Hall Watch 2005-Curt Schilling

Tuesday, February 07 2006 @ 08:14 AM EST

Contributed by: Mike Green

After 2004's epic performance, 2005 was an unhappy epilogue for Curt Schilling. The heroism of the triumph over ankle injury of the 2004 playoffs had as its necessary consequence an injury-riddled struggle in 2005, and a somewhat humiliating trip to the bullpen.

Schilling has had a fascinating career. He was drafted by the Red Sox in the second round in 1986, and made his way up the farm system, reaching double A New Britain in 1988. He was a good pitcher, but not a great one at that point, walking 40 and striking out 62 in 102 innings by the end of July. The Sox found themselves in the hunt and shipped Schilling and Brady Anderson to the Orioles for Mike Boddicker. It was the first of many trades for Schilling, most of which have been one-sided. Schilling bounced up and down between triple A Rochester and Baltimore in 1989 and 1990, gradually improving his K rate and overall effectiveness.

On January 2, 1991, the Orioles and Astros made the big trade of the off-season, with the Astros sending slugging first baseman Glenn Davis to the O's for Schilling, and Pete Harnisch, and Steve Finley. Talk was how Davis would hit 40-45 homers once liberated from the Astrodome. It didn't happen, and Finley and Schilling are in the majors 15 years later.

Painfully for the Astros, they didn't fully benefit from the trade either. Schilling pitched well in relief for them in 1991, striking out 71 in 75 innings, but for some reason they shipped him just before the 1992 season to the Phillies for Jason Grimsley. Bad timing. Schilling's first bloom was coming.

Schilling emerged as a top quality starter for the Phillies in 1992 after throwing 226 fine innings. Schilling followed that up with another good season in 1993, and a good post-season performance for the Phils in a losing cause. Schilling's prime years of 1994 through 96 were disrupted by injuries and the labour dispute, but he obviously put the lost time to good use as he emerged in his early 30s as a great pitcher. After giving the Phillies 3 and 1/2 fine seasons, he was sent at the trade deadline in 2000 to Arizona for Travis Lee, Omar Daal, Vicente Padilla and Nelson Figueroa. He struggled down the stretch for the D'Backs, but the deal paid off in 2001 when he teamed with Randy Johnson to lead the D'Backs to a World Series title.

After another great season in 2002, and an off season in 2003, Schilling was successfully pursued by Theo Epstein, had a fine regular season in 2004, and a memorable playoffs as the Red Sox finally got their rings. Schilling has an overall post-season record of 8-2 in 110 innings with a 2.06 ERA and peripheral statistics to match. This is one of the finest post-season records ever.

For his comparables, we will use Kevin Brown, David Cone, Tommy Bridges, and Dazzy Vance. Here's how they fared through age 38:

Pitcher     IP(seasons)   ERA+   K/9IP(Lg)   W/9IP(Lg)  HR/9IP(Lg)  Team DER(Lg)  W-L

Schilling   2906.0(12.2)  128    8.8(6.2)    2.0(3.4)   0.9(1.1)    686(690)      192-131
Brown       3051.0(12.8)  129    6.7(6.3)    2.5(3.5)   0.6(0.9)    696(692)      197-131
Cone        2880.7(12.3)  120    8.3(6.0)    3.5(3.6)   0.8(1.1)    688(689)      193-123
Bridges     2805.0(10.1)  126    5.3(3.4)    3.8(3.5)   0.6(0.6)    685(686)      193-137
Vance       2086.7(7.8)   130    6.4(2.9)    2.5(3.4)   0.5(0.6)    691(684)      233-210 

Brown and Schilling are quite close, with Schilling's superiority in the post-season (Brown has gone 5-5 with a 4.30 ERA in October) a big difference. Brown's career also doesn't quite have the markers of greatness that Schilling's does. He was a good pitcher in the American League in Texas and Baltimore, who exploded on the league when in favourable circumstances in Florida and Los Angeles. Most of the comparables were done by age 38, but Vance had one great season left, and a couple of pretty good ones, and ended up pitching as much as Schilling has already. Vance is a Hall of Famer, and the rest of the comparables are out, or likely will be.

Will Schilling go in the Hall of Fame? Of course. He's at worst a marginal Hall of Famer on merit, and he's got the "fame" angle covered pretty nicely, wouldn't you think? The merits are trickier, assuming that he's done now. His career has been quite short, and he hasn't been as dominant as, say, Sandy Koufax. But, like Mike Mussina, he stacks up pretty well against Marichal. That's a Hall of Famer, in my book. We'll conclude our look at starting pitchers with Andy Pettitte and Tim Hudson.