Much like Pedro Martinez, I never wanted John Smoltz to win. Not only am I a Yankees fan, but I was born in Pittsburgh, and so my other favorite team is the Pirates. And the Braves beat the Bucs in the playoffs too often for me to have any friendly feelings toward Braves’ pitchers.
But also like Pedro, Smoltz is deserving of the Hall (though he’s not at the same level as Pedro or Randy Johnson). Smelt had dominant years as both a Starter and a Closer, was part of some great teams, and had an excellent playoff record. His career totals also make him a likely candidate.
Smoltz played in 21 seasons, all but the last one completely with the Braves. In all but the first and last year, his ERA(-) was 99 or better, meaning his ERA was, at the worst, slightly better than league average for 19 consecutive years. He was often far better than 99 though, dipping to a brilliant 69 as a starter in both 1996 and ’98, and an astonishing 26 as a reliever in 2003. His career ERA(-) is 81.
He topped 5.0 in fWAR seven times, with four other 4+ seasons. His 78.7 career fWAR is seventh best among all pitchers since 1980. He pitched over 200 innings in a season ten times, and saved more than 40 games in a season three times. He won the Cy Young Award in 1996, and is one of only 16 pitchers in the history of the game to rack up 3000 or more strikeouts.
What most people remember about Smoltz, however, is his place on the hugely successful Braves’ teams of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. His fellow pitchers from that era, Maddux and Glavine, are already in the Hall. The Braves were in the playoffs 13 times with Smoltz on the mound. He pitched 209 innings in 41 playoff games, striking out 199 with an ERA of 2.67. In eight World Series starts, he was even better, striking out 52 in 51 innings with a 2.47 ERA. Perhaps most famously, he matched Jack Morris for 7.1 shutout innings in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Morris went on to complete 10 shoutout innings, but for those 7 innings, they matched each other (a reliever let off the only run in the 10th).
While Smoltz doesn’t blow anyone away with his numbers, they nonetheless are very impressive, and across the board he must be considered one of the best of his era.