Those D-Backs won the 2001 World Series in impressive fashion against the New York Yankees, and were led by Johnson and Schilling.
They were so good that they shared the World Series MVP award that year and pitched in short rest frequently to help Arizona shock the Yankees.
Who was the better pitcher, Schilling or Johnson?
There is a clear winner, but it’s certainly an interesting discussion.
The Case For Schilling
Schilling has a very particular way of seeing things, but on the mound, there were few like him.
He was a true warrior, evidenced by the “bloody sock” game during the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees in which he was pitching with an ankle injury.
Overall, he retired with a 3.46 ERA in 3,261 innings, in which he accumulated 3,116 strikeouts and 216 wins.
Schilling was much, much better than Johnson in limiting walks: he only conceded 1.96 per nine innings over the course of his career, while Randy handed out 3.26 per nine.
There is another crucial aspect in Schilling’s favor, which is collective achievements.
The best possible indicator of collective achievements are, of course, World Series wins.
Schilling won three: one with the Diamondbacks in 2001, and two with the Boston Red Sox, in 2004 and 2007.
He was a central piece of that 2004 Red Sox that finally broke the Bambino’s curse.
He was already a veteran at that point, as he retired after the 2007 World Series win with the Sox.
Schilling accrued 79.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
The Case For Johnson
Johnson is, simply put, one of the best pitchers to ever step on a baseball field.
He is fourth in the all-time WAR leaderboard among pitchers, with 110.4.
“The Big Unit”, unlike Schilling, is a member of the Hall since 2015.
He retired with a 3.29 ERA, 303 wins, and 4,875 strikeouts, and was a truly dominant force for a long, long time.
Johnson won only one World Series, in 2001, but he made 10 All-Star teams to Schilling’s six.
He led the league in strikeouts a whopping nine times, pitched a no-hitter in 1990 and a perfect game in 2004.
Johnson quite literally instilled fear in his opponents, and the likelihood of a strikeout was extremely high.
His fastball-slider combination was just deadly.
Schilling, on talent and on-field achievements, is a Hall of Famer, and he has been close to enshrinement recently despite the petition, made by himself, to remove him from the ballot.
Curt Schilling is a Hall of Famer based on his career stats and achievements. That’s all.
— Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) January 27, 2021
But that doesn’t matter, at least not for this particular discussion because Johnson was, pretty clearly, the better pitcher.
Schilling was dominant and had an impressive peak between 1997 and 2002, but Randy was just better.
Johnson had a higher, better peak from 1995 to 2004, he had better rate stats, higher totals, and a much better and cleaner reputation.
His performance between 1998 and 2002 was legendary, perhaps the best stretch ever by a hurler.
We don’t talk enough about Randy Johnson’s 5-year peak(98-02)
Five-year totals: 100-38, 2.63 ERA, four Cy Young Awards, three ERA titles, 41 complete games, 17 shutouts, five 300-strikeout seasons, 1,746 SO in 1,274 innings. pic.twitter.com/rVGPAiIoQb
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) June 23, 2021
As a result, he gets the nod here.