Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Curt Schilling: Hall of Famer?

Today, Curt Schilling struck out his 3000th batter, making him the 14th to reach that plateau. Historically, that has generally guaranteed entrance into Baseball's Hall of Fame; the only retired player with 3000 strikeouts who is not in the HOF is Bert Blyleven. The question I want to ask is: does Curt Schilling belong in the HOF?

Well, one problem here is Schill's win-loss record: 206-137 is a good win percentage (.600), but 206 wins ranks him around 93rd all-time, behind such luminaries as Bob Welch (211), Rick Reuschel (214), Jerry Reuss (220), Joe Niekro (221), Frank Tanana (240), and Dennis Martinez (245). It appears that Schill simply was hurt too many seasons to have piled up the wins needed for election into the HOF: 1994, 2 wins; 1995, 7; 1996, 9; 2000, 11; 2003, 8; 2005, 8. In the other 9 seasons where Schilling was a full-time performer, he averaged 17 wins. If he had won 17 in those other six seasons, he would have 52 additional wins for a total of 261. Suddenly, it is a more realistic conversation.

Another problem with Schilling's candidacy is who is currently NOT in the HOF: namely, Blyleven and Jack Morris. Morris, I think, should be in the HOF because he was one of the most consistently dominant pitchers of his generation--if you average his 18-year career out over 162 games, his numbers would be 16-11, 241 innings per season, 156 Ks, 1.219 WHIP (Walks plus Hits over Innings Pitched; any number around 1.0 is excellent). Add this together with the fact that Morris was one of the great big game pitchers (4-2, with a 2.96 ERA in 3 World Series victories with the Tigers, Twins, and Blue Jays), especially in that memorable 1991 Game 7, 10-inning, 1-0 victory against the Braves. For that, he was the World Series MVP.

Blyleven bears a lot of basic similarity to Morris. If you average his 22 year career out, he would be 14-12, 243 innings per season, 182 Ks, 1.198 WHIP. He was as dominate in the postseason, with a total record of 5-1, with a 2.47 ERA in the postseason, which included two World Series victories (with the Twins and Pirates). The big problem was that Blyleven was not viewed as dominate by his peers; he only made two All-Star teams (73 and 85) compared to Morris' five teams in ten years (81, 84, 85, 87, 91). If one had to choose between Morris and Blyleven, then Morris should get the call.

Schilling should be in the conversation, but is probably behind both men. Averaging his 18 year career out would yield a 14-9, 3.40 ERA, 215 Ks, 1.12 WHIP. In the postseason, Schill is 8-2, 2.06 ERA with two WS victory. Schilling has 6 All-Star appearances (97-99, 01-02, 04), was the NLCS MVP and WS MVP, and was second in the Cy Young balloting three times. In overall averaged numbers, Schilling compares favorably. But Morris's numbers are overall more impressive and consistent; he should go in before Schilling would be considered.

The one difference, to come full circle, is the strikeouts: does Schilling's 3000 strikeouts mitigate the win total (Morris had over 2800 strikeouts)? Probably not. However, there is one other factor here--does the fact that Schilling led the Red Sox to the 2004 World Series, their first in 86 years, pitching on a bum ankle, merit additional consideration? I wouldn't be surprised if that would factor in more to his election than his numbers.

In the end, though, Schilling is probably 30-40 wins away. If he could pitch three more strong seasons and end up with 250 wins and around 3400 strikeouts, I think it would be hard to keep him out of the HOF. But first, the writers should elect Jack Morris.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget, though, that for many of those years in the 1990s Schilling was pitching for the Phillies and getting virtually no run support. For example, in perhaps his two best years, 1997 and 1998, he had 300+ strikeouts, and a low ERA (2.97, 3.25), but went 17-11 and 15-14.

Tom said...

The bloody sock will be enough to get him in. If it was up to his fellow players, probably not but the writers favored him.

Greg Linscott said...

I agree with Tom- the bloody sock- yea, the whole epic 2004 postseason- should really boost Schill's chances.