We are hours away from discovering whether or not Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling are members of baseball’s most honored fraternity, members of the Hall of Fame. And while early ballots show that neither one is destined for Cooperstown, at least not this year, we here at GameDaySportsBlog.com want to argue about which of these Hall of Fame rejects is better. And that’s just what we do in the newest edition of “OR”.
So apparently this is a conversation people are having. Apparently there are those who actually believe that Mike Mussina is better than Curt Schilling. There are those who actually argue that Mussina, a pitcher with what, ONE 20-win season, is better than Schilling, who is one of the 10 greatest right-handed pitchers in the modern era.
And the argument that people keep making for Mussina is one of the dumbest this journalist has ever heard. The case for Mussina as a great pitcher has little to do with his actual pitching prowess, and instead more focused on how great the team around him was. Every backer of Mussina points to his 270 career wins as the one and only stat needed to show his greatness. And those same people forget to mention that Mussina was on some very good teams during his career.
Obviously there was his 8 seasons with the Yankees, where they made the postseason in all but one of his years with the club. But people often forget about how good the Orioles were during his decade long run in Baltimore, which led to an even more inflated win total for the big righty.
During his 9 full seasons with the Orioles the franchise was below .500 only three times. And went to the postseason twice, and it would have been three times had the strike-shortened 94’ season been played through. The Orioles finished 60 games above.500 while Mussina was with the franchise, and that was hardly because of Mussina who’s win-loss record isn’t much better than the other starters on that Orioles staff.
And if we are really thinking about what pitcher won more, here’s a good stat for you: While Mussina had 12 seasons starting at least 30 games, he never topped 20 wins, something Schilling did twice despite starting 30 games just 7 times.
But it’s not even Mussina’s overrated win total that makes any argument of him over Schilling invalid. Instead it’s Mussina’s subpar pitching that digs his grave. Overlooked behind the 270 wins is an ERA that ranks along with fellow middle of the road pitchers, Dick Tidrow and Greg Harris. Meanwhile, Schilling’s ERA is 20+ higher than Mussina’s. Of course, that’s just one statistic Schilling has the upper hand in.
What are the others you ask? ERA+, where Schilling’s superiority has him tied with Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson. WHIP and BAA (batting average against), which are arguably the two best measures of a pitcher’s efficiency and dominance. And if you think strikeouts are a better measure of domination for a pitcher, Schilling wins there too. Schilling struck out more than 300 more batters than Mussina despite pitching in 300 fewer innings. Maybe that’s because Schilling’s K/9 ratio ranks in the top 30 all-time, a few spots ahead of Roger Clemens.
And of course so far we have just talked about regular season accomplishments, while its Schilling’s postseason resume that truly sets him apart from Mussina, and basically every other pitcher in history. Schilling boasts an 11-2 playoff record with 4 complete games. Meanwhile, Mussina, who has pitched in four more playoff games than Schilling, has won only seven times while carrying a losing record. Maybe it’s his 3.42 postseason ERA, which isn’t bad, but in comparison to Schilling’s 2.23 it sure is mediocre. And then there are the World Series games. Schilling is 4-1 with a 2.09 ERA in the Fall Classic, numbers much better than Mussina. And Curt’s 5-0 record in games facing elimination make him not only far better than Mussina, but better than any pitcher before or after his playing days.
So if we leave off the “win” stat, which really only tells you how good a pitcher’s team is, this one is quite obvious. Because when it comes down to real stats like ERA, ERA+, K/9, K/BB, WHIP, BAA, and CG’s, it’s all Schilling. Throw in the postseason accomplishments, the 3 World Series titles, the World Series MVP, the 20+ win seasons, and the extra All-Star Game selections, and I’d say it’s a landslide.
Last I checked, the point of playing baseball was to win. And that is just what Mike Mussina did. And he did it a lot more than Curt Schilling.
Despite playing for two more seasons than Mussina, and pitching in far more games than the Oriole great, Schilling came up way short of Mussina’s win total. Mussina racked up 54 more wins than Schilling, and most of the W’s came as a part of a terrible Orioles squad that made the playoffs only twice in Mussina’s decade long tenure. Meanwhile, Schilling who was lucky enough to play for 3 different organizations that made the World Series, couldn’t touch Mussina’s success.
And while success is something that Mussina had that Schilling didn’t, Curt’s failures just compound the situation. Schilling’s 146 losses give him a .597 winning percentage. That’s just ahead of Johnny Cueto and Kevin Brown; good pitchers, but hardly Mike Mussina. Meanwhile Mussina’s .638 winning percentage, a full 40+ points higher than Schilling’s, puts him just ahead of Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, and right behind Hall of Fame legend Randy Johnson.
But don’t believe just the W-L stat. Instead put some consideration into what baseball experts think. Nine times voters for the Cy Young Award had Mussina as a top-6 vote getter. As for Schilling…experts didn’t vote for him in half as many seasons.
Maybe Mussina got those votes because of his consistency and his winning ways. After all, Mussina won double digit games in 17 straight seasons, only failing to hit the mark in his rookie year, when he made just 12 starts. As for Schiling’s consistency…there was none. His first and last double digit win season came 15 years apart, but he only won 10 or more games 8 times in that span. So for those saying that Mussina was never great, only good, it turns out Schilling was hardly either of those.
And that includes Schilling’s time as a closer. Oh yeah, unlike Mussina who was never relegated to the bullpen because of sub-par performance, Schilling was used in relief after failing as a starter. After going winless during Schilling’s first year in the league and posting a 9.82 ERA in 1988, the Orioles moved him to the pen’. It didn’t help much. In 1990 he again went winless and posted a 6.23 ERA. In 1991 Schilling entered 15 games in a save situation. He finished that year with 3 saves and another losing record. Over the next two seasons Schilling finished with a 71% save rate, which would have finished dead last in 2017.
So quote a famous football coach, “You play to win the game”. And with Schilling failing to win, succeeding to lose, and costing his teams so many wins as a bullpen pitcher there really shouldn’t be an argument to who’s better. So throw out the new age stats. And throw out the stuff nobody cares about. And instead look at what matters. During Mussina’s career, he won at an elite level, while Schilling barely won at all.