With the initial revelation that Curt Schilling might have thrown his last pitch, the inevitable discussion of his Hall of Fame chances followed. Schilling’s shoulder surgery went well and he has intimated that he will begin a rehabilitation program which one can only assume means he will attempt to pitch again. Nonetheless, the discussion of Schilling’s Hall of Fame status is very much in play. Hall of Fame discussions are great when they involve objectivity, facts, and due diligence. They aren’t great when they occur on Baseball Tonight for all of two minutes. It’s impossible to adequately portray an intelligent stance on Schilling’s Hall of Fame chances in just two minutes. Trying to shove everything into the debate in such a short amount of time leads to things like Orestes Destrade saying that if Curt Schilling is a Hall of Famer, then Orel Hershiser should be one, too.
First of all, Destrade never answered the question. Second, he does Schilling a disservice by turning a question about Schilling into a question about Hershiser. Comparing Schilling’s resume to Hershiser’s is ridiculous. If Destrade wants to make a case for Hershiser, then so be it. But, it should certainly not be in the form of piggy-backing on Schilling’s candidacy. Even Buster Olney’s answer was brief and not very convincing and I agreed with him. It takes a decent amount of research to come to the proper conclusion on Schilling’s case for the Hall of Fame. It’s certainly not something that can be argued in less than two minutes. Destrade and Olney never even had a chance to put forth a convincing argument either way to no fault of their own. So, I’ll attempt to finish where they barely started. Schilling’s case for the Hall of Fame is being presented as borderline at best by most. I actually don’t think there’s anything “borderline” about it. In fact, I think Schilling is easily one of the top 25 starting pitchers in MLB history.
Most baseball fans know that Schilling has had big moments in the post-season. I’m not sure everyone knows just how dominating he has been in the playoffs (I’ll get to that later), but people know he has been great in October. What people apparently don’t realize—or remember—is that Schilling has been a great regular season pitcher, too. In fact, his regular season credentials alone are Hall of Fame worthy. The only blemish on his regular season resume is his win-total (216) which is relatively low for two reasons: 1). He has suffered a number of debilitating injuries, and 2). He didn’t peak until he was 29 years old. Dizzy Dean, Addie Joss, Sandy Koufax, Lefty Gomez, Rube Waddell, Ed Walsh, Dazzy Vance, Rube Marquard, Hal Newhouser, Bob Lemon, and Don Drysdale all had fewer wins than Schilling. In fact, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz have fewer wins than Schilling and they would both be Hall of Famers if their careers ended today. When Tom Glavine reached 300 wins, it became chic to suggest that he was the last 300-game winner. If Glavine is the last 300-game winner, does that mean that there will never be another pitcher to make the Hall of Fame? The 300-win mark has never been a requirement to make the Hall of Fame just like the 3,000-hit mark has never been one for hitters. Anyone who makes a decision based solely on Schilling’s win total is missing out on one of the best starting pitchers in MLB history without even knowing it.
Schilling is the all-time leader in SO:BB Ratio since 1885. He is the only pitcher in MLB history with more than 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 800 walks. He is one of only four pitchers in MLB history to have three seasons of 300+ strikeouts (Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, and Sandy Koufax are the others). Schilling is one of only three pitchers in MLB history to record a season with 23+ wins, 75%+ winning percentage, 300+ strikeouts, and a WHIP under 1.00 (Pedro Martinez and Sandy Koufax are the others). He has three seasons of at least 21 wins. Nobody in the last 25 years has had more and only Roger Clemens has equaled Schilling’s three. Schilling led the league in complete games four times including a remarkable 15 complete games in 1998 which is the highest total of the last 20 years. He also led the league in wins, innings, WHIP and strikeouts twice each.
It’s easy to dismiss Schilling’s prominence—or lack thereof—on the all-time lists since those lists are littered with a). relievers, b). pitchers who played before 1900, and c). pitchers who had short careers. When you compare Schilling’s numbers to starting pitchers who pitched 3,000 innings (most Hall of Fame starters pitch at least 3,000 innings), his numbers become incredibly impressive. Among pitchers who pitched at least 3,000 innings after 1900, Schilling is 4th in K/9, 9th in WHIP, and 12th in ERA+. How can a pitcher with that kind of presence on the all-time lists not be a Hall of Famer?
Schilling never won a Cy Young award but he finished second three times and fourth another time. He was named the TSN Pitcher of the Year in 2000 and 2001. Schilling also finished in the top 15 of the MVP voting four times which is remarkable for a pitcher. As I mentioned above, Schilling’s post-season prowess is well-known but getting his teams to the post-season is another notch on his regular-season resume. As a full-time starter, he led every franchise that he pitched for to the playoffs and to the World Series.
Hall of Fame Tests
Schilling is a Hall of Famer on the Black Ink, Gray Ink, and HOF Monitor tests. Since 1900, every eligible pitcher above 32 on the Black Ink Test is in the Hall of Fame. Schilling has a 42. The Black Ink Test measures how often a player led the league in various categories. Post-season success does not factor into this test. Since 1900, every eligible pitcher above 135 on the HOF Monitor Test is in the Hall of Fame. In fact, a score of 130 is considered “a lock.” Schilling has a 171. Since 1900, Bert Blyleven is the only pitcher above 200 on the Gray Ink Test who is not in the Hall of Fame and he is generally regarded as one of the biggest Hall of Fame snubs of all-time. Schilling has a 205. The Gray Ink Test measures how often a player finished in the top ten of various categories. Post-season success is not factored in this test, either. Those who suggest that Schilling’s resume is heavily slanted towards post-season success might want to reconsider. By virtually all “tests” that measure regular season success only, Schilling is a Hall of Famer. Now it’s time for the…
Along with Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson, a good case can be made that Schilling is the greatest post-season pitcher in MLB history. He won the World Series MVP in 2001 and the NLCS MVP in 1993. He has led his teams to four World Series appearances and three World Series Championships. In 21 career post-season starts, Schilling is 12-2 with a 2.45 ERA. Among starting pitchers who pitched at least 60 innings, Schilling has the best post-season winning percentage in MLB history. In eight World Series starts, Schilling is 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA.
It's easy to dismiss Schilling in an era dominated by Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez. I'm not going to suggest Schilling deserves to be in their class since they are four of the ten greatest pitchers in MLB history but he deserves to be recognized as one of the greats.