Curt Schilling and the first ballot

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In 2007, I attended a Red Sox game with Alex Bain and a few of his friends. That night after the game I made a bet with one of his friends that Curt Schilling would be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

At the time, folks were dubious given his relatively low win count, but I thought his post-season narratives (winning World Series co-MVP honors with Randy Johnson in 2001 during an especially memorable November World Series, and helping Boston to win its first World Series in almost a hundred years with his infamous bloody sock games). A couple months later I looked into some of the work Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus had done on players' Hall of Fame chances. His system, called JAWS predicted that Schilling would almost certainly make it into the Hall of Fame and was about 50-50 to go on the first ballot, based on his career numbers and peak.

Since then, I've been feeling better and better about Curt Schilling's first ballot Hall of Fame chances. Jeff Bagwell only got 41% of the vote last year, which (given his stats and era) seems to imply a distaste for even potential steroid users. The results for 2012 will be out soon & should shed more light on this issue, but take a look at the big names coming up for election in 2013:
  • Craig Biggio
  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Mike Piazza
  • Curt Schilling
  • Sammy Sosa

Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa are some of the best known baseball players to have been caught (or at least have enough circumstantial evidence to convince me) using, and as the voters showed with Mark McGwire the past few years, they will be heavily penalized for it. That leaves many voters purposefully skipping some of the best players on the ballot. Schilling has been outspoken against steroid users, suggesting that their achievements should be wiped out of the record books.

Given Schilling's enormous post-season fame and excellent regular season stats, I have to believe that the steroids controversy will help push him into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

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