Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Curt Career

Curt Schilling recently stated on his blog, that he was having season ending shoulder surgery. He suggested that it could very well be career ending as well. Now, post surgery, he’s saying he wants to try to come back for one more year. This series of events poses a few questions. First, is he just saying he can come back to try to prove that the Sox made the wrong call trying the “rest” strategy instead of jumping straight to surgery? Second, if his career as a Red Sox is in fact over, who assumes his title as most overrated Red Sox player? When he took the honor over from Trot Nixon, it was an easy transfer. But, now, I’m not sure whom it goes to. My best guess would be one of the kids. But, that’s just because they haven’t proven the hype yet. It’s the third question that has been getting some airtime lately. If this is the end of Schilling’s career…is it the end of a Hall-of-Fame career? My immediate reaction is that if you have to ask the question, you already know the answer is “no”. If a person is a Hall-of-Famer, you know it. But, I’m willing to explore it a little bit.

Here are a few of Schilling’s career numbers. His 3116 strikeouts placed him at 14th all-time entering the season. (He was 86 ahead of Pedro. If he hasn’t dropped to 15th yet, he will soon) His 216 wins tie him for 76th all-time. (tied with the immortal Wilbur Cooper and Charlie Hough) His 436 games started rank him 82nd, and his 3261 innings pitched place him 92nd . On the surface, those numbers aren’t too bad. It goes into the longevity question. Does Schilling get credit for pitching 20 years, or do his numbers get watered down because he pitched for 20 years? I’m from the latter camp. Long-time mediocrity does not a Hall-of-Famer make. It’s the “Hall of Fame”, not the “Hall of Really Good”, or “Hall of Better than Average”. I also don’t think you can have statistical checklists for the HOF…if he had 250 wins, or 3300 K’s, etc. You have to look at the whole body of work. There are people out there saying, “Maybe if he had 10-20 more wins…” So, one more win a year, and he’s a lock? That doesn’t make sense. Here are my rules, and we’ll see if Curt fits them. It’s simple really. The Hall requires at least a 10-year career. So, to me, if you’re a Hall-of-Famer, you need 10 great years. Unquestionable All-Star type years. Five of those years should be otherworldly. For five years, the player should be in the discussion for best in the game at his position. How can you be in the discussion for one of the best players in all-time, if you’re not in the discussion of best in your time? Beyond those ten years, just don’t do anything to embarrass yourself. It’s that simple. So, how does Schill stack up to that measuring stick? Well, for starters, he was an all-star 6 times. So, 6 times in his career the all-star coach thought he was one of the top five or so pitchers in his league. Now, I’m the first to admit that actual selection to the game is more PR than skill. But, let’s look at those six years.

Year W-L ERA K
1997 17-11 2.97 319
1998 15-14 3.25 300
1999 15-6 3.54 152
2001 22-6 2.98 293
2002 23-7 3.23 316
2004 21-6 3.26 203

Certainly nothing wrong with those years. Nothing spectacular about the first few. The last couple were Cy Young caliber. He sure strikes out a lot of guys, so that’s a plus. But, we’re still at only 6 good years (and maybe 3 of the “otherwordly” variety.) Curt pitched on four teams that went to the World Series. On only one of those was he the best pitcher on the team, 1993 with the Phillies. (Maybe in 2004 with the Sox, but I still think Pedro was the better pitcher) I’ll add that year to the list as well. The other three are already included above.

1993 16-7 4.02 186

Nothing great. Certainly nothing that screams, “Keep this up, and you’ll be in Cooperstown!” And, that’s it. Those are his good years. I count seven. I’m having trouble spotting the five “otherworldly” ones. I don’t think I can put a guy in the Hall who has seven good years out of twenty. Think of all the players who had five or six really good year who are nowhere near Hall-of-Fame worthy otherwise.

Schilling fans will point to his great postseason numbers as the final push into the Hall. I admit he’s been great in the postseason. But, so was Orlando Hernandez. Maybe some other people would have been great if they got the chance. I don’t think the postseason is a fair way to get into the Hall. But, I’ll give Curt a little push to appease everyone. Curt is still lacking in my mind. Lacking by a lot. For my money, Curt’s in the Jack Morris, Dave Stewart, Luis Tiant category. Wonderful pitchers. Any team would love to have them. But, I just can’t bring myself to list them among the greatest of all time.

Not that I get a vote.

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