NOVEMBER 28, 2003
A Schilling For Your Thought
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com

On November 28, 2003, the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks finalized a trade that sent All-Star pitcher Curt Schilling (from the Diamondbacks) to the Red Sox in exchange for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge De La Rosa and a minor leaguer to be named (reportedly outfielder Michael Goss).

Following the consummation of the deal, many Boston fans and those in the media began issuing predictions that the acquisition of Schilling placed the Red Sox in an excellent position to win a world championship in 2004.

The first reaction here was to closely examine what the Red Sox actually acquired in this transaction.

To that end, the following comparative study is offered:

Pitcher A:

Pitcher B:

It is easy to ascertain that these two pitchers are very much alike through age 36.  Their experience (in terms of age, seasons, organizations, and innings pitched) as well as their level of league dominance are as close as possible for two pitchers.

Pitcher A is Curt Schilling.  Pitcher B is another player, like Schilling, known for playing with teams in what many refer to as the role of “hired gun.”  Pitcher B is David Cone.

Here is the good news for those predicting a world championship for Boston next season now that Schilling will be pitching for them at age 37:  In 2000, also age 37, David Cone pitched for the New York Yankees who were the world champions of baseball that season.

Here is the bad news:  In that 2000 season, David Cone had an ERA of 6.91 in 155 innings pitched along with a record of 4 wins and 14 losses. 

Following that 2000 season where he was age 37, Cone was essentially done.  He won 9 games in 135 innings - pitching for (ironically) the Boston Red Sox - in 2001.  He sat out the 2002 season.  In 2003, he had a brief and failed comeback attempt with the New York Mets  - pitching just 18 innings in 5 games.

It is significant to share that some other prominent baseball websites state that Bret Saberhagen, through age 36, is the pitcher most comparable to Curt Schilling at his current age.  While the determination here is that Cone is the better match, out of respect for the Saberhagen pick, it is worth looking at what Bret did beyond age 36.

Bret Saberhagen missed all of the 2000 season – which is when he was age 37.  The following season, in 2001, he appeared in 3 games for the Boston Red Sox pitching a total of 15 innings.  That was the end of his career.

The Schilling-Saberhagen comparison, in terms of future expectancy for Schilling based on Saberhagen, is even less encouraging than the one to David Cone.

Does this mean that Curt Schilling will be a bust for the Boston Red Sox?  No.  But, it means that he could be a bust for the Boston Red Sox – just as easily as he can be a 20 game winner in 2004 and log over 250 innings pitched.

Schilling’s performance this upcoming season will be very interesting to watch.  Objectively, one should be concerned about his mileage and the performance of similar models after also passing the "Age 36" mile marker.  Related, precipitate predictions of Schilling carrying the Red Sox to a championship should be weighed accordingly.

Bosox fans may be best suited to take a Zen approach on this one:  “Expect nothing; and be prepared for everything.”  Just a Schilling for your thoughts, scrawled on this scorecard…….

Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com.  Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season.  Steve can be contacted at sots@netshrine.com

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