Baseball Hall of Fame debates 2013: Curt Schilling
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Part 4 of a 10-part series that looks at prominent potential Hall of Famers for the Class of 2013 and the reasons to vote them in -- or keep them out.
Curt Schilling, the former Phillies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Astros and Orioles righthander, was a postseason bulldog known for being the man you wanted on the mound during a big game. Unlike several top players of his era, Schilling never was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. As such, his candidacy is based solely on the numbers. Even with numbers, though, there are two sides to the story.
THE CASE FOR THE HALL
Schilling's candidacy for the Hall of Fame isn't entirely about his performance in the postseason, but that might be his most compelling case.
In 19 postseason starts, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA, starting the final game of the World Series in 2001 and 2007, games that his teams won both times. He sandwiched in another World Series win with Boston in 2004, helping to break an infamous 86-year World Series-winning drought for that franchise.
He also started one of the most famous playoff games ever in 2004.
After tearing the tendon sheath in his right ankle during Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees -- a game during in which he pitched poorly and lost -- Schilling had to have his ankle stabilized or be shut down. He took part in a revolutionary new procedure that allowed him to pitch, but the sutures that were used caused the sock on his foot to become red with blood as he pitched in Game 6 of the ALCS. He won the game and helped the Red Sox complete a historic comeback from an 0-3 deficit in the best-of-seven series. He had a second "bloody sock" moment in the World Series. The tenacious pitcher allowed just one earned run in 13 innings -- both victories -- spread out over those two games.
Schilling pitched four complete games in the postseason and tossed two shutouts. He was named MVP of the 1993 National League Championship Series and MVP of the 2001 World Series.
But it's not as if his regular seasons were pedestrian. He ended his 20-year career with a 216-146 record and 3.46 ERA, led the league in wins twice (2001, 2004), strikeouts twice (1997, 1998) and WHIP twice (1992, 2002). He finished in the top four of Cy Young voting four times, and finished second in 2001, 2002 and 2004. He was in the top 14 of MVP voting four times and was a six-time All-Star.
The durable righthander also led the league in games started three times (1997, 1998, 2001), complete games four times (1996, 1998, 2000, 2001) and innings pitched twice (1998, 2001). He developed remarkable control late in his career and led the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio five times (2001-2004, 2006).
Baseball-reference.com lists Schilling's 76.9 career Wins Above Replacement as the 26th best all-time for a pitcher. His 1.137 career WHIP is 46th best in MLB history and his 3,116 strikeouts are 15th best.
Schilling doesn't have any "magic numbers," necessarily. But he did have a pretty magical career.
THE CASE AGAINST THE HALL
It's difficult to argue with Schilling's postseason contributions. He was a terrific pitcher in October (and that one unbelievable November in 2001) and is one of the best playoff pitchers ever.
But the Hall of Fame measures what a player does during the course of his entire career, not just in one month.
Though Schilling certainly had some career peaks, he had plenty of valleys as well.
He posted an ERA north of 3.50 12 times. Despite debuting in 1988, he didn't make an All-Star team or finish in the top-20 of MVP and Cy Young balloting until 1997. If that was the beginning of his peak, his great years ended after 2004.
Schilling's peak years were just too short.
There's also the fact that he never won a Cy Young Award, though he finished second three times. He wasn't even the best pitcher on his own team during his best seasons. Randy Johnson outshined him in Arizona and Pedro Martinez and then Josh Beckett were the aces in Boston.
And despite being the beneficiary of some great offenses, Schilling was only able to post 216 wins, winning more than 15 games just five times.
Luckily for him, he also has 146 losses, so he knows how to handle defeat. That might come in handy when the Hall of Fame votes are counted.