Michael Wolverton of Baseball Prospectus writes on ESPN that John Smoltz is having a better year than his ERA would indicate:
I'm not here to overstate the case for Smoltz. He's not the most valuable reliever in the majors this year. He may not even be the most valuable reliever on his own team. The MVP buzz surrounding him is ridiculous. At the same time, this is not just another Alfonseca season. Smoltz has spent most of the year recovering from one bad game and doing the things that don't show up in the box score. He's having a fine season despite the ERA. With a deep bullpen anchored by Smoltz, the Braves should be in terrific shape come October.
All good points there. However, I think that Wolverton still may be overemphasizing Smoltz' season.
Point 4 in the article states that one bad outing in April 6 is still costing Smoltz. Here are his statistics with and without the outing:
G IP H R ER HR BB SO W-L Sv ERA K/BB WHIP
Total 55 59.2 47 25 25 4 18 68 2-2 39 3.77 3.78 1.09
4/6 1 0.2 6 8 8 0 2 2 0-1 0 107.95 1.00 11.99
Result 54 59 41 17 17 4 16 66 2-1 39 2.59 4.13 0.97
That is quite an improvement, but a 2.59 while being very respectable is not exactly overpowering. Here is the adjusted John Smoltz compared to the rest of the Atlanta bullpen:
He moves up from seventh to fifth in ERA. The first point in the article is that he has not given up any runs not included in his earned runs; therefore his run average (RA) is much lower than the league average. True, but it still is fifth in the Braves bullpen. His adjusted WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) and Strikeout-to-Walk ratio are excellent (2nd and 1st in the Braves bullpen respectively). However, I believe this just indicates that Smoltz is the most logical choice for the closer role, as currently defined in post-Eckersley baseball, on the staff. He is still not by a long shot the best nor even average on the excellent staff.