Hall of Fame Pet Project II

Yesterday, I put up a little post — really more of a teaser — to announce that I have decided to make Curt Schilling my new Hall of Fame pet project. I sense from some of the reaction to that piece that I missed my goal on that post, which was only to say:

“Hey, you know what? Maybe Curt Schilling is a jerk. Maybe he’s a loudmouth.* Maybe he says hateful things. Maybe his political views are grotesque to you. I tend to believe all of the above. But none of those things should have anything to do with the fact that he was absolutely, 100 percent, without question one of the greatest pitchers of all time and belongs in the Hall of Fame.”

*A few people have texted me to say that I’m soft-pedaling just what a bad guy Curt Schilling is here. Maybe that’s right — I certainly have very strong private feelings about the guy. But the point here was never to reopen the conversation of Schilling’s awfulness. That’s a whole different argument and one that I’m not too interested in having.

I suppose I could have written that, but I thought it would be more fun to open the conversation by mentioning that with better timing — that is, when he wasn’t going against Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and peak Johan Santana — he could have won four Cy Young awards. This is NOT my Hall of Fame argument for him. It was intended to get the thing rolling.

But, like I say, some misread that, thought this was at the crux of my argument so I thought: I better give you the crux of my argument.

— Here are the Top 5 pitchers not in the Hall of Fame (using Wins Above Average):

  1. Roger Clemens, 93.8 WAA
  2. Curt Schilling, 54.5
  3. Mike Mussina, 47.2
  4. Clayton Kershaw, 41.5
  5. Roy Halladay, 39.2

So, yeah, that’s argument №1 — Curt Schilling is the best non-Clemens pitcher who is not in the Hall of Fame.

— Here are the top five eligible PLAYERS — pitchers and position players — not in the Hall of Fame using Wins Above Average:

  1. Barry Bonds, 123.5 WAA
  2. Roger Clemens, 93.8
  3. Curt Schilling, 54.5
  4. Chipper Jones, 53.2
  5. Larry Walker, 48.2

And there’s argument №2. Using Wins Above Average — which I think is probably the best tool for simply sorting out potential Hall of Famers — Curt Schilling is the SINGLE BEST PLAYER NOT TAINTED BY STEROIDS who is not in the Hall of Fame. He has slightly more WAA than Chipper Jones, who will go in with like 95% of the vote. More on Chipper in a second.

— Here are the only four non-active pitchers with a strikeout to walk ratio of better than 4–to-1 since 1900 (min. 1,000 innings pitched)

  1. Curt Schilling, 4.38–1
  2. Pedro Martinez, 4.15–1
  3. Mariano Rivera, 4.10–1
  4. Dan Haren, 4.03–1

Argument №3 — Curt Schilling was perhaps the greatest power/control of his or any other time.

— This is Curt Schilling’s October record:

Postseason: 11–2, 2.23 ERA, 2 shutouts, 120–25 strikeout to walk, 0.968 WHIP.

World Series: 4–1, 2.06 ERA, 1 shutout, 43–10 strikeouts to walk, 0.896 WHIP.

Co-MVP of the 2001 World Series. Co-Sportsman of the Year that season. Winner of the bloody sock game to lead Boston to the World Series. Dominant in his start for Red Sox during their first World Series victory in forever. Excellent in his World Series start at age 40 when Red Sox won second World Series.

Argument №4 — Schilling’s postseason dominance is a huge part of baseball history. If you are one of those “cannot tell the story of baseball without him,” people, well, you cannot tell the story of baseball in the 2000s without Schilling.

— Here’s how Curt Schilling compares to John Smoltz.

They were almost exact contemporaries, born almost exactly six months apart. They were both big power righties. They both were excellent in the postseason. Smoltz cruised into the Hall of Fame on first ballot with 83% of the vote.

Smoltz: 213–155, 3.33 ERA, 125 ERA+, 3.24 FIP, 154 saves, 3,473 innings, 16 shutouts, 3,084 Ks, 3.05 strikeout-to-walk, 1.176 WHIP, 66.5 bWAR, 79.6 fWAR.

Schilling: 216–146, 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+, 3.23 FIP, 22 saves, 3,261 innings, 20 shutouts, 3,116 Ks, 4.38 strikeouts to walk, 1.137 WHIP, 80.7 bWAR, 79.8 fWAR.

Argument №5 — I do not see how you can look at those two careers and decide the Smoltz was the better pitcher. The only advantage Smoltz has was that he was a closer for a time and so racked up some saves. Many Hall of Fame voters do love those saves. But Schilling was better at basically everything else — more shutouts, more strikeouts, better strikeout to walk, lower WHIP, heck, he even had more wins with a better winning percentage if you care about such things, even though Smoltz pitched almost his entire career for the dominant Braves.

Smoltz did win a Cy Young Award. Schilling finished second in the Cy voting three times and won a Sportsman of the Year. Schilling ranks better in every single Hall of Fame statistic at the bottom of the Baseball Reference page — higher Black Ink (which counts times you led the league in an important category), higher Gray Ink (which counts times you finished Top 10 in league), higher on Hall of Fame Monitor, higher on Hall of Fame standards, dramatically higher in Jay Jaffe’s JAWS category.

And here’s Tom Tango’s Indi (Individualized Won Loss) for each:

Smoltz: 102–39

Schilling: 116–26

I cannot for the life of me understand how 82% could see Smoltz as a Hall of Famer and, that exact same year, only 39.2% saw Schilling as one. It’s irrational.

—In 1995, Curt Schilling won the Lou Gehrig award for exhibiting the character and integrity of Lou Gehrig on and off the field. He won this for raising (and donating) a lot of money in an effort to find a cure for ALS. Schilling so admired the Yankees first baseman that he named his oldest son Gehrig.

In 2001, Schilling won the Roberto Clemente Award for combining good play and strong work in the community. He also won the Branch Rickey Award from the Denver Rotary Club given in recognition of exceptional community service. He also won the Hutch Award for the player who best exemplifies the fighting spirit of Fred Hutchinson.

“These tell me that people believe I’ve made a difference in someone’s life,” Schilling said upon accepting the Branch Rickey Award. This is a guy who throughout his career, donated $100 per strikeout and $1,000 per victory to fight ALS.

The final argument (for today): How many baseball players have won all four of these prestigious awards for their character? Two. Schilling and Jamie Moyer.

Now, does any of this change the fact that Schilling often clashed with other players and, since retirement, has managed to offend just about every Hall of Fame voter (and most people in general) with something or other (including his retweeting of a T shirt that suggested lynching journalists)? Of course not. I can retweet all the people who call Schilling a garbage human being if that would make you feel better.

But it does say that there’s another side to Curt Schilling, one he displayed as a player, and to suggest that this man who, for whatever his loudmouth, retched tendencies after he retired, fails to live up to the character clause while he played and revisionist history and entirely unfair.

I don’t like what Curt Schilling has decided to become. I also don’t like that Chipper Jones once tweeted out that Newtown didn’t happen— he removed the tweet and apologized for it but anyone who would put something out there like that where the parents of those Newtown children could see it won’t ever get into the Hall of Fame of good people.

But I don’t have a vote for the Hall of Fame of good people, and I wouldn’t know how to vote for such a thing even if I did. I will vote for Chipper Jones because he was one of the greatest baseball players ever. And I will vote for Curt Schilling because he was one of the greatest baseball players ever. I believe that’s the job.