Mussina v. Schilling

Who’s more qualified for the Hall of Fame, Curt Schilling or Mike Mussina? According to Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette, hosts on MLB Network Radio’s Power Alley, it’s Schilling. Duquette hedged a bit, saying he didn’t think of Mussina as a Hall of Famer but would have to look closer. Well, Jim, here’s a look.

I made a career comparison of Schilling and Mussina in three areas—pitching (10 statistics), fielding (three stats), and batting average. In addition I compared awards, All-Star appearances, and similarity scores with pitchers already in the Hall. Finally, I match up Schilling and Mussina to a Hall of Fame standard constructed by Bill James.

PITCHING

WINS: Mussina 270; Schilling 246. W-L PERCENTAGE: Mussina .630; Schilling .597; 20-WIN SEASONS: Schilling 3; Mussina 1; POST-SEASON W-L RECORD: Schilling 11-2; Mussina 7-8. ERA: Schilling 3.46; Mussina 3.68; WHIP (Walks & Hits per Inning Pitched): Schilling 1.137; Mussina 1.192; WALKS PER 9 INNINGS: Both 2; STRIKEOUTS PER 9 INNINGS: Schilling 8.6; Mussina 7.1; 162-GAME AVERAGE W-L RECORD: Mussina 17-10; Schilling 15-10, GAMES OVER .500: Mussina 117; Schilling 70.

Schilling is better in five of the 10 pitching categories, Mussina in four, They tied in walks per nine innings. Two things stand out for Schilling. He put together three sterling seasons when he won 22 games in 2001, 23 in 2002, and 21 in 2004. I think that this, combined with his superb post-season record, sways the likes of Ferrin and Duquette.

Mussina’s career is marked by a quiet, consistent excellence. Although he won 20 games only once, he won 19 twice and 18 three times. He won at least 17 games in each of nine seasons. Schilling, outside his three 20-win seasons, won more than 16 only once (17 in 1997). This is why Schilling’s winning percentage and 162-game won-lost record are good but not Hall of Fame caliber.

Mussina may not have had a dramatic “bloody sock” moment, but he did have his moment. With two outs in the ninth inning and two strikes on Carl Everett, Mussina lost a perfect game on a blooper to left.

A final note on pitching: Mussina pitched his entire career in the Designated Hitter League. With the exception of a handful of inter-league contests, he never had Schilling’s luxury of facing a pitcher with regularity. Of his 569 games, Schilling played only 131 in the DH League. This accounts for his slightly better career ERA.

FIELDING

FIELDING PCT: Mussina .980; Schilling .956. ASSISTS: Mussina 497; Schilling 297. RANGE FACTOR: Mussina 1.84; Schilling 1.32.

BATTING AVERAGE: Mussina .173; Schilling .151.

Of course, fielding and hitting are not as important as pitching stats when one is comparing pitchers. But we’re talking Hall of Fame here, and the instruction to voters states, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the teams on which the player played.” In my opinion, Mussina not only has an overall better pitching record than Schilling, he was a better baseball player who contributed more to his teams’ success.

AWARDS, SIMILARITY SCORES:

ALL-STAR APPEARANCES: Schilling 6; Mussina 5. GOLD GLOVES: Mussina 7; Schilling 0. SIMILARITY SCORES: Mussina compares favorably with three Hall of Famers (Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal, and Jim Bunning. Schilling compares with only one (John Smoltz).

I end with two facts that should put the debate to rest. Bill James, the preeminent analyst and the “founder” of Sabremetrics, has constructed a “Hall of Fame Standard” in which the score of 50 represents the “average Hall of Famer.” Mussina scores 54; Schilling scores 46.

Finally, there is only one pitcher who has more than 100 wins above the .500 mark and is NOT in the Hall of Fame. His name is Mike Mussina, and he’s 117 games over .500.

Note: The stats and information are available at Baseball-Reference.com.

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