 years, Smoltz 1.
        5+ WAR: Schilling 8 years, Smoltz 3.
        4+ WAR: Schilling 10 years, Smoltz 8.
        3+ WAR: Schilling 11 years, Smoltz 13.
        2+ WAR: 15 for each.

        Or if you just sort each guy’s seasons by WAR from most to least and line them up, Schilling wins the first 11 years by an average of 1.5 WAR. Smoltz doesn’t win any season by even 1 WAR.

        I’m no fan of Schilling’s personality, and I have the utmost respect for Smoltzie. But Schilling clearly had the better career, no matter how you slice it.

        • Hey John, thanks for the reply. You’re right, I just quickly browsed the ERA+ and saw a bunch of bad numbers. I didn’t realize most of his awful years were his early ones with the Orioles/Astros, and when he was injured. Other than ’93, his lowest ERA+ as a full-time starter was 120 which is insanely good.

          I had always thought of Schilling & Smoltz as interchangeable – fairly low win total, but with 3000 K’s and stellar postseason records. I figured Schill had the dominant seasons, while Smoltz had the Cy and saves. But after looking at the total & year-by-year WAR, I agree with you, Schilling was better.

          I still have a hunch that Curt’s ugly public persona, especially with his company fiasco, means he waits more ballots (5-10?) than Smoltz (probably 3 ballots max). I hope I’m wrong…

  15. Schilling is one of only two pitchers in MLB history to strike out 3,000 batters while giving up less than 3,000 hits. The other is Pedro Martinez. Schilling is a HOF’er no question

  16. Something I was very surprised to find–so much so, that I ran the report about 5 times to make sure I didn’t have a box checked wrong or something. Schilling is one of only four pitchers since 1900 to have at least three seasons with SO>300. One of only 5 to have four seasons SO>275. I didn’t realize how rare a 275 SO season is.

  17. The issue with Schilling has always been his competition. So many better pitchers in that era along with several other very competitive ones. Maybe you give him the nod over Mussina, Pettitte, and Smolts (I don’t) but that still leaves you a laundry list of players that had mostly overlapping careers:
    Glavine
    Maddux
    Martinez
    Clemens
    Johnson

    big names aside, there are a lot of similarities between Schilling and Kevin Brown. David Cone mentioned before also put up some really good seasons in those years.
    Which one of these guys was better?
    211W 144L .594% 3256IP 901BB 127ERA+
    216W 146L .597% 3261IP 711BB 127ERA+

    Also, we seem to correct for everything these days flattening out stats into easy to digest numbers but nobody wants to talk about how much more common that kind of strikeout rate is these days? People are not going to look back 50 years from now and drool over Schilling’s strikeouts.

    I’d probably vote for all 8 guys I listed. Steroids is preventing us from fully appreciating the historic pitching that was on display in the 90s.

    • Also, Schilling is not that much better than Valenzuela (1981), Morris (1984, 1991), Saberhagen (1985), and Hershiser (1988) who all had great post season success in the given years along with decent careers but not in the hall. Morris is probably the weakest case listed with a career with an ERA+ around average and he’s getting votes!

      • Wait, what? Schilling not much better than Hershiser, Valenzuela, or Morris? I can see if you were on the Morris bandwagon, but you say he’s the worst of the group. I just don’t understand the comparison then…

      • Upon what do you base this statement: “Schilling is not that much better than Valenzuela (1981)”

        Please explain. I see the year is the year Valenzuela won the CYA. But what is the significance?

        Or are you talking about only post season play?

        • I was comparing Schilling post season runs to that of Valenzuela (1981), Morris (1984, 1991), Saberhagen (1985), and Hershiser (1988) who were all pretty good pitchers but not hall of famers. I was making the point that he shouldn’t be voted in purely for being at that level + post season but instead because of his career AND post season. Pitchers of Schilling’s level often had success in the post season to some degree. It’s nice gravy for his case but I don’t think it makes him unique. What makes him unique was the mix of high K, low BB, historically low unearned runs, all remarkably consistently over a decent chunk of years.

          I was trying to say in my earlier post too, just for historical clarification and more recent attention that I’m not sure how I would place Schilling against Smoltz, Pettitte, Brown, Glavine, Cone, and Mussina. That’s a lot of pitching. I think there’s a glutton of guys there below Pedro/Johnson/Maddux/Clemens. I would certainly vote for more than those 4 guys though. I think I’d vote for Smoltz, Glavine, Pettitte, Schilling, and maybe Mussina but not Brown or Cone.

          The knock is comprable pitchers, 3 of em just got voted in (Smoltz, Johnson, Martinez) so that knock will quickly fall. I think Schilling gets in over the next few years by >75% of writers.

    • So 4 of the 5 you list as clearly better than Schilling are arguable candidates for greatest pitcher of all time. Certainly all of them are clearly inner circle, top 10-20 guys. Who can even make a *case* to be ahead of them. I can think of 5. Seaver, Young, W. Johnson, Alexander, Grove, maybe Nichols? That’s 5-6 guys. And I’d personally put each of the 4 ahead of everyone on that list.

      Glavine is great, and a clear hall of famer, but his mortal lockitude comes from the 300W that any knowledgeable fan should realize doesn’t make him any better than schilling. In fact, I think Schilling was better. He amassed about the same WAR in many fewer innings.

      Mussina is also a clear hall of famer, and Schilling is better.

      Brown should have been a clear hall of famer too, and Schilling is better.

      Schilling is so much better than Valenzuela and Morris that they aren’t even in the same league. He’s also a *lot* better than borderliners Saberhagen and Hershisher.

  18. So, this is cool and probably not terribly surprising—stat-slanted fans think Schilling belongs. Anyone have a sense for those who are uninitiated? I feel I’ve been trying to build up his case to others for a while. I mean, he’s SO far from 300 wins, after all. :)

  19. Lots of discussion here about Schilling’s fine regular season record, but his stats in post-season play are almost without equal. In 19 career post-season starts, under the utmost pressure and against only top opponents (and playing in a high-offense era), Schilling put up an ERA of 2.23, with a WHIP of 0.968. 15 of his 19 post-season starts were “Quality Starts”. The record of his teams in his post-season games was 14-5, and his own Win-Loss record in those games was 11-2. It’s fair to say that he is among a small handful of the greatest post-season starting pitchers in MLB history.

  20. Two big IFs that have pivotted how I look of Schilling’s Post Season Dominance – 2001 WS Gm 7 (started by Schilling) He left game trailing but M Rivera blows save, D-Backs win. and of course 2004 ALCS gm 4 – Once again Rivera Blown Save.

    If both those games go the other way, Schilling is still basically as dominant, but 216 Wins and 1 WS ring is a lot different then 3 rings and 200+ wins.

    The oddity here is that at least a part of the Schilling story has to do with arguably the “Best Closer in History” not finishing games.

  21. Schilling’s unearned runs are getting a lot of mention in this thread, and it is a fine accomplishment and another testament to his greatness.

    But since rWAR uses RA9 and not ERA, Schilling’s lack of unearned runs are already embedded in his WAR, so I’m not sure he really deserves (or needs) extra credit for this.

    It’s like saying Greg Maddux won 350+ games, had a 3.whatever ERA and ALSO won 18 Gold Gloves. Maddux’s great fielding is already embedded in his ERA/RA9. He sholdn’t necessarily get extra credit for his defense as his skill in that area is already reflected in his runs allowed.

    That’s also my opinion on strikeouts for starters, but I’ll save that argument for another day.

    • bstar; Since I’m the one who dragged in the unearned runs, Let me be the first to agree that his WAR already reflects this “ability” if such it was; the point is, people, especially outside of this community look at ERA when evaluating pitchers (see 78 above , 88 below for examples in this community) this is of course appropriate, since we look at many dimensions to get the whole picture, the unearned runs point should just remind us to mentally give Schill a plus when comparing to other pitchers with ERA of 127+.

  22. One interesting angle on the Schilling question is that, strictly on innings and ERA+, he has very few comps.

    Schilling has a 127 ERA+ in 3,261 IP. So I searched for retired pitchers since 1901 with 3,000 to 3,500 IP and an ERA+ from 122 to 132.

    There are just 4 others in that range:
    – Stan Coveleski, 127 ERA+, 3,082 IP — HOFer.
    – Kevin Brown, 127 ERA+, 3,256 IP — dropped from the ballot after 1 year.
    – John Smoltz, 125 ERA+, 3,473 IP — not eligible yet, but I think he gets in.
    – Eddie Cicotte, 123 ERA+, 3,226 IP — ineligible.

    It’s too small a group to draw conclusions from. But what distinguishes Schilling from Brown are (a) postseason performance, and (b) CYA voting. Schilling placed 2nd three times, each time behind a historically great pitcher (Unit twice, Johan once).

    Also, it’s ironic that some people seem to think it’s “old school” to deny Schilling a HOF spot. I think he’s exactly the kind of pitcher who would have gotten in without massive win totals 30, 40, 50 years ago. Guys like Lefty Gomez, Rube Marquard, Don Drysdale, Chief Bender, Coveleski, Catfish Hunter, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, even Whitey Ford to a certain extent — World Series appearances made those guys HOFers. And few if any of them were as stellar in the WS as Schill.

    • Elaborating on my World Series point:

      – 72 pitchers have started at least 5 WS games, including Schilling (7).

      – 65 of those have appeared on a HOF ballot.

      – 23 of those 65 are in the HOF.

      – Of those 23 HOFers, the median ERA+ is 125 (Lefty Gomez), and the average is 123 (unweighted).

      – 6 of the 23 HOFers have fewer IP than Schilling — Miner Brown, Ford, Coveleski, Bender, Gomez and Koufax. Bender and Gomez also have lower ERA+, while Coveleski is the same.

      – Drysdale, Hunter and Marquard had less than 200 more IP than Schill and significantly lower ERA+ (121, 104, 103).

    • Elaborating on the 3000-3500 IP group, here are the top 15 (since 1901) in ERA+.

      1. Mordecai Brown, 139
      2. Cy Young, 137
      3. Whitey Ford, 133
      4. Curt Schilling, 127
      5. Stan Coveleski, 127
      6. Kevin Brown, 127
      7. John Smoltz, 125
      8. Eddie Cicotte, 123
      9. Don Drysdale, 121
      10. Carl Mays, 119
      11. Billy Pierce, 119
      12. Dutch Leonard, 119
      13. Dolf Luque, 118
      14. Andy Pettitte, 117
      15. Wilbur Cooper, 116

      The HOF line looks to be 120. Only guys above it not in HOF are not eligible yet, not eligible ever, or Kevin Brown (post-season flop and not a “nice guy”).

  23. Good point on unearned runs being part of WAR, but they are not in ERA +. So Schilling stands out a bit more there. If you look at IP & ERA + he looks about = with Smoltz, but take into account defense, unearned runs & peak value, Schilling is better.

  24. Guys,
    Just wanted to stop by and say thanks. Been a rough couple years but I am happy that baseball folks like you have put this much time and effort into making an argument on my behalf, it does mean a lot to me.
    Here’s the thing. My Dad always told me that the people that “know” will always know how good you were, whether you’re written about or considered a star. Your teammates are the ones who’s opinions matter.
    You are all clearly smart baseball fans, and like I said it’s pretty cool to read some stuff that even I didn’t realize (and I prided myself on understanding and knowing even the most obscure data about the guys I faced.
    Thanks Again, God Bless and have a wonderful Christmas
    Curt

    • Hey Curt, thanks for stopping by. Glad we could give you a unique glimpse into even your own career. I wrote this article when doing research for the Hall of Stats—a site I created that is an alternate Hall of Fame populated by a mathematical formula (http://www.hallofstats.com). You, of course, were “inducted” into the Hall of Stats immediately. Your “Hall Rating” is 70% above the Hall of Stats borderline and ranks 50th all time (16th among pitchers). http://www.hallofstats.com/player/schilcu01

      Hoping your voting results improve this year. I have faith that as more analytical BBWAA members are admitted you’ll see a steady increase.

      Merry Christmas to you, too.

    • Amazing world when our discussions, which tend to be esoteric and mathematical, come crashing into the reality of the human being we’re discussing. I’m glad it wasn’t Joe Carter looking us up and hearing our opinions on his baseball career! We’ll all smile for days over the attention. There’s some much more nuanced statistical thinking going on here that we’re quite proud of.

      For us, Curt Schilling the ballplayer was very gifted at striking batters out and avoiding the walk, usually qualities that are opposites. Overpowering stuff is generally pretty wild and control pitchers generate a lot of contact. Trying to compute the relative value and strength of the “both” approach is difficult because of the uniqueness. Hall voters have a difficult task and it’s only harder when a pitcher excels in a different way than the others. I think the induction to the HOF is more about people voting for the other absurdly good pitchers that pitched in the 90s. There’s no way that will last for more than a few years. The stats certainly give a HOF resume and then some.

  25. John @116:

    You asked why people can not see that Schilling was better than Smoltz. Honestly, I think the differences between the two are fairly nuanced and you need to have a pretty solid understanding of the WAR calculation to figure out how Schilling ends up comfortably ahead.

    From a traditional stats perspective, I don’t see how anyone could definitively state that Schilling was better than Smoltz. Look at their records.

    Smoltz: 213-155 in 3500 IP, Schill: 216-146 in 3300 IP
    I would call this EVEN with no clear advantage to either.

    Smoltz: 3.33 ERA, Schill: 3.46
    Are the writers or most fans park-adjusting ERA? No. So, again, probably EVEN.

    Smoltz: 125 ERA+, Schill: 127 ERA+
    So even the folks who look at park-adjusted ERA can’t see a difference. EVEN again.

    Smoltz: 3084 strikeouts, Schill: 3116 strikeouts
    Could they be any closer? EVEN.

    Smoltz: 15-4, 2.67 in postseason, Schill: 11-2, 2.23 in postseason
    Schilling’s dominance as a D-Back in the 2001 playoffs is matched by teammate RJ. Schill’s bloody sock game is matched by Smoltz’s epic 1991 WS duel with a certain J. Morris. Smoltz has more bulk and more time in the limelight. SLIGHT ADVANTAGE to Smoltz or EVEN, depending on how you see it.

    Smoltz: 1 Cy Young, 5 top-10s, 3 top-5s; Schill: 3 2nd-place finishes, 4 top-5s
    ADVANTAGE to Smoltz for the 1 win.

    OK, let’s stop here. If anything, I think Smoltz already has a slight advantage over Schilling from an old-school perspective because of the Cy Young and (maybe) for his more lengthy postseason resume. Curt Schilling is John Smoltz’s #1 comp according to B-Ref. But then there’s this:

    Smoltz: 154 saves, 91.7 save%

    People in the past have complained that moving to the bullpen hurt Smoltz’s win total and WAR accumulation. I have said for years that the boost Smoltzie’s narrative would get from this starter-reliever-starter thing would completely eclipse what he lost in wins and WAR. It turns out it did, by much more than I thought it would.

    I find it hard to blame fans or writers or even some advanced-stat people who think Smoltz had a better or equal career to Curt. They see two very similar pitchers as starters but give the edge to Smoltz for his bullpen work.

    • Bstar – Quality analysis. I’ll add three points.

      1) Schilling does lead Smoltz in 20 win seasons (3 vs. 1) which is something that some voters value.

      2) Schilling and Smoltz were equivalent at run prevention. (3.64 RA/9 vs. 3.60). WAR prefers Schilling because it estimates that he faced tougher competition, pitched in more difficult ballparks and had worse defenses behind him. But all three of those are estimates and any one or all of them could be incorrect. Whereas the RA/9 is simply a record of what happened.

      3) What’s interesting about Schilling and Smoltz is that through their mid 30s neither was on a HOF track.

      Through age 33 Schilling was 113-95 with a 3.43 ERA, one 4th place Cy Young season, a 123 ERA+, and only one postseason appearance. He did have 39.5 WAR but I would guess that most HOF pitchers have more WAR at a similar age.

      From age 34-40, Schilling went 106-51 with a 3.50 ERA, 134 ERA+, three 20 win seasons, 3 second place Cy Young finishes, 41.3 WAR, three more post season appearances (including one bloody sock).

      Smoltz through age 34 was 160-116 with a 3.35 ERA, a 122 ERA+, one Cy Young, and 44.1 WAR. Not a terrible resume but he had also spent years being overshadowed by Maddux and Glavine. More importantly, he was coming off a two-year stretch in which he went 3-3 with 10 saves. And then came the 55 save season…..

    • bstar, you’re right — the differences are nuanced. Rather than expect the voters to see Schill as *better* than Smoltz, I should have stuck with the discrepancy in vote totals — Smoltz in on first try with 83%, Schilling yet to reach 40% in three tries — for two pitchers with such similar stats.

    • Schilling is entitled to his opinion, although it’s fascinating that he’s judging these three tremendously accomplished but clearly tainted players differently. Probably has nothing to do with A-Rod and Clemens being Yankees at one point in their careers. And I can understand his sense of entitlement–he actually was a superior pitcher who should certainly be in the discussion for the Hall. But he’s not a slam dunk–there are others who should be in the same discussion, and are not yet in. Eventually he will get in, and hopefully have enough dignity not to settle scores, personal and political, at his HOF speech.

    • In fairness to Schilling, he originally said neither Bonds nor Clemens should get in. He then changed his mind on Bonds, saying he believed Bonds compiled a HOF career before he began using PEDs. He said Clemens didn’t have a HOF career before leaving Boston (of course Clemens had more WAR just in the Boston phase of his career than Schilling did in his while career).

      As for A-Rod, the article is misreporting what Schilling said. He was asked whether A-Rod “would” get in, not whether he “should” get in. Granted, he probably believes that he shouldn’t get in, but that’s not what he was asked.

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