Over the last twenty or so years, the world of major league baseball has seen some of the best starting pitching in its history. The best of the best is generally referred as “the nine” as the group–Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, and Kevin Brown–consists of nine pitchers, all of whom are either locks for Cooperstown or have strong resumes that are overshadowed by fellow members. Schilling, now 42 years old, and who most recently pitched for the Boston Red Sox, missed the entire 2008 season due to injuries, and has decided to call it a career. His 20 seasons saw some remarkable pitching, combining a tremendous ability to miss bats with pinpoint control and strategy derived from some of the most in-depth game preparation ever reported by a player.
Let me be blunt and get this out of the way: this post is going to praise Schilling the pitcher and I do not want to hear anyone say he is not worthy of post-career accolades based solely on his “only” having 216 wins.
After four seasons floundering around the Orioles and Astros organizations, the Philadelphia Phillies turned Schilling into a starting pitcher in 1992, when the swingman logged 226.1 innings with a 2.35 ERA and 2.91 FIP. He made 42 appearances of which 26 were starts and still managed to throw 10 complete games. The next season, despite posting somewhat regressed numbers with a 4.02 ERA and 3.46 FIP, Schill pitched the Phillies into the playoffs and came very close to winning his first world series title. The next several seasons would be spent on Phillies teams that came nowhere near their 1993 success, but Schilling still managed to dominate, increasing his K/9 past 10.0 while hovering around 2.0 with his walk rate.
Tired of the Phillies losing ways and inability to do what it took to win, Schilling demanded a trade and soon found himself a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. That 2000 season was not one of his best but you have to have a damn good track record for a 3.81 ERA and 3.86 FIP in 210.1 innings to be considered a down year. As we all know, with Randy Johnson already in the fold, likely the best 1-1A punch ever led the DBacks to win the whole thing in 2001. It’s a shame we do not have the win values for the 2001 season here because odds are Schilling would have the highest consecutive total of the decade, if not longer, with his 01-02 numbers. During that storied season, Curt put up a 2.98 ERA and 3.11 FIP in 256.2 innings to go along with a ridiculous 7.51 K/BB ratio.
His 2002 season produced +9.7 wins, thanks to a 3.23 ERA, 2.40 FIP and 9.58 K/BB in 259.1 innings. The injury bug bothered Curt in 2003, limiting his availability to just 24 starts, but his numbers remained so stellar that they produced +5.9 wins. Extrapolated out over the remainder of the season, Schilling would have likely been closer to +7.5 wins. Stilll, +5.9 wins added is nothing to scoff at but he had been so incredibly dominant the previous two seasons that the total looks a bit low.
A change of scenery was in store once again following the 2003 campaign as Schilling joined the Boston Red Sox. In a full season, he produced +7.3 wins in 226 innings and helped lead the team to their first world series since trading Babe Ruth. Schilling would once again suffer from injuries in 2005, even spending some time as the team’s closer, but he pitched so effectively in 69 innings that his win value still surpassed the league average mark of +2.0. 2006 saw a return to form for arguably the best post-season pitcher of all time, as Schilling logged over 200 frames and produced +5.5 wins. And just like his 2005 season, Schilling missed time in 2007 but still managed to look great, falling just shy of +3 wins, and earning another world series ring in the process.
Since 2002, Schilling has +33.4 wins to his name, a number that looks even better on a per-game basis due to the time he missed. He has extremely solid career rates, has been virtually untouchable in the playoffs, has three world series championship rings, and has become a legend thanks to that bloody sock. Curt Schilling did not have a career akin to Maddux, Johnson, or Pedro, but he is a surefire Hall of Fame pitcher in the mind of this writer, and should be congratulated for a great career.