No. 100: Curt Schilling

The shape of Curt Schilling’s career is an odd one. He was a pretty-well regarded prospect coming out of Yayapai College back in 1986. The Boston Red Sox drafted him in the second round of the January draft — people tend to forget that it was the Red Sox — and that was the year that Roger Clemens emerged as a superstar.

Clemens was 6-foot-4, 200 or so pounds with a huge fastball and a competitive ferocity.

Schilling was 6-foot-5, 200 or so pounds with a huge fastball, a lackadaisical approach and a wild haircut.

The Red Sox seemed to think they could build Schilling into another Roger, or anyway they thought so for a very short while. They only kept Schilling for two minor-league seasons before shipping him off the Baltimore in a spectacularly ill-conceived deal that brought back 30-year-old Mike Boddicker. Schilling was not even the main component of the deal — the Red Sox traded Brady Anderson, who would become a three-time All-Star for the Orioles.

I’m sure Red Sox fans have thought a lot about this: In 1988, they traded Curt Schilling and Brady Anderson for Boddicker. Two years later, they traded Jeff Bagwell for 37-year-old Larry Andersen. It’s really no wonder after those two mega-flops that the Red Sox were barely a .500 team from 1992-1997.

In any case, Schilling had a reputation for being a goofball, for not taking his talent seriously and for grating on people’s nerves. He generally earned that reputation by being a goofball, not taking his talent seriously and grating on other people’s nerves. There’s a great story Schilling often tells about the day Orioles manager Frank Robinson brought Schilling to his office, glared at him for a long while and finally said, “What’s wrong with you son?”

The Orioles never did figure out the answer to that question, and they traded him away to Houston for a 30-year-old Glenn Davis (though, it should be said, that was over Frank Robinson’s strong objections). Another interesting note: Again, Schilling was not the main part of the deal. The prize was Steve Finley who would go on to win five Gold Gloves and make two All-Star teams (though none of that for Houston).

Schilling barely had time to get from the airport to his hotel in Houston before he got traded again. Everybody wanted Curt Schilling, the talented young pitcher on someone else’s team. But nobody actually wanted Curt Schilling, the pitcher on your own team. He was traded to Philadelphia barely a year later. That’s three trades in four years — up to this point, Schilling’s career record was 4-11 with a 4.16 ERA, 113 strikeouts and 71 walks. He was turning 25.

The Phillies weren’t too thrilled with him either at first. They put him out in the bullpen where they asked him to mop up some games or pitch some middle innings. He was pretty good at it. In mid-May he had 29 strikeouts in 28 innings, a 2.86 ERA, and the league was hitting just .184 against him. The Phillies decided to give him a start. Hey, why not? The Phillies weren’t going anywhere anyway. Schilling went out and pitched six shutout innings against the Astros. After a rough start against the Reds, he gave up just one run in his next three starts. The Phillies wondered if the kid had put it together.

He had. Schilling was good. He started 26 games and completed 12 of them. He threw four shutouts. He had a 2.35 ERA and held batters to a .201 average and a .288 slugging percentage. Pretty impressive.

And that began the up-and-down portion of the Curt Schilling career. The next year, he was the No. 1 starter for a Phillies team that won 97 games and went to the World Series. In many ways he did not pitch as well as he did in 1992 — his ERA jumped almost two full runs — but the Phillies won 22 of the 34 times he started. And in the postseason, he was fantastic. He pitched eight strong innings against the Braves in Game of the NLCS (a game Philadelphia won in extra innings) then pitched eight more strong ones in Game 5 (Philadelphia won that in extras too when the bullpen blew the lead in the ninth). He was named the series MVP.

Then, in the World Series, he got banged around a little bit by the Blue Jays in Game 1 but was all-but unhittable in Game 5, with the Phillies facing elimination. Schilling pitched a five-hit shutout that would be a sign of postseason heroics to come.

Then, for the next three years, he did almost nothing. He had many injuries and, he would admit, various focus issues. This was when he had the streaks in his hair and the Rottweiler tattoo somewhere, and he was still reeling from the death of his father Cliff, who had died in 1988 of an aneurysm. Cliff was an army man, the hero in Curt Schilling’s life, and he never got to see his son pitch in the big leagues. That was hard to accept, hard to deal with. When Curt Schilling turned 30, his career record was 52-52 and only once in his career had he made 30 starts in a season.

Then, it all turned. Schilling had never struck out 200 in a season. In 1997, he struck out 319, the most ever for a National League right-hander. The next year he struck out 300 again. He was morphing into something rare, an overpowering pitcher with impeccable control and a deep love of the big moment. In 2000, he was traded to Arizona and for the next four years (the last of those with Boston) he was absolutely sensational. He went 74-28 with a 150 ERA+, but the thing that was so striking is that he struck out 1006 batters and walked just 139. No one in baseball history had ever combined that kind of dominance with that kind of control.*

*Schilling finished second in the Cy Young voting in 2001, 2002 and 2004. In 2001, he lost to his teammate Randy Johnson who went 21-6 with a 2.49 ERA and 372 strikeouts. In 2002, he lost to Johnson again — this time Unite went 24-5 with a 2.32 ERA and 334 strikeouts. In 2004, he lost to Johan Santana, who led the league in ERA (2.51), strikeouts (265) and WHIP (.921).

And, of course, there was the postseason magic. When the 2001 Diamondbacks won 92 games and made it to the postseason, nobody really took them seriously. First, they played a good Cardinals team with an old Mark McGwire and young Albert Pujols. Schilling in Game 1 overwhelmed them — nine innings, there hits, nine strikeouts, no Cardinals player reached third base. Then, in the decisive Game 5, Schilling threw nine more innings, struck out nine again and gave up nothing but a solo home run to J.D. Drew. The Diamondbacks were going to the NLCS to face the Atlanta Braves, who were coming to the end of their long run of domination.

Schilling only needed to pitch once in that Braves series. He threw another complete game, struck out 12, and gave up just one run. The Diamondbacks won the series in 5 and, you will remember, played the three-time defending World Series champion Yankees in the World Series.

And Schilling did it again. Game 1, he left a ticket for his father at Will Call like he always did, gave up three hits in seven innings, and the Diamondbacks breezed to victory. Schilling pitched almost precisely the same game on three days rest at Yankee Stadium — seven innings, three hits, nine strikeouts — and reliever Byung-Hyun Kim came in to pitch the eighth with a 3-1 lead. You might recall, that one did not end well for Kim or the Diamondbacks. The Yankees made the spectacular comeback and won it on Derek Jeter’s 10th inning Mr. November homer.

So Schilling came BACK on three-days rest for Game 7 and had a shutout going through six. He gave up a run in the seventh and was laboring. He gave up a home run in the eighth to Alfonso Soriano. Randy Johnson came into the game, Mariano Rivera committed an error, Luis Gonzalez hit a broken back bloop single … well, you know the Diamondbacks won the thing.

The point is that Schilling had, once again, been spectacular in the postseason. People will always argue about how a person’s ability to become better than themselves in the biggest moments. But this was two Octobers when Schilling was utterly masterful. And then, in 2004, it would happen again. Schilling was not as dominant in 2004, but, hey, he could barely walk. He had the famous ankle injury, the one that would open up and bleed through his sock as he pitched a ferocious Game 6 against the Yankees in that great ALCS. Schilling did not have his great stuff that day or even his good stuff, but he found a way to work through a lineup that had mashed a team record 242 home runs (more, even, than the 1961 Yankees of Mantle and Maris). He did it at Yankee Stadium. He did it with his ankle bleeding. It was what the pundits call “a courageous performance.”

Schilling pitched on that bad ankle in the World Series too — no earned runs in six innings.

He made seven World Series starts in his career. His team won five of them. His ERA was 2.06.

There are a few pitchers with higher WAR than Schilling who I left out of the Top 100. There are quite a few pitchers with more than Schilling’s 214 wins who I left out of the Top 100. The wild inconsistency of Schilling’s career is a mark against him. He also suffered many injuries which shortened his career somewhat

For me, his spot in the Top 100 came down to a couple of simple things. One, Curt Schilling has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of any pitcher since 1900 (4.38-to-1). It is even better than Mariano Rivera’s, and Schilling threw three times as many innings. People will disagree about what a pitcher can control. and what is left to defense, luck and umpiring. But it’s pretty clear that two things a pitcher has a lot of control over are strikeouts and walks — and Schilling’s 3,116 strikeouts against only 711 walks is one of the great number pairings in baseball history.

The second thing is that extraordinary postseason record. It was a part of the bigger-than-life career of Curt Schilling. He has never lost his talent for getting on people’s nerves, he’s been outspoken about everything, (alienating many), he’s had his business troubles since he quit baseball, and even now he seems to get in some kind of Twitter war every few weeks. But there was a lot to like about the guy — he was a quote machine, he was deeply dedicated to ALS and other charities, he could be startlingly honest even about his own limitations and once he figured out what he was all about, the guy competed again and again.

56 thoughts on “No. 100: Curt Schilling

  1. 18thstreet

    Great piece, so I don’t want to get bogged down in this, but speaking only for myself (as a Red Sox fan), I don’t regret the Boddicker trade.

    Boddicker improved the 1988 team, which only had two competent starters (Clemens and Hurst) and gave them a fighting chance. (Little did we know, then, how useless Roger Clemens would always be if he was facing Dave Stewart. The A’s swept Boston 4-0 in the playoffs.)

    When you give up a pitcher as young as Schilling was then, there’s a pretty good likelihood he’s going to flame out or get injured. As far as Brady Anderson goes, even he didn’t break out until 1992 at age 28 (the first time his OPS+ topped 100). And, yes, the Red Sox could have used him through the 90s, but it’s not like they missed him terribly from 1988 until 1992.

    No regrets for me.

    Reply
    1. blahbblahblah

      I’m in agreement here. Boddicker was a darn good pitcher who went 39-22 for the Sox over three years,including 7-3 down the stretch in 88, picking up the slumping Clemens,who started 15-5 with a 2.23,only to go 3-7to finish 18-12 with a 2.93 ERA.
      The Sox were hovering around .500 when they got hot-Starting July 15,they won twelve straight, 19 out of 20 total and 25 straight at home.
      Take out that 19-1 run and the Sox were 70-72 on the season.

      Reply
      1. John

        Actually, I’ve been thinking further about this issue this morning, because on the one hand, I agree with you that there should be a burden of proof- in a perfect world, a player would be innocent until they fail a drug test.

        But I also resent that some players (Piazza, Bagwell) have been thrown under the “Maybe Steroid” bus while other players (like Schilling) are just as suspicious or more, but the media gives them a collective free pass.

        I wish I had a better solution than to suspect everyone, but that’s where I’m left. I think everyone must have tried a PED at some point.

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        1. invitro

          “in a perfect world, a player would be innocent until they fail a drug test.”

          1. In my world, a player IS innocent until they fail a drug test.
          2. My world is not perfect.

          Would you like to be judged by rumors?

          Reply
    1. Robert

      Derek Jeter was in the same clubhouse as Clemens for years… so was Rivera. I can only assume you think they juiced too?

      Reply
      1. Jess Sayin

        How could anyone think Rivera ever used steroids ever ever? Just because he was a minor league non-prospect from a Central American country recovering from injury who abruptly added 5 MPH to his fastball?

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        1. John

          Exactly. I’m not saying he should be kept out of the Hall of Fame, I’m saying that every player in the steroid era is under suspicion.

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        1. chris

          Do you think Jamie Moyer was ” on the juice”. I mean his career did not take off until after he was 30. How about Tim Wakefield?

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    2. Robert

      And did you even see what Schilling looked like? He was built more like Mickey Lolich than Mickey Mantle for goodness sake.

      Only reason Schilling’s head was big was his ego.

      Reply
  2. Jan

    Joe, Great article. His career once examined closer, has the following:

    1. One of four pitchers in history (Koufax, Ryan and Johnson) to strike out 300 batters in 3 different seasons
    2, One of 16 to strike out 3,000 in a season ( Haft the the size of the 3,000 hit club- something that should be more extolled)
    3. One of 4 to strike out 3,000 and walk less than 1000 (Maddux, Jenkins, and Pedro)
    4. Schilling and Pedro are the only 2 pitchers with 3,000 k’s and giving up less than 3000 hits.

    David Schoenfield in this article last year shows he compares favorably with Bob Gibson

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/19816/curt-schilling-and-2013-the-new-gibson

    Reply
  3. Chester

    Is giving up a World Series-losing home run in the 8th inning of Game Seven “utterly masterful”? Just as Jack Morris only got his game of games because Lonnie Smith got fooled, Schilling avoided what would have been an unforgettably painful loss because of a throwing error and a broken bat. He was great, but that’s a little less than “utter.”

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    1. Nickolai

      You are cherry-picking one at-bat here; Joe was describing Schilling’s performance in his two postseasons up to that point. His combined results across 1993 and 2001: 10 starts, 79.2 IP, 84 Ks, 16 BBs, 15 ER for a 1.68 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. Especially with the lineups he was facing and the short-rest before a number of the starts…yeah, I’d call that “utterly” freaking “masterful.”

      Reply
  4. Rick R

    Johnson and Schilling were an interesting pair. Not only were they arguably the most dominant lefty-righty duo of all time, they both were late bloomers. Schilling didn’t take off till he was 30, while Randy Johnson didn’t blossom till he was 29. Prior to that point, he was 37-48 with an ERA above 4. For all the talk about how most baseball players peak in their mid-twenties and decline in their 30′s, Johnson and Schilling didn’t hit their stride until their 30′s, and then were as good as any pitchers have ever been.

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    1. Ian R.

      To be fair, most people who talk about aging curves will tell you that pitchers often don’t age the same way as position players. A lot of guys dominate young and flame out (see Dwight Gooden, Bret Saberhagen, Fernando Valenzuela), and a lot of others are late bloomers (Schilling and Johnson are two prime examples).

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    2. PhilM

      I’ve looked at the aging as well, and while Schilling is a definite “late bloomer,” so were Randy Johnson and Dazzy Vance, who were similar strikeout pitchers. Phil Niekro and Jamie Moyer actually have a greater percentage of their career WARs late (not breaking 75% until their age-40 seasons), but slow-slower-slowest junkballers/knuckleballers aren’t directly comparable.

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    3. Alan

      How the two of them aren’t questioned more about steroid use is beyond me. They don’t have to be ‘huge’ to reap the benefits of steroids. Guys don’t suddenly become better in their 30s and sustain it for years to come. Think about it for 10 seconds.

      Reply
  5. PhilM

    Curt Schilling is a bit of a bugaboo for me: I just don’t drink the Kool-Aid, I guess. I’ve crunched some numbers, and since Schilling’s postseasons are a significant part of the appeal, here’s how he matches up to Carl Mays in that department:

    Curt Schilling (Postseason, all rounds):
    19 GS, 4 CG, 2 ShO, 11-2, 2.23 ERA, 133.1 IP, 104 H, 25 BB, 120 SO, 0.968 WHIP
    Carl Mays (Postseason Plus Pennant-Push in 1916, 1921, and 1926):
    18 G, 15 GS, 13 CG, 1 ShO, 2 SV, 10-6, 2.70 ERA, 133.1 IP, 126 H, 21 BB, 37 SO, 1.103 WHIP

    By WAR, Mays was the seasonal ace of three of his five PPPP teams – the 1918 Red Sox, 1921 Yankees, and 1926 Reds. Schilling was #1 in WAR only for the 2004 Red Sox.

    Regarding the K/BB ratio, in this era of high-risk/high-reward with high strikeouts and high home run totals, Schilling’s 4.38 is 130% better than the league average of 1.91. This is right in line with Dazzy Vance’s 2.43 vs. 1.07 league (127% better) and Dizzy Dean’s 2.57 vs. 1.14 league (125%). “The best since 1900″ is a big disingenuous.

    That said, his spot #100 seems pretty fair to me — I do consider him a top-50 pitcher, so it will be interesting to see where he ranks among Joe’s moundsmen.

    Reply
    1. invitro

      Great stuff. Is there a place to look up Pennant-Push numbers, or did you individually look up the games? I’d like to do this for more players. Some regular-season games have the same leverage (to advance to the next round of the season) as playoff games, so those should be included with postseason stats… I like it!

      I don’t know if I’m too impressed by Schilling being staff ace for only one WS winner.

      Do you have a general way to discount his #27 (or so) rank in WAR among pitchers? You must have at least a specific way to place him at #100 :).

      Reply
      1. PhilM

        I’ve long felt that Carl Mays was unfairly impugned by Fred Lieb’s unsubstantiated story about a drunk Colonel Huston and Mays “throwing” the 1921 World Series, so I’ve read up on him a bit, finding Bob McGarigle’s hard-to-find “Baseball’s Great Tragedy: The Story of Carl Mays” especially interesting. I researched and wrote up the Pennant-Push stuff pretty thoroughly, but it would be silly to post it all here — feel free to email me at preterosso (at) comcast (dot) net and I’d be happy to share. As I put it, “Essentially, the pennant races WERE the playoffs – winner goes on, loser goes home.”

        As far as ranking pitchers, I go simple — well, at least I use simple numbers. I take seasonal ERA+ translated into “pragmatic” or “neutralized” win-loss records using negative binomial distribution, then I rank the revised career win-loss record using Bill James’s Fibonacci Win Points. Sounds convoluted, but the results square pretty well with WAR, JAWS, and the eye test. I have Schilling as #42 all time, a bit behind Kevin Brown (37) and Whitey Ford (39), and slightly above Juan Marichal (45) and Roy Halladay (tied at 45 so far).

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    2. Mark Daniel

      Phil, that seems to be a pretty good point about K/BB, assuming the BB rate hasn’t increased over time along with the K rate. Also, why do you cite Dean and Vance, and not a pitcher with a better ratio than Schilling’s? As of now, you haven’t disproved that Schilling is the best since 1900 in this category.

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      1. PhilM

        I’ve got a lot of material I’ve worked up on Schilling, because I’m fascinated that he “suddenly” became a Hall-of-Famer while I was watching and apparently didn’t see it. I’ll dribble it out if and only if it’s relevant to our discussion, I promise. . . .

        Walks per 9 innings have been pretty steady over time: 3.23 during Stan Coveleskie’s career, 3.37 during Pedro’s, 3.34 during Saberhagen’s, 3.35 during Amos Rusie’s, 3.51 during Whitey Ford’s.

        Schilling is exactly on a par with Walter Johnson, with both at 129.8% (too many sig-figs, but still) of the league average: 2.57 vs. 1.12 for Barney, 4.38 vs. 1.91 for Curtis. And yes, that’s the best of the 20th century for the pitchers I considered: Vance, Dean, Pedro, Waddell, Hubbell, Saberhagen, Mussina, Jenkins, Ed Walsh, Guidry, Marichal, Three Finger Brown, Feller, et al. (and that’s pretty much the ranking, in descending order). I was pretty amazed to see Randy Johnson at only 76.4% (3.28 vs. 1.85 league. The best I could find all-time was Grasshopper Jim Whitney with a 3.82 ratio vs. 1.56 league for 144%. But 1500 strikeouts in 3500 innings isn’t that impressive, even in the nineteenth century.

        Now that I think about it, I don’t have Lefty Grove on my list, and I don’t know why. I may have to check his numbers and get back to you all.

        Reply
  6. Anon

    I’ve always found it interesting that Schilling was traded 5 times and every time the team trading him would greatly regret it. Granted some of those were because of the other players traded but all 5 of those trades could go high on the list of worst trades of the last 30 years.

    As for the 8th INning HR SOriano hit in game 7 in 2001, that was hardly a bad pitch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2xYrmRojJw Guy takes you deep off a pitch at or below the knees, you just have to tip your cap to him.

    Also, as noted it’s Yavapai not Yayapai

    Reply
  7. invitro

    “There are a few pitchers with higher WAR than Schilling who I left out of the Top 100.”

    Anyone want to start the guessing game with this? He is #26, and I will guess #23 Mussina, #21 John Clarkson, and maybe #18 Tim Keefe.

    If I went mainly by JAWS and postseason performance, Curtis Montague would be a whole freakin’ lot higher, like #40 or so, maybe. But I’m a fan. I’m still disappointed in this low ranking, but not too surprised.

    Reply
    1. Ian R.

      I’m inclined to agree with those three. A few other possibilities: Pud Galvin, Eddie Plank, Robin Roberts. All great pitchers, but maybe not top-100 material.

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    2. PhilM

      John Clarkson and Tim Keefe played a long time ago, but I find that Fangraph’s WAR does the nineteenth century a disservice: Baseball Reference isn’t as extreme. I don’t think they should be out of the top dozen: Clarkson had 506 decisions with a career ERA+ of 133, Keefe a 126 ERA+ over 567 decisions. Keefe also successfully adapted to the constant tinkering with pitching rules in 1881, 1887, 1889, and 1893. JAWS has them both top-12, and I see no reason to disagree. Frankly, I don’t see any of the 25 pitchers ahead of Schilling on the WAR list as having worse careers than he did, though I’d say Pud Galvin is close. We’ll see what Joe thinks!

      Reply
      1. invitro

        Me too, definitely, and in how many Negro Leaguesers make it, and if any Japan player other than Oh makes it (who is the #2 Japan player, anyway? How far behind Oh is he?), and if Grich makes it, and many other things.

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  8. PhilM

    JAWS is fun, but Schilling’s value along that metric is more dependent upon his career WAR. His 7 best years aren’t that much to write home about: Ted Breitenstein, anyone?

    Reply
  9. Richard Aronson

    My understanding of steroids is that they would tend to increase speed and break (for pitchers) at the cost of some control. I don’t recall any massive increase in Schilling’s velocity. I think that as with so many other power pitchers, he needed to throw a lot of pitches before he finally learned control. I don’t know if I agree with Schilling being in the 100 best of all time (I’ll probably have to see most of the list to decide) but I think he’s definitely worth considering, much better than Jim Rice, for example.

    It will be interesting to me where guys like Grich and Evans wind up, or if they wind up. The HOF tends to discount guys who do everything well; will Joe’s list? And what about players that are still active (for some values of active) like Pujols, ARod, Cabrera, Kershaw, Trout?

    Reply
    1. Ian R.

      Given Joe’s previous writings, I’d say that Evans especially has a strong shot at cracking the list. I’m also waiting to see where Arky Vaughan, another criminally underrated guy, ends up (though he IS in the Hall of Fame), along with Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell and a few other overlooked greats.

      I doubt we’ll see Kershaw or Trout on this list, but Pujols and A-Rod will surely be there. Jeter, too, probably. Cabrera, possibly. We might see Ichiro, and (again, knowing Joe) we might see Carlos Beltran.

      Reply
  10. Richard Aronson

    Schilling is 62nd all time career WAR on bRef, much higher than I expected. I’m sure there are some holes on their list, both Negro Leagues and early days, but yeah, I guess Schilling belongs. OTOH, bRef ranks Schilling above Eddie Murray, Tim Raines, Tony Gwynn, Jim Palmer, Derek Jeter; do you think they overvalue pitcher strikeouts some?

    Reply
    1. Kris

      BBRef WAR for pitchers does not care about strikeouts one way or another – they are not part of the calculation at all.

      Reply
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  12. Daniel Wilkins

    Wasn’t Schilling also responsible for the mystique and aura quote during the 2001 WS? Asked about how the D-Back’s would respond to the Yankees mystique and aura, he said something along the lines of those are dancers at a strip club.

    Reply
  13. bellweather22

    The thing that I liked about Schilling is that he had his game plan, which generally was to throw a lot of fastballs for strikes and mix in the splitter & other stuff. I remember him mouthing the word “fastball” to his catcher during the World Series. Now, in the MLB, minor little things are picked up to indicate what pitch is coming, so there is no way that the other team missed the fact that he was verbally calling for a fastball (the TV commentators sure noticed). So, Schilling was basically saying “I don’t care that you know what’s coming, try to hit it”. I loved that about him. I doubt he’ll be anything close to a first ballot HOFer, the way things work, and with the stuffed ballot. But, he will get in after a time. He has the numbers and the post season work. You can quibble with some of his ups and downs, but he was one of the top starting pitchers of his generation.

    Reply
  14. Pat

    I’m sure I’ve posted this comment before, but while we’re on the guy, why not? Two pitchers’ lines are below, although one of them is doctored a bit. Pitcher A is an otherwise real career that has been altered in a material way. Pitcher B is an entirely real guy, warts (such as they are) and all:

    Pitcher A: 11 seasons, 164-94 win-loss, 9 saves, 2,316 strikeouts in 2,272 2/3 innings. 3.45 ERA versus league average of 4.60 (133 ERA+). 1.117 WHIP.
    Pitcher B: 12 seasons, 165-87 win-loss, 9 saves, 2,396 strikeouts in 2,324 1/3 innings. 2.76 ERA versus league average of 3.62 (131 ERA+). 1.106 WHIP.

    Pitcher A’s line is not a real-life line, so it doesn’t appear in Pitcher B’s most-similar comparables on baseball-reference, but their similarity score is 885, which would make Pitcher A tied the second-most-similar pitcher to Pitcher B.

    Pitcher B won three Cy Young awards (and got votes another time) and an MVP; Pitcher A never won the Cy but was runner-up three times (and got votes another time). (The closest he came to MVP was 10th.) Each of Pitcher A and Pitcher B had three 20-win seasons. Each made the All-Star team six times and played on teams that won three World Series.

    Well, Pitcher B is obviously Schilling, but only counting his career after he turned 30. I’m guessing everyone can spot Pitcher A.

    It’s really not that brilliant a point, but since Pitcher A is known for having a brilliant peak, I think it’s remarkable that if you add that brilliant peak to a lackluster beginning, you get Curt Schilling’s career almost exactly. Add to that the postseason record (I’m sure I’m overlooking a couple, but it’s hard to think of pitchers who have pitched that well in as many elimination games). No one needs to sell me on Curt Schilling (fair disclosure, Red Sox fan, here).

    Reply
    1. PhilM

      I think you mean Pitcher “A” is Schilling, but anybody that compares that well to Koufax is pretty solid. But I think Johan Santana is actually a better comp to Koufax, given “black ink”-type league leaderships in more modern categories like ERA+, WHIP, and pitcher WAR. If his career is indeed done, THAT will be a fascinating HOF debate!

      Reply
  15. Herb Smith

    The steroids accusations are the oddest comments I’ve ever seen in a Posnanski blog. Are you kidding? Schilling was the NUMBER ONE anti-steroid crusader amongst ballplayers. Heck, he even spoke at that famous Congressional steroid grilling (the one where McGwire didn’t want to talk about the past, Sosa suddenly claimed to not speak English, and Palmeiro wagged his finger in the face of a Senator and swore he never juiced.)

    Schilling was there as the voice of the OTHER SIDE. The only other star player who I recall being outspoken against PED use was Frank thomas, but since Curt was more shrill, loud, obnoxious, and quotable, he’s the one the public associates with being ANTI-steroids.

    Get yer facts straight. Geez.

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    1. mrgjg

      I thought the same thing, until I looked at his record. I always remembered him being kind of short on IP and didn’t realize just how many really great years he had.
      If he pitched in the same era as Jack Morris he’d probably have won 3-5 Cy Young awards.
      His K/BB ratio looks like a misprint. He doesn’t even need his post season record to rate here, but he deserves some extra credit for being on the short list of the most dominant postseason SP ever.
      I’m a diehard Yankee fan and this was really hard for me, so just agree with me so I don’t have to praise him anymore.

      Reply

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