The 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced on Jan. 24. In the days leading up to that announcement, we here at CBS Sports will profile one Hall of Fame candidate per day, provided that player is expected to receive the 5 percent of the vote necessary to remain on the ballot another year. Today's candidate: Curt Schilling.
Schilling played for five teams (Orioles, Astros, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox) during his 20-year career (1988-2007), and is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the sixth time. Here are his year-by-year voting results:
- 2013: 38.8 percent
- 2014: 29.2 percent
- 2015: 39.2 percent
- 2016: 52.3 percent
- 2017: 45.0 percent
A non-linear upward trend, I'd say. As a reminder, players must appear on 75 percent of submitted ballots for induction to the Hall of Fame. Let's break down Schilling's Hall of Fame case.
The case for Schilling
In short, Schilling is one of the great command pitchers and postseason performers in baseball history. He retired with a 216-146 record and a career 3.46 ERA (127 ERA+) in 3,261 innings. Among pitchers with at least 1,000 career innings, Schilling is fifth all-time in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Schilling is first in K/BB among pitchers with 3,000 innings pitched by a mile -- Cy Young is a distant second with a 3.78 K/BB. Five times Schilling led baseball in K/BB. Few pitchers in history could match his ability to miss bats while keeping the ball in the strike zone.
In the postseason, Schilling was a dominant force who won three World Series rings (2001 D-Backs, 2004 and 2007 Red Sox) and was named MVP of the 1993 NLCS and co-MVP of the 2001 World Series. Schilling's career postseason record: 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts. He averaged over seven innings per start with a 4.80 K/BB.
What was Schilling's signature moment? Well, take your pick. He threw a five-hit shutout in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series to keep the Phillies' season alive. He threw three straight complete games in the 2001 NLDS and NLCS, and then allowed four runs total in 21 1/3 innings in the 2001 World Series across three starts, the last two of which were on short rest.
Then there is a Bloody Sock game during the 2004 ALCS, during which Schilling threw seven innings of one-run ball on a damaged ankle to force a Game 7 against the Yankees.
Schilling is tied for fifth all-time in career postseason wins and is the all-time leader in strikeouts in a single postseason with 56 back in 2001. He is also tied for first in starts in a single postseason with six, and his 48 1/3 innings in 2001 were the most ever in a single postseason until Madison Bumgarner threw 52 2/3 innings in 2014.
As for hardware, Schilling never did win a Cy Young, but he finished second in the voting three times (2001, 2002, 2004) and fourth on one occasion (1997). He also received MVP votes in four seasons (1997, 2001, 2002, 2004) and was a six-time All-Star. And, of course, Schilling has those three World Series rings -- he was a key contributor to all three teams too, he wasn't just along for the ride -- and was named MVP of the 1993 NLCS and co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, along with Randy Johnson.
Schilling is one of the greatest postseason pitchers in history by any measure. Combine that with his regular season excellence -- Schilling is 26th among all pitchers with +80.7 WAR, and that doesn't include the postseason -- and you get a player with a very strong Hall of Fame case.
The case against Schilling
On the field, the argument against Schilling as a Hall of Famer is a flimsy one. His 216 wins would rank 51st among the 78 pitchers in the Hall of Fame, and his list of single-season "titles" is short. Schilling only twice led the league in wins (2001, 2004), twice led the league innings (1998, 2001), twice led the league in strikeouts (1997, 1998), and twice led the league in WHIP (1992, 2002). He never won an ERA title. Not the strongest baseball argument, but that's the argument.
More than anything, the case against Schilling as a Hall of Fame player rests with the vague character clause. Here is the voting criteria the Hall of Fame provides:
Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
That "integrity" clause throws a wrench into Schilling's case. He has gotten himself into hot water in recent years -- including being fired from his job as an analyst at ESPN -- for social media posts about Nazis, Islamophobia, and lynching journalists, as well as making uncomfortable comments about children. , saying he would already be in Cooperstown had he not supported President Trump. It should be noted Schilling's voting percentage dropped last year, after his comments about journalists.
. Is it fair to hold Schilling's politics and non-baseball comments against him when voting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame? After all, there are men currently in the Hall of Fame who worked to keep the sport segregated back in the day. For now, the character clause leaves it up to the individual voter to weigh Schilling's recent public comments against his playing career.
Will he make it?
It is unlikely Schilling will be voted into the Hall of Fame this year. According to Ryan Thibodaux's public ballot tracker, Schilling has appeared on 66.9 percent of the submitted ballots as of this writing, which would be up considerably from last year. That said, the non-public ballots have historically not been kind to Schilling, and have dragged down his final voting percentage. Gaining votes this year would be a positive for him, however, especially after last year's decline.
For what it's worth, Jay Jaffe's JAWS system says Schilling is right on the Hall of Fame borderline. The system says he is over the established Hall of Fame threshold for starting pitchers based on overall career value, though he falls a bit short on peak value. Given his overall trend through the years, Schilling may one day get voted into Cooperstown. It's also possible he was on track for induction, but has talked and tweeted his way out of the Hall of Fame.