Future Hall of Famer
Almost every time someone mentions John Smoltz, they add "future Hall of Famer" to his name. The same thing used to happen with Roger Clemens. But when you hang around one year too many, your stats can drop below the unofficial line of demarcation between Hall members and those who don't make it in. Jim Rice was inducted today, making the cut in his final year of eligibility. Jim's career batting average was .298. In his final year he was a DH in 56 games and batted only .234, meaning if he had skipped 1989 he would have had a career batting average of .300. If Jim had played 15 years with a career BA of .300 instead of 16 with a career BA of .298 would he have been voted in earlier?
So let's look at John Smoltz.
Through 2008 he had a winning percentage of .588, ERA of 3.26 over 20 seasons. He had an ERA under 3.50 in 15 of those 20 seasons. After 6 starts in 2009 his ERA is 7.04, more than double that. His record is 1-4, meaning a 2009 winning percentage of .200. The team record is 1-5. He's had two good starts, although one of them was the game where the bullpen blew a 10-1 lead and they lost, 11-10. He's had four bad starts. In 30 innings he's given up 42 hits and 24 runs and been charged with 4 losses. Compare that with Eric Gagne's record in Boston: 18 innings pitched, 26 hits, 14 runs and 3 blown saves. Hits per inning, runs per inning, and winning percentage - or more accurately, losing percentage - are comparable.
There's a stage leaving town at 5.
They say that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. But is it? Eric Gagne was lights out as a closer for the Dodgers and won the Cy Young Award in 2003. Of course, that was when he was on The Juice. To get Gagne they gave up pitcher Kason Gabbard, who was 4-0 at the time, and outfielder David Murphy, who is presently batting about 50 points higher than JD Drew. I'd much rather see Murphy in right field for the Red Sox right now than Drew. He's a better player and much less expensive. Gagne blew three saves in the same weekend, and was so bad they couldn't wait to put him on the next stagecoach out of Dodge.
So what about Smoltz?
He won a Cy Young with the Braves in 2006, and they didn't have to give up any hot prospects to get him. But his numbers in Boston are as bad as Gagne's. Smoltz, who is as well-spoken as any ballplayer, says that he's happy with the way he has pitched, but not happy with the results, and he'd like to have couple of pitches back. He needs more than a couple back.
Seriously, how long does this experiment last?
We have Michael Bowden and Hunter Jones in Pawtucket, both with better numbers than Smoltz. We have Wakefield back in a week and a half or so, and we have Dice-K coming back sometime in August.
Boston is 2-1/2 games behind the Yankees, and they need to put a winning streak together just to keep pace. On August 4th the Sox open a four-game series in the Bronx. Yes, Boston is 8-0 against New York in 2009, and that home run-friendly short porch at Yankee Stadium can work nicely for both teams. But it's a scary scenario. The Red Sox could go in there down 2-1/2 games and leave down by 6-1/2. Or they could come out up by 1-1/2. If John Smoltz gets one of the starts there, I'm officially worried.