HOF Debate - Curt Schilling

Time for another HOF Debate battle with Curt Schilling our subject. Apart from being somewhat controversial with opinions and statements, Schilling is best known for being a gutty, power pitcher that showed flashes of dominance. This is especially true when looking at his post season numbers.

Pro (OCP)

I should preface this by saying that I'm not arguing pro-Schilling because of his tenure with my beloved Phillies. Like many Phils fans, I'm not a huge fan of Schilling and I envision him wearing a Red Sox cap on his shrine in Cooperstown. That being said, I recognize his contributions to baseball. To me, Schilling was made for Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame is about big players that make big plays in big games. Just ask Bert Blyleven how hard it is to get in with great numbers when you don't have those 'it' moments on your resume. Schilling doesn't have a problem bringing up his great moments. The sock game, obviously, but I think about his dominance in the 2001 playoffs with the D'Backs. For me, there might not have been a more defining moment for Schilling than winning co-MVP of that World Series; a series that might have been more memorable than any other in history because of what was going on (9/11) and who they were playing (NYY). The Hall of Fame is about legends and heroes and players that go beyond the numbers and Schilling epitomizes legendary.

In addition to the wow factor and his undeniable legendary status, Schilling had a lot of the numbers required to back up his candidacy. 15th all-time in strikeouts, 2nd in strikeouts to walks and 28th in WAR for pitchers. He led the league in complete games four times and really was dominant in his Prime and great the rest of the time. He doesn't have the wins but I witnessed the Phillies teams he played with early on and he deserved more wins. Say what you want about his arrogance, the guy could pitch. He's one of the legends of the game and he belongs in Cooperatown.

Con (Mc)

While I recognize his power pitching dominance and post season heroics, I still find myself on the fence with Schilling. If you made me pick a side, I'd lean on the side of not putting him in the HOF. There are a few reasons why I put Schilling just outside of Cooperstown. First, the level of direct competition he faced during his career. He went up against Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Pedro Martinez. All these guys were dominant pretty much their whole careers whereas Schilling didn't really find his form until after age 30 (1993 being the lone outlier of success). As I've said ad nauseum, it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Very Good!

Secondly, his win total (216) does not measure up to many others not in the Hall. Schilling's win total does rival Pedro Martinez, however Pedro coupled his win total with a .687 win percentage good enough for 6th all time (Schilling .597). Schilling's strikeout total (3116) is a telling statistic, and no one that is Hall eligible that has 3000+ strikeouts has missed enshrinement.

Finally, I put Schilling in the category of two other similar pitchers, Jack Morris and Mickey Lolich. Both of them, like Schilling, had very good numbers but not excellent. They all had the post season heroics and dominance, but when you factor in the entire career, they just don't quite make it in my estimation. Indeed, there are pitchers in the Hall that don't deserve to be there, but I'm not in favor of putting guys in just because someone less deserving has already made it.


  1. I guess I have to break the tie. I agree with Mc. I put schilling in with Morris and Lolich. Came up big in the WS but Schill was injury prone most of his career. He has the strikeouts, but in the era he pitched, who didnt. 3000 k's is like 500 home runs anymore, doesn't mean as much. He was good, but not great in my opinion and not hall worthy.

  2. As we used to say in Philly about Schil: once every five days he was a horse, and all the rest he was a horse's arse. Without overstating the obvious, where you come out on Schilling's HOF creds comes down to whether you value more a very good player who hung around a long time to pile up a robust career stat line or a guy who was amongst the very best of his generation but lacked longevity. Schilling clearly falls into the latter camp, the anti-Blyleven. After breaking thru in 92 and 93 (and making his postseason bones in 93 as well), he missed significant parts of the next 3 seasons with injury, was shut down in July of 99 after winning 13 games before the AS break, missed first couple months of 2000 (resulting in his being traded at midseason and the subsequent firings of both Terry Francona, his manager in Philly, and Buck Schowalter, the manager of the team he was traded to), and was on the DL for major chunks of the 03, 05 (when he missed start of season and returned in July as the closer), and 07 seasons and of course shoulder injuries forced his somewhat unceremonious retirement after that season. But when he was healthy, he was among the most dominant pitchers in baseball -- his 319 K in 97 were the most in the NL since Koufax in 65. He won 20 games 3x, finished second in the Cy Young 3x (twice to Randy Johnson and once to Santana) and 4th another time, led the league in CG 4x, K 2x (with 3 300 K seasons and 3000 K for his career), and IP 2x. And of course he was the best big game pitcher of his generation. He pitched in 4 WS and won 3 of them; in the one he didn't (93 with the Phils) facing elimination he threw a 5-hit SO to force Game 6. He was the MVP of the 1993 NLCS and the 2001 WS. Most importantly, and I don't believe this can be overstated, the Red Sox had not won a WS in 86 years before he was signed and with characteristic bravado predicted he'd come to end the curse of the Bambino. Sure enough, despite going down 3-0 to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, the Bosox won the WS in Schilling's first year with the team (inspired by his bloody sock performance in game 6 of the ALCS). They won it again in 2007 for good measure, with Schilling getting the clincher in the WS vs COL. Point being that Schilling's swagger and big game delivery fundamentally altered baseball history. Whether that makes him better or just comparable to Jack Morris or Dave "Smoke" Stewart or Mickey Lolich, I don't know...but I'd take him over Bert Blyleven any day.

  3. Looks like we have another tie...

    It's close, but I side with the pro-HOF camp. True, Morris and Lolich have wins in the low to mid 200 range, plus some legendary postseason moments...but they also had a regular season ERA just 5% above the league average. Schilling dwarfs them both at 27% above. Pretty hard for me to lump him in with the other two.

    As for Blyleven - he was excellent in the postseason as well. Regular season, not quite as dominant as Schilling but pitched forever. Both are HOF'ers in my book, not top tier, but comfortably in.

  4. Love that ERA stat, Munk. Good stuff.

  5. "Came up big in the WS but Schill was injury prone most of his career. He has the strikeouts, but in the era he pitched, who didnt. 3000 k's is like 500 home runs anymore, doesn't mean as much."

    I beg to differ. There have been 16 pitchers who struck out 3000 batters and 25 batters who have hit 500 HRs. For the batters, Bonds, Griffey, Sosa, Rodriguez, Thome, McGwire, Palmeiro, Ramirez, Thomas, and Sheffield have joined their club recently. That's 10 of 25. For the pitchers, it's really just Johnson, Clemens, Maddux, Martinez, Schilling, and Smoltz. That's six of 16. That's 40% to 37.5%. Okay, so it's comparable - but toss this in as well: steroids helped some of those sluggers a lot more than it helped those pitchers.

    So 3000 K is a bigger deal. Not only that, but there are plenty of sluggers who are now poised to join that 500 HR club, and yet the active leader in strikeouts is Javier Vazquez - with 2,428. He ain't getting there.

  6. Schilling is one of 4 pitchers in MLB history to strike out 3,000 batters and walk less than 1,000 batters (Pedro, Maddux and Jenkins are the others).

    Schilling is one of 2 pitchers in MLB history to strike out 3,000 batters and give up LESS than 3,000 hits (Pedto is the other)

    The earlier posts comparing him to Lolich and Morris are an injustice as they were not of the same caliber pitcher as Schilling.
    He is also one of 16 pitchers to strikeout 3000 batters. That milestone is going to be tough to reach in the future as not one pitcher has struck out more than 269 batters in a season since 2005.

    Schilling led the league in wins twice, strikeouts twice and complete games 4 times. Not to mention, his post season performances were nothing short of outstanding.

  7. I can't buy the 3000 hits thing. That's because Schilling and Pedro pitched fewer innings than the other 3k-K pitchers. The walks one is more solid, but boils down to a K/BB ratio of 3+, which several other 3k-K pitchers had.

    That being said, I fully agree on Schilling being a HoF. Think of it as a package. 216 wins by itself isn't enough. Awesome postseason isn't enough. 3000 K's isn't enough (would YOU vote Vazquez in if he got it, or Moyer with 300 wins, or Damon with 3000 hits? I hope not) But put the three elements together, and I say he's gotta go in.

    Schill's K/BB, WHIP, 300k seasons, Cy runner-ups won't get him in by themselves, but are good additional "fluff."

    Also agree on the Red Sox cap. Even though his stats were better in Philly/AZ, Boston is where he REALLY left his mark - signed in blood.

  8. I agree steroids help those batters get to 500 hr's, but the pitchers got to 3000 k's because all the hitters were swinging for the fences. There's so many more pitchers in this era who average over a k an inning and it's because they are all swinging for the fences. Dunn and Reynolds recently set the strikeout records for single season. Can't believe we have big league hitters striking out 200 times a season.

    That said Schill shouldn't get in.

    1. There is no substantive argument here. Players also walked more, & Schilling had the best K/BB rate EVER save for a 19th century player. This & HRs allowed are the vast majority of what a pitcher can do, other than not bunch them together in ways that allow runs to score.

      And his ERA + is excellent, while his unearned runs allowed are unusually good. Schilling should be a shoe-in even without his superb post season. Decent IP, excellent peak, & great rate stats.

      Morris & Lolich-fuhgeddiboutit. Morris actually was mediocre in the PS, but most importantly, a 105 ERA + with the great defense behind him. It would be very hard indeed for someone to be so great in Ks/BB over a reasonable amount of IP & NOT deserve the Hall.


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