March 16, 2010

John Smoltz is Going Back to Atlanta

I'm getting a little tired of the "is he" or "isn't he" game that a lot of the 90s premier pitchers seem to be playing.

We've all seen Roger Clemens come and go and come and go again and again. Last season, Pedro Martinez held out until he found a suitable suitor.

And just a few weeks ago, Tom Glavine (who was out for all of 2009) finally hung it up.

Now, John Smoltz is pulling the same trick...taking time off to join TBS as a broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves and serving as an analyst for their slate of nationally televised Sunday games.

All the while, you guessed it, not retiring and, reportedly, planning on staying in shape should a opportunity present itself.

Given that Smoltz is now seemingly done (or not), you're going to be hearing more and more about his Hall of Fame candidacy and how he should be a shoo-in on whatever ballot he pops up on.

But is he?

Was he that good or did he just reap the benefits of hanging out alongside Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and the Braves dynasty (and yes, it was a dynasty) of the 90s?

Let’s break it down.

Right off the bat, Smoltz’s career record of 213-155 isn’t the most spectacular. But when you add in the four seasons where he came in from the bullpen (three seasons where you could consider him the most dominant closer in the National League), 213 wins and 154 saves looks marvelous.

You could argue that without that stint as the Braves closer and a season lost to injury, we might be looking at a guy with 255 to 270 wins...a total which would put him in the same conversion (winswise) as Hall of Famers Jim Palmer (268), Bob Feller (266) and Bob Gibson (251).

As it is,
Baseball-Reference has his four best comparisons as Curt Schilling, Kevin Brown, Jim Bunning and Luis Tiant.

But let’s not judge Smoltz on his win-loss record and 154 saves (he is, along with Dennis Eckersley, the only pitcher to top both 200 wins and 150 saves), there is more to the man.

In 2008, Smoltz became only the 16th member of the 3000 strikeout club and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that only one Hall eligible pitcher (Bert Blyleven) north of the 3000 K mark is not in the Hall of Fame.

However, unlike Blyleven, Smoltz has brought home a Cy Young Award (he finished in the top five three times), was an eight time All-Star and was absolutely spectacular in the post-season.

And that is what separates the men from the boys…Smoltz’s post-season achievements.

Say what you want to about the afore mentioned Schilling and his post-season accolades, Smoltz was close to unstoppable for the Braves going a combined 15-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 40 post-season games.

Most impressive is his 7-0 record and a 2.52 ERA after toeing the rubber 15 times during Divisional Series action.

In Atlanta’s 1995 Championship run, Smoltz, ironically, had his worst showing by being unable to win a game and having a 6.60 ERA (15.43 in the World Series) in just three appearances.

The next year though, Smoltz amassed 29 total victories if you add up his regular season, All-Star Game and post season wins. The only modern day hurler to best that total is Denny McLain and his 32 wins in 1968.

So back to the question at hand…is John Smoltz a Hall of Famer, much less a first ballot guy?

Yeah…probably.

There is something to be said for a pitcher that can go out there, miss an entire season (2000) due to Tommy John surgery and come back with a completely different mindset and delivery.

Dude changed up his legacy by establishing a National League record for saves (55 in 2002), and, in the process, becoming only the second pitcher in history (Eckersley, again, is the other) to have had both a 20 win and a 50 save season.

Admittedly, I’m all over the map when it comes to Hall of Fame endorsements. I’ve questioned the candidacy of Bert Blyleven
, yet I’ve applauded the efforts of both Orel Hershiser and David Cone, but as far as Smoltz is concerned…I’m sold. I just wish he was on that same 2014 ballot alongside Maddux and Glavine.

It would only seem fitting, wouldn’t it?



BallHype: hype it up!


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