Back in March, I did a column on the Arizona Diamondbacks
that contained the following sentence:
"The staff is the D'backs strength, but other than Randy
Johnson, there's no one here who's a good bet for 200 innings of
That generated a lot of reader mail, some of which sung the praises of
Brian Anderson, but most of the responses called me on the carpet
for apparently forgetting Curt Schilling. My response at the time
was that Schilling’s increased fragility in 1999-2000, coupled with the dip
in his strikeout rate, made me leery of his reliability for a full season
of effectiveness in 2001.
Schilling has opened the season with two excellent starts–albeit against
an unimpressive Dodger lineup–so it made me curious as to whether I’d
missed something. I went back and took a look at Schilling’s 2000
performance, and discovered more than a few things I’d missed.
Schilling has a well-deserved reputation as a workhorse and is one of the
pitchers about whose pitch counts we routinely fret and fume. Well, after
joining the Diamondbacks in July of last year, Schilling reached 120
pitches just one time in 13 starts, throwing exactly that many in his
next-to-last outing. By comparison, he crossed that threshold three times
in 16 starts for the Phillies before the trade.
Let’s break that down using the new PAP^3 methodology introduced in
Baseball Prospectus 2001. Here’s the scale:
Category Pitch Range Risk
Category I 1-104 Virtually none Category II 105-109 Minimal Category III 110-121 Moderate Category IV 122-132 Significant Category V 133+ Severe
Here’s Schilling’s starts for each team by category:
Team I II III IV V Total Avg. Cat. Phillies 4 3 6 2 1 16 2.6 Diamondbacks 3 6 4 0 0 13 2.1
Schilling clearly was worked less hard after the trade. Was this all the
difference between Buck Showalter and Terry Francona, or was something else
I think the latter. Schilling appears to have changed something in his
approach at midseason. Despite throwing fewer pitches per start and having
fewer dangerous starts, Schilling averaged about a half-inning longer per
start with the Diamondbacks than he did with the Phillies. He did this by
cutting his walk rate in half, from 2.5 per nine innings to 1.2 per nine
innings. After walking three or more batters five times in 16 starts with
the Phillies, he didn’t have a single three-walk start the rest of the season.
The new approach took some steam out of his strikeout totals, as he whiffed
one batter per nine less with the D’backs.
Is this conclusive? No; there could be some park effect at work–the Vet
increases walks, the Bob is neutral–and the sample sizes are fairly small.
Schilling is uniformly regarded as an intelligent man, and it’s not hard to
picture him making the decision to change his approach on the mound in an
effort to reduce his pitch counts, especially after the 1999 surgery.
I do know that looking at this makes me reconsider my initial opinion.
Schilling has to be considered a good bet to throw 200 innings of
above-average baseball, and I was wrong to dismiss him so lightly in March.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by