Postseason dominance, command make Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer

We're zeroing in on the Jan. 6 reveal of the BBWAA 2016 Hall of Fame class, one certain to include Ken Griffey Jr. and maybe another player or two. As we lead up to that announcement, CBS Sports' Eye on Baseball scribes are running through the serious candidates one day at a time.

More HOF: One-and dones | Kendall | Griffey | Hoffman | Edmonds | Wagner |Trammell | Smith | Garciaparra | McGwire | Sosa | Clemens | Bonds

Right-hander Curt Schilling, who played for five teams (Orioles, Astros, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox) during a 20-year career that spanned 1988-2007, is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the fourth time this year. He hasn't come particularly close to receiving the 75 percent needed for induction in his first three years on the ballot.

2013: 38.8 percent
2014: 29.2 percent
2015: 39.2 percent

As of this writing, @NotMrTibbs has collected 102 public Hall of Fame ballots and Schilling has appeared on 61, or 59.8 percent. It appears support for Schilling is increasing, however keep in mind 102 ballots represents only 22 percent of the voting body or so.

Either way, Schilling is still short of the 75 percent needed for induction despite a resume that indeed qualifies as Hall of Fame worthy in my opinion. The longevity, the historically great command, and the utterly dominant postseason record all point to Cooperstown.

The Basics

Schilling went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA (127 OPS+) and a 1.14 WHIP in his 20-year career. He also saved 22 games during an early-career stint in the bullpen. Schilling was selected to six All-Star Games, and while he never did win a Cy Young, he did finished second in the voting three times (2001, 2002, 2004).

On two occasions each Schilling led the league in wins (2001, 2004), innings (1998, 2001), batters faced (1998, 2001), strikeouts (1997, 1998), WHIP (1992, 2002) and walk rate (2002, 2006). During his peak from 1996-2004, he went 141-81 with a 3.23 ERA (141 ERA+) and 1.08 WHIP during one of the most offense-happy eras in history.

Schilling retired with 80.7 WAR, which ranks 26th all-time among pitchers, just behind Hall of Famer Bob Gibson (81.9) and a bit ahead of Hall of Famer Tom Glavine (74.0). Jay Jaffe's JAWS system says Schilling exceeds the established Hall of Fame standard for starting pitchers based on overall value, though he falls just short on peak value.

The Command

Throughout his career, Schilling established himself as one of the best command pitchers in baseball history. In fact, his career 4.38 K/BB ratio is the second best all-time among pitchers with 1,000 career innings, trailing only Tommy Bond (5.04), who pitched from 1874-84.

Schilling led the league in K/BB ratio five times in a six-season span from 2001-06, including posting a 9.58 K/BB ratio in 2002. That was the fourth-best single-season K/BB ratio in history at the time and second only to Brett Saberhagen (11.00 in 1994) among pitchers who started their careers after 1900. It's currently the sixth-best mark all-time and fourth-best number among pitchers who started their careers after 1900.

From 1992-2007, the final 16 seasons of his career, only once did Schilling post a walk rate higher than 2.5 BB/9. That was a 3.1 BB/9 in 1994, when injuries and the work stoppage limited him to only 82 1/3 innings. Schilling averaged 1.8 BB/9 and 8.7 K/9 with 195 innings per season from 1992-2007.

That level of precision -- not just strikes, but quality strikes that limit walks and induce strikeouts -- is unheard of among starting pitchers. Schilling was arguably the greatest command pitcher in baseball history.

The Postseason

Schilling's postseason record is as good as it gets. He went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 19 starts and 133 1/3 career playoff innings. Schilling 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 with Randy Johnson.

Here is Schilling's postseason game log, via Baseball Reference. I count three duds and 16 starts of pure domination.

YearSeriesDateTm OppRsltDecIPHRERBBSOHRPitGSc
1993 NLCS g1 Oct 6 PHI   ATL W,4-3   8.0 7 2 2 2 10 0 135 68
1993 NLCS g5 Oct 11 PHI @ ATL W,4-3   8.0 4 2 1 3 9 0 131 74
1993 WS g1 Oct 16 PHI @ TOR L,5-8 L(0-1) 6.1 8 7 6 2 3 2 99 32
1993 WS g5 Oct 21 PHI   TOR W,2-0 W(1-1) 9.0 5 0 0 3 6 0 147 80
2001 NLDS g1 Oct 9 ARI   STL W,1-0 W(1-0) 9.0 3 0 0 1 9 0 101 89
2001 NLDS g5 Oct 14 ARI   STL W,2-1 W(2-0) 9.0 6 1 1 1 9 1 121 79
2001 NLCS g3 Oct 19 ARI @ ATL W,5-1 W(3-0) 9.0 4 1 1 2 12 0 127 85
2001 WS g1 Oct 27 ARI   NYY W,9-1 W(4-0) 7.0 3 1 1 1 8 0 102 74
2001 WS g4 Oct 31 ARI @ NYY L,3-4   7.0 3 1 1 1 9 1 88 75
2001 WS g7 Nov 4 ARI   NYY W,3-2   7.1 6 2 2 0 9 1 103 67
2002 NLDS g2 Oct 3 ARI   STL L,1-2   7.0 7 1 1 1 7 1 97 65
2004 ALDS g1 Oct 5 BOS @ ANA W,9-3 W(1-0) 6.2 9 3 2 2 4 2 107 48
2004 ALCS g1 Oct 12 BOS @ NYY L,7-10 L(1-1) 3.0 6 6 6 2 1 0 58 22
2004 ALCS g6 Oct 19 BOS @ NYY W,4-2 W(2-1) 7.0 4 1 1 0 4 1 99 69
2004 WS g2 Oct 24 BOS   STL W,6-2 W(3-1) 6.0 4 1 0 1 4 0 94 65
2007 ALDS g3 Oct 7 BOS @ LAA W,9-1 W(1-0) 7.0 6 0 0 1 4 0 100 68
2007 ALCS g2 Oct 13 BOS   CLE L,6-13   4.2 9 5 5 0 3 2 85 29
2007 ALCS g6 Oct 20 BOS   CLE W,12-2 W(2-0) 7.0 6 2 2 0 5 1 90 62
2007 WS g2 Oct 25 BOS   COL W,2-1 W(3-0) 5.1 4 1 1 2 4 0 82 58
                133.1 104 37 33 25 120 12    

Schilling's teams went 14-5 in his 19 postseason starts. He allowed one or fewer earned run 12 times, including in six starts in a row at one point. Schilling was given the ball in Game 1 in six of his 11 postseason series, and in four starts with his team facing elimination, he allowed six runs on 22 hits and one walk in 30 1/3 innings. He struck out 27. His team won all four games.

Among those four starts is the famed "bloody sock" game, Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. Schilling had been battling an ankle injury for some time, and prior to that game, he had a damaged tendon sewn back together so he could pitch. He held the Yankees to one run in seven innings to force a decisive Game 7.

Schilling is fifth all-time in postseason wins (11), eighth in strikeouts (120), ninth in innings (133 1/3) and ninth in starts (19). His 56 strikeouts in 2001 are a single-postseason record and his 48 1/3 innings in 2001 were the record until Madison Bumgarner threw 52 2/3 innings in the 2014 postseason. Without question, Schilling is one of the greatest postseason pitchers ever.

The Character Clause?

Here are the voting guidelines included in the Hall of Fame ballot, emphasis mine:

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.

The so-called character clause is what many voters reference when they decline to vote for players with performance-enhancing drug ties, either legitimate or suspected. The character clause is quite vague, perhaps intentionally.

Earlier this year, Schilling was removed from ESPN's Little League coverage and later suspended from the network's Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts due to a controversial tweet that included an image of Adolf Hitler and some dubious statistics. Given the vague nature of the character clause, voters could cite the incident as a reason to not support Schilling for the Hall of Fame.

The same could be said of Schilling's failed video game venture, 38 Studios. The company accepted a $75 million loan from the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation in 2010 but later failed to make payments and laid off all employees. The state filed a lawsuit against 38 Studios following an investigation that included the FBI, and the two sides later settled.

Either way, character clause or not, Schilling's on-field achievements as a historically great command pitcher and postseason performer make him a Hall of Fame-caliber baseball player. That said, he has not come close to receiving the 75 percent needed for induction thus far, and it may be a few years before Schilling even gets close.

Curt Schilling's career is Hall of Fame worthy.
Curt Schilling's career is Hall of Fame worthy. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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