First, let me start by saying I am a Royals fan. So, perhaps discussing Curt Schilling seems odd since he never played for Kansas City. But his career has always been fascinating to me so I figured why not start here?
Since Curt Schilling retired I have seen numerous debates on his Hall of Fame worthiness. Before I enter this debate I must establish the fact that over the years I have changed my perspective on the Hall of Fame. Now that we have inducted the Rizzutos and Mazeroskis of the world, I believe if someone is even borderline we might as well let them in. And why not? Who does it hurt? If someone is close, why not make a bunch of fans happy that "their guy" got in? Was I a fan of Jim Rice? No. Did I think I was watching a Hall of Famer at the time? Not really. But should he be in the Hall of Fame? Sure, why not? Heck there is a list of players not in that I would be fine with. I may not advocate on their behalf, but I certainly have no problem if they go in. We are already way past the point of the Hall of Fame being a club just for Babe Ruth and Willie Mays.
Back to Schilling. Simply based on the above, I am inclined to agree that Schilling can go in to the Hall of Fame. But let's look at the evidence and see how he compares:
1. Bloody sock
2. Dominant postseason record
3. The Curse of Babe Ruth
4. near-.600 Winning Percentage
5. Three 20-win Seasons
6. 3,000 Strikeouts including three 300-plus seasons
7. Four seasons of sub-3.00 ERA seasons
8. Six time All-Star
9. Three times runner up Cy Young
10. Number one all-time strikeout to walk ratio (yeah, I had no idea either)
11. Black Ink-42, Gray ink - 205, Hall of Fame Monitor - 171, Hall of Fame Standards - 46
13. Career ERA of 3.46
14. 216 Wins
1. Bloody sock. This is one of those "moments" many Hall of Famers have simply because the hall is filled with great players and great players almost always have extraordinary moments. In and of itself it certainly does not make one a hall of famer, but could come in handy if it's close. This is the kind of thing that will stick in the voters minds and if they are going back and forth will make them check the box. Though, it hasn't exactly helped Jack Morris (1991 World Series) or Roger Maris (1961 61 Homers) or Tuffy Rhodes (1994 3 Homers on opening day).
2. Dominant postseason record. 11-2 over all with a 2.23 ERA. 4-1 in the World Series with a 2.06 ERA. One of only 2 pitchers to start 3 games in one world series in the last 20 years (Jack Morris being the other in that aforementioned 1991 series).
3. The Curse of Babe Ruth. While Curt didn't singlehandedly break the curse, he certainly played a pivotal role with his 21-6 record and 6 shutout innings in the World Series.
4. near-.600 Winning Percentage. On the one hand, his .597 Career Winning percentage is essentially in the neighborhood of Hall of Famers Warren Spahn, Herb Pennock and Walter Johnson. On the other hand Teddy Higuera, John Candelaria and Wes Ferrell also live in that neighborhood. All in all winning percentage in and of itself does not constitute a Hall of Famer, but his is better than 31 current Hall of Famers, so this certainly helps his argument.
5. Three 20-win Seasons. Like many "strikeout" pitchers Curt had seasons where he couldn't seem to put it all together. Seasons where he'd win 16 games but post a 4.00+ ERA or strikeout 300+ batters, but win just 15 or so games. Of course other than '93 Phillies, he pitched for some pretty ordinary teams. Then in Arizona it all clicked. He was with a good team and won 22 games, a World Series, posted a sub-3.00 ERA and was still strikingout at a health clip while continuing to improve his walk totals. However, as a Hall of Famer, Curt's three 20-win seasons aren't going help other than to be able to say he won 20 games at least once. It may even hurt.
6. 3,000 Strikeouts including three 300-plus seasons. Schilling sits at #15 on the All-Time Strikeout list. Of the eligible pitchers on the list, every single one above him is in the Hall of Fame (and for the first time in a long time I can finally stop saying except for Blyleven). If we extend to the top 30, Mickey Lolich, Frank Tanana, David Cone, Chuck Finley, and Jerry Koosman are not. Of the pitchers ineligible, two are "no-brainer Hall of Famers": Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux. One "should be but now may not because of steroids Hall of Famer": Roger Clemens. And three "may/should make it with a decent argument but each has question marks": Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Mike Mussina. So, all in all top 30 in strikeouts looks pretty solid. This helps Schilling.
7. Four seasons of sub-3.00 ERA seasons. Many Hall of Famers have more. This isn't really going to help him though, like the 20-win argument, he will at least get credit for it. Something that really hurts Jack Morris.
8. Six time All-Star. A great total. For a pitcher impressive since it speaks to coaches picking him rather than fans. Without the All-Star selections his case would have a big hole.
9. Three times runner up Cy Young. Not winning the Cy Young will undoubtedly hurt him. However, for the voters considering the Schilling case I will point out that he has the highest "Award Share" total in history to have not won the award. (16th all-time). By the way, for those that decided to put Goose and Sutter in, I will take a moment to remind you that you forgot our beloved Quisenberry. (#2 on the list) Oh, and for the Ryan fans out there who know he was robbed in 1981 and 1987, he's #3.
10. Number one all-time strikeout to walk ratio (yeah, I had no idea either). Ok, technically he is listed at #2 behind Tommy Bond from the 1870s. But with all due respect to Mr. Bond, I am going to set him aside and consider Schilling #1 in the "modern" era. I'll be honest, when I found this out it pretty much convinced me that Schilling belongs in the Hall. In the Sabermetric era, I expect on base percentage has and will continue to grow in the minds of voters. I also expect strikeout-walk ratio could enter the debate. So, why not? If Schilling is the best ever, that's a pretty salient point.
11. Black Ink-42, Gray ink - 205, Hall of Fame Monitor - 171, Hall of Fame Standards - 46. 3 of these put him on par with average and likely hall of famers. Even the one where he misses, Hall of Fame Standards, he just misses the average of 50. This all probably doesn't help his argument, but indicates he's likely to garner support just based on what we know about hall of famers and the voters' tendencies.
12. Uniqueness. On the one hand only 3 of Schillings 10 most similar pitchers are in the Hall of Fame. And they aren't the hall's most rock-solid members: Drysdale, Vance and Catfish. On the other hand, only 2 pitchers scored a similarity score of 900+ with the most similar being Kevin Brown at 920. All this tells me is that Schilling was relatively unique. Certainly not so unique as to say there has never been anyone like him, (see Nolan Ryan where Carlton at 755 was the most similar), but unique in the Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton way that there weren't a lot of pitchers like him.
13. Career ERA of 3.46. This is probably going to hurt his argument. At a quick glance, there are only 7 Hall of Fame Pitchers worse.
14. 216 Wins. Not going to help his argument. Any pitcher in the Hall with around 200 wins is not in the Hall because of their win total. I always look at there being 3 types of typical Hall of Famers that are voted in by the writers: 1. Those in because of overall career value. Longevity driven. Players like Don Sutton. Stick around long enough, hit a big number we can't ignore and you are in the club. If he really does come back, Jamie Moyer could be next. 2. Those in because of peak value. Someone who was so dominant over a short period of time that voters felt they could not ignore their greatness. Sandy Koufax is the best example. Kirby Puckett is another example and I suspect Pedro Martinez will be next. This category is "perceived" and the most subjective of the groups. Sometimes it works in a players favor: Hack Wilson. Sometimes it does not: Roger Maris. And finally #3. Those in because of the dominance in all areas of the game for a long period of time. The hit you over the head, "duh" Hall of Famers...Ruth, Aaron, Mays, Brett, etc. Schilling, if he gets in, will have to be based on #2. Perhaps it is the bloody sock. Maybe it will be the strikeout-walk ratio. Maybe it will be the overall postseason. One thing is certain...it will not be the 200 wins. The ONLY thing the wins really do for him is prevent a "he didn't even get to 200 wins" argument against him.
Overall the argument looks pretty good for Schilling. From a gut perspective, I certainly thought I was watching one of the greats when he was at his peak. Then again, I thought the same thing when Dale Murphy won his back to back MVPs and was a dominate force in the 80s. If it were my ballot, I'd vote for both of them.
Of course, if he goes in, I am compelled to ask what about David Cone? He only got 21 votes and won't be on the ballot ever again. He has a very Schilling-esque resume. Maybe we'll look at him next time.