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?

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