Friday, January 28, 2011

Curt Schilling And Other Thoughts: 250K 50 walks

Ever since speculation about the Hall of Fame vote started in December, Curt Schilling has been rolling around this roundish, long-haired head. Of course Schilling wasn't on the ballot this year, but his name came up a lot in posts concerning future ballots. Schilling has been in the craw since then and it probably has to do with not liking the guy. And that probably isn't fair either. The Fan doesn't even know Curt Schilling. But feelings are what feelings are. And as such, some day in the next couple of years, the Fan will have to write a post that says Curt Schilling belongs in the Hall of Fame. Ugh. It rotted to have to type that. But it's true. Schilling should get lots of support.

Yeah, Schilling only won 216 games. Even Jack Morris has him there. But Schilling took a while to get going. And once he did, he was a powerhouse. He finished with over 3100 strikeouts. He had 83 complete games and 20 shutouts and threw in 22 saves for good measure. He averaged 8.6 K/9 for his career! And as impressive as that is, he allowed only 2.0 walks per nine innings for a career strikeout to walk ratio of 4.38. Man, that's impressive. His winning percentage of .597 is impressive too. And in case anyone forgets, Schilling went 11-2 in the post season with a 2.23 ERA. Along the way he helped Arizona and Boston win franchise changing World Series titles. But there is one stat the Fan absolutely loves.

Since 1901, only six pitchers have struck out more than 250 batters in a season and yet finished that season with less than 40 walks. Only two guys did it twice: Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. We're going to talk about this stat a little more in a different context in just a minute. But for now, let's rest on the amazingness of it. Both Pedro and Schilling pulled this feat in back to back seasons. One time they were both over 300 strikeouts and still did it. The second time, they were both over 290 strikeouts. People think what Cliff Lee did in 2010 was pretty amazing. Well, it was amazing, but it was no where near as close to what Pedro and Schilling did in those four seasons between them. Just to close the loop on the thought, the list of six pitchers are: Schilling (2), Pedro (2), Ben Sheets (really? Yup), Ferguson Jenkins. That's it.

While searching for the statistic, the Fan started with a criteria of 250 strikeouts in a season with 50 walks or less. There were nine guys that did that including the list of six above. The other three were Randy Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Kevin Brown. The only two over 300 strikeouts were Pedro and Curt Schilling.

But that list brings up another thought. Between 1901 and 1971, only two pitchers had ever struck out more than 250 and walked less than 50. From 1998 to 2004, it was done seven times--once in 1998 (Brown), once in 1999 (Pedro), once in 2000 (Pedro), once in 2001 (Schilling), once in 2002 (Schilling) and twice in 2004 (Johnson and Sheets). Why would something happen seven times in six years that had only been done twice in the 97 years prior to 1998?

Uh oh. The Fan is going to say it. Was this a smoking gun of the pitching end of the era's equation? The Fan doesn't know. A fluke? Just a confluence of some of the nastiest and stingiest pitchers that ever lived? Don't know. It's simply weird that this feat happened so many times in so short a period of time when it had been done only twice before in pitching history (And Mathewson had to pitch 390 innings to get there). There. The Fan has given the saber folks something to work on for a pet project.

Whatever the reason, it's still an amazing statistic and it just adds to the Schilling case for the Hall of Fame. You'll never know how hard that is to type.

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