Friday, July 12, 2013

#35 John Smoltz

About the Front: Yet another great action shot. I'm starting to realize that I've taken Topps' photography in this set for granted because I've owned most of these cards for 20 years and they're sort of old-hat to me. John Smoltz is utilizing the so-called "inverted-W" pitching delivery for which he became famous. It was later adopted by pitching phenoms from Mark Prior to Stephen Strasburg, and received (perhaps unfair) scrutiny from critics who claimed that it increased the risk of injury in pitchers.

About the Back: I didn't realize that Smoltz was signed by the Tigers as an undrafted free agent out of high school. Detroit scouts Bill Schudlich and Ken Madeja deserve a hearty pat on the back.

Triple Play:

1. John won the 1996 National League Cy Young Award on the strength of a 24-8 record, a 2.94 ERA, and league-leading totals in wins, innings pitched (253.2), strikeouts (276) and K/9 IP (9.8). He also won three of his four postseason decisions that year, allowing a total of four earned runs in 38 innings (0.95 ERA). Despite Atlanta's checkered postseason history, the righthander had an excellent playoff and World Series record: 15-4, 2.67 ERA, 4 saves in 41 games (27 starts).

2. After missing the entire 2000 season due to Tommy John surgery, Smoltz found a new role as Atlanta's closer. From 2002-2004, he saved 144 games, including a league-best 55 in 2002. He had a miniscule 1.12 ERA in 2003, as he allowed eight earned runs in 64.1 innings. Incredibly, he returned to the Braves rotation in 2005 without skipping a beat, compiling a 44-24 record and a 3.22 ERA over the next three seasons.

3. A popular story that has been circulating since 1990 claims that John burned himself while trying to iron a shirt that he was wearing at the time. He has routinely denied the tale, but the original article by Joe Strauss included a supposed quote from Smoltz himself. The world may never know the truth.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says:Years before Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt were proclaimed as the Phillies' "Four Aces", there was similar hype for Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Steve Avery. Avery of course fizzled out, but the remaining trio stayed intact until Maddux returned to the Cubs in 2004. I never would've guessed that.

Bill James Said: "For the future, I think I would rather have Smoltz than Glavine, not that I would kick either one off the 40-man roster." Both pitchers lasted until age 42, so Smoltz bowed out in 2009 and Glavine in 2008. From 1994 onward, Smoltz was 141-90 with a 3.22 ERA (134 ERA+) and 154 saves. In that same span, Glavine was 210-137 with a 3.54 ERA (121 ERA+). Smoltz's tenure in the bullpen (2001-2004) skews the comparison, but both guys turned out to be a good bet.

On This Date in 1993: July 12. As I mentioned in the Juan Gonzalez entry yesterday, today is the twentieth anniversary of the Home Run Derby at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Gonzalez and Griffey finish tied 7-7, necessitating an extra round. They each hit four homers in that round, and Gonzalez prevails 1-0 in a second playoff. All these years later, it's Griffey's performance that people still talk about; one of his homers hit the B&O Warehouse beyond the right field fence on the fly (approx. 445 feet from home plate). To this day, no player has ever hit the warehouse in an official game.

1 comment:

  1. Smoltz was drafted in the 22nd round in June by the Tigers. He signed in September. Not sure why Topps put F.A.