Nationals Baseball: Schill, Moose, and Glavine

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Schill, Moose, and Glavine

I find these guys to be incredibly helpful in deciphering the psychology of the hall of fame. They were nearly complete contempories of eachother. Glavine pitching from 1987-2008, Schilling a year off on both ends ('88-'07) and Mussina coming in a couple years after that ('91-'08). They are all Hall worthy pitchers based on their production but there is a big gap in how their cases are perceived. Glavine is almost a shoe-in to get in on his first ballot.  Schilling looks to have to wait at least a couple more years. Mussina is almost a full-step behind Schilling and possibly in for a long Blyleven like crawl into the Hall.  Why?

Glavine, who honestly might be the least productive of the three, gets in because he's the perfect checklist Hall of Famer.  Did he win 300 games? Yes. Did he win Cy Youngs? Yes. Did he pitch well in the postseason? World Series MVP, bitches. All-Star? 10 times. When you come up with a list in your head of all the incidentals a Hall of Famer should have Glavine has them all. Add that to a production that was lengthy and worthy and it's a slam dunk.

Schilling and Mussina on the other hand fail at this first glance. 300 games? Mussina no, Schilling not even close. Cy Youngs? Nope.* All-Stars? Yes, but only 6 times for Schilling and 5 for Mussina. Hence the big gap between Glavine - who might get over 90% of the vote this year and Schilling (around 40% likely) and Mussina (around 30%).

Where Schilling differentiates is that he pitched great in post-season... Well he did and he didn't. First back to Mussina. He overall pitched much like Glavine did in the post-season, which is pretty much the same as he did in the regular season. But what Glavine did was have particularly good post-seasons. 1995 (the WS MVP year), '96, '98, '99 to mix in with some stinkers. Mussina didn't have any terrible postseasons, but had some blah ones and none that stand out. Which brings us back to Schilling. Schilling had two of the most standout postseasons we've seen. In 2001 he (and Randy Johnson) were unhittable. In 2004 he won the last two games he pitched in dramatic fashion. While the rest of his postseason work was hit or miss (did you remember he sported a 7.45 ERA for the 2004 post-season heading into the bloody sock game?) these moments carry a lot of weight.

What does this all mean? It means that when you ask someone to give their opinion, which is what you are doing by asking them to vote, perception is going to weigh very very heavily. Glavine is perceived to be the best of the three because of the milestones he reached and the accolades he garnered. Doesn't matter that he let a lot more guys get on base and score (relative to league). That's secondary to the picture formed in our heads by the things we notice. You see something similar with Schilling. Doesn't matter that he kind of alternated great and so-so in three out of four postseasons. That other one was dominant and his good performances in the other ones stood out. This matters. Think Jack Morris - great in 1984 for a dominant Tigers, gave perhaps the most memorable pitching performance in a WS in the last 40+ years in 1991. Doesn't matter he was terrible in 1992 or lost his only game in 1987. His success stuck.

When you ask people to vote this is what you are going to get. Three guys, all Hall Worthy, all in the same ballpark of worth, going in at three different times, possibly backwards in deserving, because of perception. It's a bit crazy, but if you didn't want this you'd just draw a rough WAR line in the sand. Everyone over X in. Everyone under Y out.  The few between X and Y or the very very random special case? Those get debated.

But who wants this? We already know who is over X and under Y. I basically know the objective best and how guys roughly compare to eachother. I don't need plaques in a building to tell me that. What I don't know is what everyone is thinking. So vote. It's fun to see perception play out.  

*For the sake of argument I went back and looked at all three pitchers years where they got Cy Young votes. Glavine was never "robbed". Schill wasn't either but that was poor timing, being fantastic behind monster years from Randy Johnson, Pedro, and Johan Santana. Mussina was once when by fluke of run support Clemens went 20-3. 20-3! Perception!


blovy8 said...

Moose's 2003 championship series has a pretty good gut-check memory, where after giving up a crapload of homers during ineffective starts in games 1 and 4 where the Yanks lost, he redeemed himself by bailing Clemens out in that Game 7 relief appearance. There's a lot of other stuff in that series and game in particular, but I think that's where Mussina got Yankee fans on his side.

cass said...

If you look at Schilling's career performance for the postseason, it's pretty remarkable. I can't find a good leaderboard tool to separate out the starters and adjust the states to put deadballers in context, but I imagine Schilling holds up as the best or one of the best postseason and World Series starters in baseball history. His career postseason numbers are rather remarkable.

As for length of career, well, he lasted long enough to get over 3000 strikeouts and is 15th all-time. He racked up 80 WAR and RA9-WAR - he's no FIP illusion.

This is just as you cay but it just seems really odd to me that he isn't perceived as better. For all the reasons Jack Morris is perceived as great, Schilling did those things much better. The only thing he doesn't have is a big win total and I guess that's the reason they're making him wait. I would be happy if no one ever talked about pitcher wins and losses again. He had 80 career wins above replacement. That should be enough.

(And yes, Mussina is worthy as well, but I am focused on Schilling now, I think, because he has both the numbers and the story and it just baffles me how he is getting such low vote totals. And I guess the answer is wins and personality. I'm not even a particularly huge fan, but the Schilling fate has always seemed strange to me. Is he too much of a nerd or a geek or something?)

Harper said...

blovy8 - completely but that's a Yankee fan thing. I doubt that holds much import for national media given that the Yanks would go on and lose to the stupid Marlins.

cass -
Oddly though he'd be a very poor DS starter. I like to look at postseasons in two ways. Whole thing (in which Schilling looks great) and variability (which takes away from Schilling a little bit because he was just freaking incredible in 2001 and that drives his overall numbers to where they are - not that he was bad outside of 2001. Nor is that an excuse for the low vote totals).

Add timing and voting philosophies to the mix to explain Schilling's low vote totals. On the former, He was on the D-backs with Randy, on the Red Sox with Pedro, so the perception is "never the best pitcher on a great team" - Clearly that shouldn't matter and if you look deeper he obviously was the Sox ace, but what can you do. First thought.

On the latter, if you vote for the PED guys you could possibly squeeze Schilling off your ballot. Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell, Palmiero, Piazza would have to be in - only take 5 others to leave Schill out. ay Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Biggio, and Kent? (kent, biggio arguably more impt to positions than schill). There's also a group that might squeeze Schill out to save guys who might be in trouble (mCGriff, Trammell, Walker) or promote someone getting close (Edgar, Raines, Morris). Lots of politics at play for a couple years.

cass said...

All the more reason they should've voted him in last year before the big crush of starting pitchers. He wasn't steroids-tainted (that we know of) so he could have easily been part of the anti-PED vote. But the voters probably realize that even clean players probably did stuff so they hold up Jack Morris despite the fact that he pitched many years in the era of steroids too. But Schilling is a far better and more important pitcher than Morris. But it's the wins.

And I see your point about the Division Series, but I guess I don't hold the concentration of his performance in 2001 against him. He pitched a lot of postseason innings (most ever?) and if his numbers are still so good over the aggregate, I think that says a lot. He was a big contributor to three World Series teams. He pitched practically an extra season in the postseason and that's against tougher competition. I think it absolutely should count and add another chunk of value on top of his WAR total.

Going forward, yes, it's going to be hard, but it honestly shouldn't. I don't see how you can vote for someone like McGriff over Schilling. And I'm actually a bigger Tom Glavine fan than a Curt Schilling fan (I grew up in Georgia in the 80s and 90s and went to many playoff games in the first couple of years of their run), but I still feel like Schilling is getting jobbed here.

Perceptions. I wonder if someone like Strasburg will be hurt by them if his time ever comes and he's more of a Schilling type pitcher than the Clemens type that everyone projected him as. I'm not saying he will definitely be HoF-worthy, but he's gotten off to a good start. As cliché as it is to say, he and Harper still have the best shot of being the first players in Cooperstown to be inducted wearing the modern Curly W's.

Harper said...

cass - I don't mean to belittle Schilling as a great postseason competitor. I mean you only get so many shots so having an awesome postseason so coming through gotta count for something even if we understand the limitations of evaluating these time frames.

FYI - 9th in postseason IP but well behind Glavine/Maddux/Clemens/Smoltz group and less half as much as the leader Andy Pettite

Way too early on Strasburg but less than lovable attitude doesn't help.

cass said...

Yeah, my bad on the postseason innings pitched. It was a lot, and for different teams, but not exceptional for his era and well behind those other guys who were on perennial postseason teams for longer.

And yes, too early on Strasburg. But I could see him taking a Schilling-like route if he keeps having seasons like his last two. Staying on one team would probably help, though, so hopefully he'll sign an extension at some point. :)

I just wonder if perceptions will hurt him if he finishes his career in Kershaw's shadow. I think you've talked about him being underrated already. Time will tell.

Sad that Biggio missed as that will mean he'll take up another player's slot next year on everyone's ballot.

Donald said...

One thing working in Strasburg's favor is that by the time his name comes up, the sabermetricians will be more firmly in control, so things like his prickly nature may matter less.

Donald said...
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