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March 24, 2009

Prospectus Today

Curt Schilling Bows Out

by Joe Sheehan

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Alas, 38 pitches no more. Curt Schilling announced the end of his baseball career yesterday via a post on his popular blog, writing "it is with zero regrets that I am making my retirement official." While there had been some speculation that Schilling would continue his comeback from a torn right labrum, possibly with a contender other than the Red Sox, the damage after a long career is understandably too much to overcome. Schilling was effective right up to the point where he couldn't pitch any longer.

When any player of Schilling's stature retires, the question immediately turns to his viability for induction into the Hall of Fame. Schilling occupies an interesting place, without the win total that has been something of a bright-line test for the electorate in the last generation, but with a number of considerable markers, both statistical and otherwise, that should make him a strong candidate.

Jay Jaffe's JAWS system is the best way to open this discussion. Using Clay Davenport's Translations and the metric Wins Above Replacement Player, Jaffe's system measures both a player's career and peak value, and places that in the context of the value of all BBWAA Hall of Famers. JAWS functions like the NCAA's RPI does for basketball teams, providing an initial ranking as a starting point for discussion, but not serving as a bright-line test for inclusion. It also has the benefit of not being an innumerate mess.

About a year ago, Jay included Schilling in a JAWS analysis of some veteran, nominally-active pitchers:

Schiling is no shame in the JAWS department either, with a peak that, while shy of the benchmark, is middle-of-the-pack in this esteemed group. He does run the risk of trimming his career mark by one or two WARP if he comes back and can't pitch better than replacement level, but if he's that bad, he's unlikely to get too many shots to seriously threaten falling below the benchmark and damage his overall portfolio.

We know now that Schilling didn't return, and he finished his career with the same numbers that he had at the end of 2007: 216 wins, 146 losses, a 3.46 ERA, and 3,116 strikeouts. Whatever his JAWS numbers-and they clearly place him within a group of pitchers fully qualified for the Hall-you have to acknowledge that the BBWAA hasn't elected a starting pitcher with so few victories since 1984, when Don Drysdale and his 209 got in. At 3,261 innings, Schilling's career is short by Hall standards, and while reaching the 3,000-strikeout level is perhaps the best traditional marker he has going for him, the voters have worked very hard to keep the fifth guy on the list out of Cooperstown.

Schilling never won a Cy Young Award, though he did finish second three times, twice to Randy Johnson and once to Johan Santana. Subject to the same deficits in starts and decisions that mark pitchers in his era, he won 20 games three times, all in the same four-year stretch that he was the runner-up in those Cy races. With a body that kept breaking down, Schilling had no definable peak to his career, save perhaps 2001-04, a stretch that included a 24-start 2003 campaign. It surprised me when I noticed it, but Schilling never made at least 30 starts in three consecutive seasons, and never made 100 starts in any three-year span. His lack of durability within a 20-year career is why his totals in innings and wins are so low.

The changing standards for pitcher workloads, and the effects that they have on statistics, will be the underlying issue in the Schilling debate. Then again, maybe not, because Schilling has a set of markers outside of his regular-season stats that should elevate him in a way that they won't do for, say, Kevin Brown. Schilling pitched in four World Series, making seven starts with a 2.06 ERA. His teams won three of those Series. His post-season career is excellent: 19 appearances, all starts, with a 2.23 ERA in 133 1/3 innings. In an era where the postseason runs longer and means more in the evaluation of teams than it ever has before-for better or worse-you have to consider post-season performance as a positive marker more than ever before. Like Bernie Williams and also like John Smoltz, Schilling has a post-season resumé that changes the discussion. Schilling's post-season performance defines his career. He contributed to championship teams, and he did so in a big way. The 2001 World Series. Pitching through a shoulder problem in '07. The bloody sock.

If the narrative means anything-and it absolutely should mean something-then Curt Schilling may have locked up a spot in the Hall of Fame on October 19, 2004. On that date, Schilling underwent ad hoc pre-game surgery on his right ankle, took the ball, and held the Yankees to four hits and one run over seven innings as blood seeped from the ankle into his uniform. That start helped the Red Sox tie the ALCS at three games apiece. Eight days later, the Sox would be World Champions for the first time since 1918. That game remains the defining moment for baseball in this century.

Is there anything we're missing? Schilling was something of a polarizing figure at times, outspoken in a way we're not always comfortable with when it comes to athletes, and perhaps particularly baseball players. He is the most prominent athlete, and probably the most well-written one, to speak directly to fans via a blog, as opposed to through the media. He's devoted countless hours and dollars to the search for a cure for Lou Gehrig's disease.

Schilling is also one of the approved "clean" players of his era. The process for gaining this label is largely inscrutable, but factors include quotability, skin tone, and affability. I'm going to be indelicate here and point out that Schilling is a pitcher who struggled to stay healthy for much of his career, and had his greatest effectiveness and durability late in that career. Through his age-29 season, Schilling had thrown 988 1/3 innings, had two 200-inning seasons (and didn't lose one to either strike-shortened campaign), and never received a Cy Young vote. From the ages of 30-33, he threw 200 innings three times, made three All-Star teams, and got Cy votes in one season. From 34-37, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Maybe this doesn't mean anything, and frankly, I don't know or care what the reasons are for that career shape. What I do know is that "an oddly late peak" has been used as evidence against many players, and if the standards, such as they are, were applied to Schilling's stat lines, name removed, heads would be scratched. Schilling gets a pass because he's Curt Schilling, and not because any rigor has actually been applied to the issue. As I say, it's not my fight, but I find it curious why career shape matters for some people and not for others.

Regardless, Curt Schilling is fully qualified for the Hall of Fame. Whatever nitpicks you can make about his low win and innings-pitched totals are more than outweighed by his post-season performance and his starring role in some of the game's great moments during his career. If the Hall of Fame is to evolve as an honor, the men and women who award that honor have to be able to look past the traditional milestones for induction and consider performance in the context of the modern game. Schilling's value within that context is well above the established standards, and I look forward to his induction speech nearly as much as I do those of Rickey Henderson and Manny Ramirez.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  Curt Schilling

58 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Ira

Let me be the first to chime in and agree whole-heartedly with you. Schilling was a great pitcher, a great person, and is a deserving HOFer. If I remember right, he was also the Player representative to the Union on several of his teams. Is there anyone who tracks that? It would be very interesting to take that data and then note issues of team retention vs non-retention for representatives vs non-representatives.

Just a thought

Mar 24, 2009 10:49 AM
rating: 1
 
EdHowell

I really never thought about Schilling as a steroid user. It is coincidental that his later years were his better years. Who knows?

Mar 24, 2009 11:05 AM
rating: -3
 
Al Skorupa
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Its pretty despicable to throw around accusations like this.

Mar 24, 2009 12:22 PM
rating: -12
 
WholeLottaGame

Funny that Joe brings this up, because the same thought crossed my mind recently. I think ever since Palmeiro (and now A-Rod) I've been slightly suspicious of those who seem a little overeager to deny/decry steroid use.

I think Joe's points ring especially true: stats are a pretty terrible way of "outing" steroid users, and people will highlight stats in players they don't like while ignoring similar ones in those they do.

Mar 24, 2009 16:36 PM
rating: 0
 
dcarroll

Fine analysis as always, Joe. But I suspect some might argue that the seventh game of the 2001 World Series deserves consideration as a defining moment in 21st century baseball.

Mar 24, 2009 11:07 AM
rating: 0
 
Ameer

Why, because the Yankees lost and their dynasty ended? I don't think that has nearly the narrative impact of the bloody sock game. Nor does a Diamondbacks victory, even over the Yankees, have the impact of a Red Sox victory over the Yankees, many decades in the making.

Besides, although their consecutive run ended, they got back to the Series a couple of years later.

Mar 24, 2009 11:24 AM
rating: 5
 
Rob_in_CT

Also, though I have no trouble giving lots of credit to Shilling for 2001 game 7, he gave up the go-ahead homer to Sori (absolutely ridiculous HR, btw) and RJ came in (on zero day's rest) and held the line (and then Mo threw a DP ball into CF).

The Bloody Sock game is more of a story because: a) Red Sox finally overcome eeeeeevil Yankees (with the hero Shilling playing a lead role); and b) the hero risks his health for the team and prevails.

While the 2001 WS was the end of the dynasty according to Buster Olney, 2004 was what changed the image of the Yankees from the great big villians to great big *bumbling* villians. The team that blew a 3-0 lead and all that (a narrative that irritates me, not because it labels my favorite team a bunch of chokers, but because I think it undervalues the ability of the 2004 Red Sox - the team I thought would win the series from the start).

Mar 24, 2009 11:51 AM
rating: 2
 
dcarroll

The 2001 narrative was about how a World Series could provide a measure of excitement and joy in the weeks just after 9-11. On baseball terms alone, it was very dramatic stuff with several walk-off home runs, the Big Unit coming back on no rest, and the first walk-off series hit since, I believe, Joe Carter.

As a Red Sox fan, 2004 brought me a lot of joy. Nor is there any way to compare the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox as historical entities. But the bloody sock game did not settle the ALCS, let alone the Series. The 2001 Series belongs in the discussion.

Mar 24, 2009 12:37 PM
rating: 1
 
Jay Taylor

Rentaria off Nagy in 1997.

Mar 24, 2009 15:27 PM
rating: 0
 
Kate Kirby
(93)

It's an interesting argument to have, and I think it depends somewhat on how you feel about the Red Sox.

I tend to come in on 'indifferent to mild dislike', and find them winning the series to be only slightly more interesting than the White Sox win, or even last year's rise of the Devil Rays. It's got some narrative legs with Boston's history to be sure, but without much emotional investment in Red Sox nation, it's not something that jumps out so much.

However, the Bloody Sock game, man, that gets to me. It epitomizes sacrifice, fighting the odds, and triumph against adversity. It's got all that Yankee/Red Sox backstory, and the Red Sox postseason futility, but puts a human face on it. I didn't care of the Red Sox or Yankees won that series, but I did care about what Schilling was doing, and was thrilled that he led his team back from the brink of elimination when by all rights he should've been in an operating room.

Even people who get dreadfully tired of hearing about the Red Sox love that story. And that's why it's a defining moment in Baseball, not just in Sox History. Even my non-sports-fans friends noticed it and were talking about it the next day.

Mar 24, 2009 11:31 AM
rating: 6
 
Al Skorupa

Right. I hate the Knicks... but every time I that Willis Reed footage...

Mar 24, 2009 12:23 PM
rating: 2
 
bbmaven

Very interesting point made at the end there. Goes to show how much of the "steroid issue" is just a witch hunt plain and simple.

Mar 24, 2009 11:28 AM
rating: 3
 
southpawo5

"Schilling is also one of the approved "clean" players of his era. The process for gaining this label is largely inscrutable, but factors include quotability, skin tone, and affability."

How is skin tone a factor in being considered a "clean" player? Wouldn't guys like Frank Thomas, Jr. Griffey and Tony Gwynn all be considered "clean" players also? While guys like McGwire and Giambi certainly wouldn't. Not sure just how big a factor "skin tone" really is.

I know the media hammered Bonds far more than they should have and to some extent race certainly played into that. But when it comes to the hall for most its pretty simple. If you tested positive for steroids or were linked to them, at the current time you will have a tough go of getting into the hall. Atleast for the HOF, I don't think race plays into it.

Mar 24, 2009 11:41 AM
rating: 2
 
nsacpi

Yeah. The skin-tone comment is just bizarre. Pigmentation is not what Bonds, McGwire and Palmeiro have in common.

Mar 24, 2009 11:56 AM
rating: 4
 
DavidTice

I didn't get the feeling "clean" was strictly in relation to steroids, but more of a general mass-media palatability. Josh Hamilton versus Milton Bradley and all that.

Mar 24, 2009 13:13 PM
rating: 3
 
akodobill

I don't think race plays into why someone who abused drugs is liked more than someone who abused his wife.

Mar 24, 2009 15:46 PM
rating: -1
 
Matt Hunter

Ok how about Brett Myers vs Milton Bradley

Mar 24, 2009 23:19 PM
rating: 1
 
Jivas
(649)

Joe: why no link to Jay's article from "about a year ago"? By providing some of the information from the article but not a link to the article itself, it leads me to believe that Jay's conclusions differed from your own. While there's nothing wrong with that, if this is the case than at the very least it seems somewhat disingenous to use information he presented without providing the whole picture.

Mar 24, 2009 11:47 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

There was a link to it in my submission. I probably botched the coding.

Mar 24, 2009 12:55 PM
 
BP staff member Dave Pease
BP staff
(2)

fixed.

Mar 24, 2009 14:08 PM
 
Jivas
(649)

Wow...neat. I'm not particularly active in the Comment boards here, and it never occured to me that my comment might be specifically addressed.

Kudos.

Mar 24, 2009 16:45 PM
rating: 1
 
Joe D.

Here is the link for Jay's article:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=7451

He shows Schilling above the benchmark per JAWS.

Mar 24, 2009 12:52 PM
rating: 0
 
Mountainhawk

Maybe I'm missing something, but Jay's article has Schilling's WARP career as 110, but the DT card on BP has it at 83. What's the difference? Postseason numbers?

Mar 24, 2009 13:17 PM
rating: 0
 
Ben Solow

Maybe it has to do with the new tougher DTs? Jay's article was written a year ago, before the new DTs came out.

Mar 24, 2009 21:44 PM
rating: 0
 
RayDiPerna

Joe: Do you think Schilling is a HOFer if he never throws a postseason inning? He's above the JAWS line for an average HOF starter on both peak and career.

Mar 24, 2009 12:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Lou Doench

"He's above the JAWS line for an average HOF starter on both peak and career."
Yeah, but so is Bert Blyleven. My take is if Schilling never goes to Boston, he's on the outside looking in.

Mar 24, 2009 13:37 PM
rating: 1
 
RayDiPerna

"Yeah, but so is Bert Blyleven."

Yes, and? Blyleven is a deserving Hall of Famer.

Mar 24, 2009 16:57 PM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

You guys aren't asking the Most Important Question:

Was he FEARED?

Mar 25, 2009 07:40 AM
rating: 1
 
agentsteel53

only by his producers when he doesn't notice the "on air" light!

Mar 25, 2009 10:39 AM
rating: 0
 
s0uthsider

Amen.
If Blyleven and Morris don't go in, neither should Schilling.

Mar 25, 2009 10:54 AM
rating: 0
 
agentsteel53

Schilling had about 200 fewer IP than Morris, which I consider about even ... in that, Schilling had an ERA+ of 126, while Morris's was only 105. To me that separates the two and makes one a hall of famer.

Blyleven is a no-brainer.

(As for postseason excellence, it will be Smoltz who will hopefully be judged favorably in that regard: an entire season's worth of starts against the best teams in the league, with Cy Young-worthy line.)

Mar 25, 2009 21:07 PM
rating: 0
 
klipzlskim

"If narrative means anything - and it absolutely should mean something..." If Schilling does make the Hall, I really hope it's not the bloody sock that puts him over the top. Take away any of three factors - the rivalry, the comeback, or the sock - and it's no longer a HOF narrative. Let him get in on the merits of his career performance, not a story that grandpa tells the kids years from now. They might as well induct J.T. Snow for saving Dusty Baker's son from being run over. Voting by anecdote is something that BP usually fights against (such as Jack Morris' 10-inning shutout). I believe Schilling deserves to make it, but not for that.

Mar 24, 2009 13:44 PM
rating: -1
 
antonsirius

The difference is that a HoF case can be made for Schilling (3000+ K's, etc.) even without the Red Sock Game.

Morris, by contrast, has nothing much going for him as a potential HoFer *except* his WS heroics. The best case anyone can make for him outside of that is the "best big-money pitcher in the AL in the '80s" silliness.

Mar 24, 2009 14:39 PM
rating: 1
 
Bill N

It also seems like, in the wake of HOF flops by Tim Raines and Blyleven - both stat-head - approved - that searching for a narrative is helpful in considering the player's chances with the committee.

Mar 24, 2009 16:41 PM
rating: 0
 
shamah

Re: the narrative issue. How is the bloody sock game or game 7 of 2001 any more significant than Jack Morris's 10-inning CG in the 1991 WS?

Mar 24, 2009 13:45 PM
rating: 0
 
shamah

wow, klipzskim stole my comment about one minute before i posted mine!

Mar 24, 2009 13:46 PM
rating: 0
 
ofMontreal

Well, narrative always counts. But pitching right after surgery is a little different than shutting out practically the worst offensive team in WS history. And truth be told, neither Schilling or Morris should be in.

Mar 24, 2009 14:05 PM
rating: 0
 
kmbart

Phillies fans will never forget his first classic post-season performance--shutting out the Blue Jays in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series, a night after the Phils blew a 14-9 lead in the 8th inning and were considered "finished" by most.

Of course, Schilling also revealed himself to be less than a "good guy" with the towel over his head while Mitch Williams worked the ninth the next night.

Mar 24, 2009 14:29 PM
rating: 0
 
JayhawkBill

Joe, good article.

I'm glad that you explicitly raise the point regarding steroid use, rather than dancing around it. Certainly many have pointed to, say, Roger Clemens as an example of a pitcher whose late renaissance suggested use of steroids. One could make similar assertions regarding Schilling. Let's compare the two of them.

Roger Clemens had his best season at age 34, with a staggering 12.8 WARP3. He had four other seasons above 10.4 WARP3, three of them between ages 23 and 27 and one at age 42. Perhaps his health was better in his mid-twenties, because that's when he had his best stretch of consecutive strong seasons. His peak, however, was clearly his age 34 season, where he posted a WARP3 1.9 wins higher than he did at any other point in his career. That's a late peak for a starting pitcher.

Curt Schilling had his best season at age 25, his first full season as an MLB starting pitcher, with an 8.5 WARP3. He struggled with injuries during his twenties, possibly because his average Pitcher Abuse Point (PAP) score at ages 25 and 26 was higher than that of any MLB pitcher in 2008, and his second-best season was his age 30 season, 8.1 WARP3. That year he finished fifth in PAP; the next year he posted a 7.1 WARP3 and finished fourth in PAP. The next two years he was less effective...still very good, averaging 5.6 WARP3 per year, but less effective. The next four years with Arizona and Boston he earned fewer PAP and no CAT 5 starts, and he remained healthy enough to put up his best four-year stretch from ages 34-37. None of those four years, though, were as good as his seasons at either age 25 or age 30. Schilling clearly had his peak at age 25 or age 30. He had his best-managed and healthiest years in his middle thirties.

I don't see Schilling's stats as indicative of steroid use, regardless of his "quotability, skin tone, and affability." Others' mileage may vary.

Mar 24, 2009 15:27 PM
rating: 6
 
tommybones

He's deserving, but less so than Moose, who will likely be watching Schilling's induction speech from his couch.

Mar 24, 2009 17:18 PM
rating: 4
 
agentsteel53

but here is hoping that several years later, Schilling will be watching Moose's speech.

is Mussina the least lucky pitcher ever in terms of "great moments"? The 20 wins in his last season helps him; but before that he was a consistent "19" and "18" guy...

add in no championship rings (no fault of his own; he just joined the Yankees a year too late)...

never pitched a no-hitter, but did famously lose several perfect games in the late innings, including one to Carl Everett with one strike left! (I am a diehard Sox fan but with one pitch to go, I was rooting for a perfect game instead of Mr. Dinosaur getting a hit!)...

so the Moose doesn't end up with one defining bloody sock/10IP/etc moment ... but still, ERA+ of 123 over 18 years, with 270 wins for the traditional crowd - I do hope he makes it in.

Mussina, Blyleven, Schilling, Smoltz - yes
Morris, John - no

Mar 25, 2009 21:19 PM
rating: 0
 
wbricks

I wholeheartedly believe Schilling belongs in the Hall. My only question is, does he go as a Philly, Diamondback, or Red Sock? I would guess Philly, but his most memorable and best seasons came with the latter two teams.

Mar 24, 2009 19:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Noel Steere
(965)

"Schilling was something of a polarizing figure at times, outspoken in a way we're not always comfortable with when it comes to athletes, and perhaps particularly baseball players."

I dunno, I think if you compare the relative lack of an uproar over Schilling -- er -- shilling for Bush in 2004 and the caterwauling about Carlos Delgado's reticence at being a good little soldier with respect to the National Anthem, and it doesn't seem like he was really that polarizing.

He ought to be polarizing, with his seemingly limitless ability to proudly flaunt his ignorance: More recently with his public dislike of Manny Ramirez' work ethic, despite Manny's countless hours in the batting cage, but most egregiously with his unquestioning support of our invasion of Iraq despite his constant claims to being a war history buff!

No, Schilling's type of "outspokenness" is more than welcome by most of the public. Contrast this with the "playing the race card" reaction to Gary Sheffield's remarks about how Latinos are preferred by management over African-Americans, which Carlos Guillen completely corroborated. "Truth to power", Schlling ain't.

The "outspokenness" that baseball people in general are comfortable with, and is Schilling's specialty, is calling out other people for noncomformity. And, if we're honest, especially calling out noncomformity of non-whites. Doesn't Carlton Fisk seem a little ridiculous in hindsight for yelling at Deion Sanders for not running out a foul popup?

Mar 24, 2009 20:03 PM
rating: 3
 
DAra

"He ought to be polarizing, with his seemingly limitless ability to proudly flaunt his ignorance: ...but most egregiously with his unquestioning support of our invasion of Iraq despite his constant claims to being a war history buff!"

I fail to see the point you're making here. 80% of the population supported the war in Iraq initially, as did the overwhelming votes authorizing the use of force by both the House and the Congress. People just have short memory spans.

And if you are using history as a guide, you will also have to be fair to point out that there were numerous public quotes of government officials from the Clinton era (ie pre-Bush) who were calling for Saddam's ousting due to his WMD.

It's refreshing to me to have a sports star/celebrity be unabashedly conservative in his views. Helps outweigh the constant liberal voices in the media.

Mar 25, 2009 01:38 AM
rating: 1
 
DavidMI
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Sure he can. But why can't the Dixie Chicks make a joke without an army of phony tough guys then bulldozing their CDs while screaming "Shut up and sing!"

What about "Shut up and throw"?

Anyway, Schilling and his type won: they got years and years of war in tons of countries. Good for them. Now stop pretending that you're the victims.

Also....why am I the only one who noticed that the blood on the sock was, without question, dry? We've all had little cuts on white cloth, so we should all know that the pale, burgandy-colored blood means that the blood stain has long-since settled. Is there ANYBODY else out there who observed this but was too afraid to state the obvious?

Whatever. Schilling's a superman, God Bless America, Support the Troops, etc., etc., etc.

Mar 25, 2009 04:09 AM
rating: -5
 
Noel Steere
(965)

While I think Schilling is a pompous ass of the first order, I think the Sock game is a huge plus in his favor, but not because of the Sock itself.

In Game 2, Schilling got hammered, and it seems to me it was because he couldn't get any velocity on his pitches, most likely because he couldn't push off the mound. Whether the blood was dry or not, Schilling had his velocity in Game 6, so it seems (to me, at least), that Schilling was pushing off the mound, which means he was fighting off a lot of pain in order to be effective. Terrible idea in the regular season, heroic in an elimination game.

Mar 25, 2009 06:24 AM
rating: 1
 
DavidMI

Go to Google Images and type "Schilling Sock". You'll get pics of the sock from every angle, from every inning, close-ups, long-shots, etc.

How come there's not a SINGLE image of the supposed wound....anywhere? Wouldn't somebody in the post-game locker room just snapped a picture with a camera phone or something?

Not if they were all locked into a lie.

Noel Steere: You cite a wondrous turnaround for Schilling from Game 2 to Game 6 as proof of his heroism. Interestingly, the author of the new book on Roger Clemens repeatedly cites single-game turnarounds as proof of Clemens's steroid use. Could it be....?

Regardless, I think that your perspective on Game 6 is thoughtful and valid, and I definitely won't argue with Schilling's post-season success.

Mar 25, 2009 06:32 AM
rating: -3
 
agentsteel53

I wish I remembered for sure and had evidence to corroborate it, but watching the live feed that day in 2004, I remember the commentators noting that the blood stain was increasing in size as the innings passed.

Mar 25, 2009 21:26 PM
rating: 0
 
agentsteel53

at the risk of posting on political topics ... I initially supported the war on Iraq, as defined in 2003, with information presented to me in 2003. Shock and awe ... WMDs, yade yada.

clearly the war actually waged is somewhat different from the war presented for public consumption.

Mar 25, 2009 21:23 PM
rating: 0
 
DavidMI

Just wanted to chime in on the notion of a late-career surge as evidence of steroid use:

I believe that the point here wasn't to demonstrate that Schilling used steroids (however they may be defined - Andro? Ephedra? HGH?....they change the definition by the week!), the point, I believe, was to illustrate the silliness of trying to find proof of PED use via stats. It's only fair that if the vast majority of the media is applying this to every other player, then they damn well ought to apply it to Schilling as well.

This isn't to say that Schilling used steroids, it's to say that the statistical method of proving use is demonstrably worthless. But that doesn't stop the media and the (Viagra-popping) fans from stumbling over each other in a rush to wag their finger at this guy or that guy because he had a good year at age 36. Bill James wrote a great article about how John Feinstein egregiously cherry-picked stats to make Clemens look like a user: http://www.billjamesonline.net/ArticleContent.aspx?AID=599&Code=James01090

If Feinstein can do that to Clemens (and many other media members can do it to Bonds, ARod, and most other non-white players), then it's only fair to apply it to Schilling. Again, the point isn't to prove PED use, the point is to dis-prove the validity of the method.

Also, I agree wholeheartedly that there IS indeed racism involved in this manic witch-hunt, at least insofar as the people I hear on sports radio go. Just from casual listening, I'd say that 90% of the guys that they look to harp on are Latin and/or black (McGwire and Clemens being the token whities). They don't care about Brian Roberts (they're to busy chanting "USA!" while he bats in the WBC) or the countless other white players who've been cited in the Mitchell Report, they just want to try and pretend that their crappy white player was actually better than Barry Bonds, were it not for that Victor Conte! (As if.)

(And if you guys want to REALLY be alarmed at a white player with suspicious ties to steroids, I suggest you read Mr. Calcaterra's article in the 2009 'Hardball Times' book.... But don't ever expect to hear loser, Viagra-popping fans to talk about it on sports talk radio. They're too busy talking about how ARod "Should never be allowed on a baseball field again 'cuz he disgraced the purity of the game!" Real quote there.)

Mar 25, 2009 03:57 AM
rating: 0
 
JayhawkBill

"If Feinstein can do that to Clemens (and many other media members can do it to Bonds, ARod, and most other non-white players), then it's only fair to apply it to Schilling."

I disagree with the logic that the lowest standards of behavior of others defines what the standards should be with respect to any ethical choice, including accusing Curt Schilling of steroid use.

"...the statistical method of proving use is demonstrably worthless."

We don't yet know this, though: there's too little information yet available on the effects of PED use to create a statistically significant test.

For the general public, though, the late peak of Barry Bonds, who became one of the three greatest hitters in the history of the game in what would have been past-prime years for most players, defines the perception that late peaks equal PED abuse. Steroid use was admittedly prevalent in MLB in that era, and perceptions of steroid use by Bonds preceded any evidence of use: the farcical absence of drug testing agreed to by the MLBPA and the owners led to flurries of accusations of PED use, several of which now appear to have been correct. Bonds hit more home runs in one season than anybody else, as well as posting unimaginable SLG and OBP rates. Without effective testing, that resulted in allegations of steroid abuse. The allegations of Clemens' steroid use, coupled with his late peaks in Toronto and Houston, are the corresponding image for pitchers.

But in Schilling's case his peak was at age 25, not in his 30's. His second-best year was at age 30. All that he did in his mid-thirties was to avoid injury. That improved durability corresponded directly with lessened pitch counts per start. It still didn't result in individual seasons better than those he had at ages 25 and 30.

It may be that, with the hindsight of years and the eventual release of more drug testing data, somebody will discover a measure of how likely it is that a late peak suggests PED use. That model might be used to consider whether or not the great players of the Steroid Era were more or less likely to have used PEDs.

But I'll be surprised if a pitcher who hit his peak at age 25 is determined to be a likely steroid user by any model that might later be discovered.

Mar 25, 2009 07:05 AM
rating: 0
 
DavidMI

JayHawkBill:

The first question I'd have to ask when you're looking for PEDs is....what's a PED? My brother played college football and got tons of perfectly legal stuff from GNC that DRAMATICALLY altered his physical state. Players in the '50s had probably a tiny fraction of what we now have. HGH and amphetamines (like Ritalin) are being handed out by doctors as if they're cotton balls. Could we conceivably reach a point where the pharmicalogically-enhanced public is actually MORE athletic than the artificially-oppressed pro athletes?

You say that Schilling didn't use steroids because his best year was at age 25? Well, Roger Clemens had his best year at age 23. So are you saying Clemens didn't use?

And as long as we're cherry-picking....

But what about this:
-Young Schilling (<30) won 48 games.
-Old Schilling (>=30) won 168 games.

-Young Schilling had average OPS+ of 100.75.
-Old Schilling had average OPS+ of 132.14.

And the pitcher most statistically similar to Old Schilling according to Baseball-Reference.com? None other than known steroid user Kevin Brown.

So if you're looking for statistics to prove steroid use....you better be prepared to sweat some bullets when it comes time to cut-and-paste Schilling onto your spreadsheet.

Mar 25, 2009 07:26 AM
rating: -1
 
JayhawkBill

"And the pitcher most statistically similar to Old Schilling according to Baseball-Reference.com? None other than known steroid user Kevin Brown."

Baseball Reference's career similarity scores use career totals without respect to the career trajectory with respect to age. In a discussion of PEDs and aging curves, a Baseball Reference similarity score is an odd fact to, um, cherry-pick.

If you check my posts here, though, I don't believe that I accused any player of steroid or PED use. I merely pointed out that Curt Schilling hit his peak, using Clay Davenport's WARP3 as a metric, at age 25, while Roger Clemens, again using WARP3, hit his at age 34. I also commented that many do consider Clemens to have used PEDs, but I believe I didn't assert that myself.

You say that Clemens had his best year earlier, at age 23. While I respect your opinion, I'll continue to point out that WARP3 strongly indicates otherwise.

When you choose an arbitrary cutoff of before age 30 for Schilling, you're averaging at least three injury-affected seasons--1994, 1995, and 1996--with just two other seasons as a starting pitcher. Furthermore, Schilling's 1993 season appears affected by pitcher abuse: he frequently threw over 130 pitches in a start, and he allowed over five runs per nine innings that season after he threw four complete games and a median of over 120 pitches per game starting eleven of his team's first 49 games. Describing Schilling's "peak" performance by averaging a preponderance of injury-affected seasons with a few other seasons is misleading and, perhaps, disingenuous.

What you're showing, though, is that cherry-picking stats in manners of your choosing can be used to try to demonstrate PED use in misleading ways. I don't dispute that. My position, however, that a statistical method of proving (or, more accurately, suggesting) use is not "demonstrably worthless," but possibly not yet developed, isn't disproven by your intentional choice of misleading combinations of players' seasons. If such a method were developed, it would involve, I'd expect, the search for a player's true peak, using a metric constant across seasons such as WARP3, not the attempt to aggregate seasons ruined by injuries with those where the player was healthy.

Mar 25, 2009 10:14 AM
rating: 1
 
DavidMI

JayHawkBill,

The reason I first wrote about this is because Joe Sheehan mentioned it in the actual column:

"What I do know is that "an oddly late peak" has been used as evidence against many players...."

Like Sheehan, I was talking about the overall career, yet you seem curiously fixated one single season when he was 25. Now, what I COULD do is point out that there are dozens of metrics that are a lot better than WARP that indicate that his age-25 season was not only not his best, it wasn't even in the top-3!

But I won't. Your single season argument is a red herring and a waste of my time. Knock yourself out with finding fringe stats to celebrate that year in Philly, but I was talking about the collected arc of his career, not an outlier.

With that in mind, let's take a breather here and consider this fact: Schilling won 120 games more AFTER the age of 30 than he did before. You said that you don't like the age-30 cutoff point, "arbitrary" you said. Curiously, though, you didn't suggest a new cut-off point. How about age-28? The average elite MLB player's peak. Check THAT out.

Then, you also said that you don't like Baseball-Reference.com's similarity score (which I just threw in as a filler)? Cool. PECOTA had Schilling's largest contemporary similarity score as....Roger Clemens.

Near as I can tell, your total argument here is: "Schilling's career path was normal." I, like Joe Sheehan, disagree. I strongly disagree, and find his career path extremely ABnormal. If you think that having your best years - by far - in your mid- to late-30's is normal, then we're simply at an impasse and that's that.

Mar 25, 2009 14:58 PM
rating: -3
 
JayhawkBill

I'm eager to learn.

What are the first dozen of several "dozens of metrics that are a lot better than WARP(3)," indicating that Schilling's age 25 season wasn't one of his three best?

I like to think that Clay Davenport's WARP3 is a pretty good metric. It's at the core of the JAWS system used by Joe Sheehan in his article. But if there are dozens of better metrics, all season-adjusted like WARP3 to account for changes in the value of counting stats, by all means, please share.

And could you share that 2009 Curt Schilling PECOTA Card link showing Clemens as his top comparable, too? I don't see a link on his DT Card nor an entry in the January 30 PECOTA spreadsheet, which would've listed at least his top four comparables. I don't even find an active link for Schilling's PECOTA Card using his name and the format of web address used in other PECOTA links. His 2008 PECOTA Card listed Rick Reuschel, Gaylord Perry, Bert Blyleven, and Danny Darwin as his top four comparables: it's odd that it would've changed to Roger Clemens after Schilling missed an entire season.

Thanks in advance.

Mar 25, 2009 16:32 PM
rating: 0
 
DavidMI
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JayHawkBill,

While it's kind of cute that you so love Schilling that you're arguing against the blatantly obvious - that his career arc was freakishly unusual - this is really getting boring.

The PECOTA comp was from the '07 (or possibly '06) BP annual. I'm not going to bother looking it up because this conversation doesn't deserve it. Clemens was the only active player, between the two books I'd glanced at, that compared to Schilling. All the rest were from prior eras. And, even though you disregard all facts that don't conform to your theory, I'll again state that Baseball-Reference.com comped him with yet another steroid user, Kevin Brown.

Also, you don't have to drop a name ("Clay Davenport's" or "Joe Sheehan") every time you're mentioning a stat.

Joe Sheehan started this by pointing out the obvious:

"I'm going to be indelicate here and point out that Schilling is a pitcher who struggled to stay healthy for much of his career, and had his greatest effectiveness and durability late in that career. Through his age-29 season, Schilling had thrown 988 1/3 innings, had two 200-inning seasons (and didn't lose one to either strike-shortened campaign), and never received a Cy Young vote. From the ages of 30-33, he threw 200 innings three times, made three All-Star teams, and got Cy votes in one season. From 34-37, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball."

If you're still interested in arguing that Schilling's career path was perfectly normal, please take it up with him. I'm bored of this idiocy.

Mar 25, 2009 20:29 PM
rating: -5
 
DavidMI

Okay, one final note for JayHawkBill:

You were dead wrong when you said that Baseball-Reference.com's similarity scores aren't based upon age. In point of fact, their similarity scores are actually taxonomied by age.

....And Curt Schilling comps with Kevin Brown for four different seasons. (Ages 37-40)

http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/schilcu01.shtml

Mar 25, 2009 20:36 PM
rating: -3
 
Karl Barth

If Schilling goes into the HOF, then they need to put in David Wells, Orel Hershiser, Dennis Martinez and a host of other 200+ game winners. Curt belongs in the Hall of Very Good, not the Hall of Fame.

Mar 26, 2009 11:57 AM
rating: -1
 
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