Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
Frozen Toast
Google Search
Mike's Baseball Rants


10  09  07 
06  05  04  03 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
Links to MBBR
A Schmear of Smoltz
2005-03-08 19:56
by Mike Carminati

Yesterday, John Smoltz returned to the mound as a starting pitcher after nearly a four-year hiatus, during which time he registered 154 saves and, if you hadn't heard, was a closer.

Of course, Smoltz's move to the rotation is the latest effort by Atlanta manager Bobby Cox and pitching coach Leo Mazzone to challenge themselves. Revivifying near-dead ex-Rockie and ex-Indian pitchers was apparently an insufficient raisin d'etre when you've owned your division for every year dating back to the Coolidge administration.

So, after winning 20 games and then saving 55 games, could John Smoltz again become a 20-game winner? I mean, wasn't the move to the bullpen necessitated by his reconstructed elbow? It's like Rocky III when Rocky can't even see out of his left eye, Mickey is dead, and somehow Apollo Creed's chicken-racing lessons allow the fighter to again become a champion while being completely upstaged by Mr. T.

No pitcher has ever won 20 then saved 55 before—Dennis Eckersley won 20 and save 51—let alone again gone to win 20. If you lower your standards to 15 wins, 15 saves, and then again becomes a starter, you get the following men:

NameYr1Yr2Yr3W Yr1Sv Yr2W Yr3
Al McBean19621964196815229
Bob Stanley19791983198716334
Don Robinson198219871989151912
Gary Bell195919651966161714
Tim Wakefield199819992004171512

Gary Bell's 14 wins in 1966 is the highest in the group. If Smoltz again becomes a premier starter, he'll be doing something that's unprecedented.

Of course, we are limiting ourselves to the post-Joe Page era by throwing save numbers around. What if we just look at pitchers who first were predominantly starters, then were predominantly relievers, and finally returned to the rotation, what is the highest Win Share (pitching) total for these men and will Smoltz exceed it?

Let's look. Here are the top such candidates:

NameYr1Yr2Yr3 ToT WS
Eddie Cicotte191319161917 80.5
Luis Tiant196819721974 75.3
Mordecai Brown190919131915 66.6
Joe Wood190919101912 65.9
Dizzy Trout193919411944 64.2
Virgil Trucks194919511953 62.6
Firpo Marberry192919321933 61.7
Ed Reulbach190519121915 61.3
Bump Hadley193019311933 59.8
Gaylord Perry196219641972 58.6
Ewell Blackwell194719491950 58.4
Chief Bender191019131914 58.2
Sal Maglie194519501951 58.1

These numbers are based on the pitchers' top totals per role. Smoltz's high in pitching Win Shares as a starter was 25.7 in 1996. His high as a close was 17.2 in 2002. That gives him a 42.9 total for the first two roles. Let's say he matches his 1996 performance this year. That would give him 68.6, just third on the list above.

What does this tell us? Pitching roles were much more fluid—shocking!—a century ago then today. But given that El Tiante made the list in his odd, career-reaffirming season of 1972, relief pitchers also threw a bunch more innings prior to the last twenty, thirty years—shocking again—which made them more valuable.

Finally, what it tells me is that no other organization but the Braves would ever be in a position to try something like Smoltz's return to the rotation. Given his success in the pen, no other coaching tandem would be secure enough to even attempt such a stunt. If nothing else, it reaffirms that Cox is the best manager of his era. If Smoltz again becomes a twenty-game winner it could be enough to put two men, Smoltz himself and Leo Mazzone, in the Hall of Fame. Too bad it's got to happen on the damn Braves.

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.