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John Smoltz

From Academic Kids

John Andrew Smoltz (born May 15, 1967 in Detroit, Michigan, USA) is a Major League Baseball player. While he is predominantly known as a starter and former Cy Young Award winner, in 2001 he became a closer. In 2002 he became only the second pitcher in history to have both a season with 20 wins and a season with 50 saves in his career (the other was Dennis Eckersley). Smoltz throws a four-seam fastball that tops out at 99MPH, a 91MPH slider that has long been considered one of the best in the league, and a 92MPH split-finger fastball that he uses as a strikeout pitch. He mixes in a knuckleball on occasion as well.

Contents

Early career

John Smoltz was an All-State baseball and basketball player during high school in Lansing, Michigan before the Detroit Tigers drafted him in the 22nd round of the 1985 amateur draft.

Smoltz developed in the Detroit farm system for a few years until, on August 12, 1987, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Doyle Alexander.

He made his Major League debut on July 23, 1988. Granted the opportunity to make 12 starts that season, Smoltz did not fare well. His year-end record was 2–7 with a 5.48 ERA.

Best years

In 1989, Smoltz gave the first of what would be many exceptional seasons at the Major League level. In 29 starts, he recorded a 12–11 record and 2.94 ERA while pitching 208 innings. Together with teammate Tom Glavine, who also pitched a break-out year in 1989, there was plenty of reason for optimism about the future of Atlanta's pitching staff.

Smoltz made his first of many postseason appearances in 1991, pitching well in a losing cause. Over his postseason career, he has an 12-4 record and 2.72 ERA as a starter (14-4 overall). He has more postseason career wins than any other player in history. The Braves won the World Series in 1995 – but with little help from Smoltz, who had the worst postseason of his career.

Before the 1993 season the Braves signed renowned control pitcher Greg Maddux, completing what many consider to be the most accomplished starting trio ever assembled on a single Major League team. During the period of 1991 to 1998, Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine won 7 National League Cy Young Awards (6 with Atlanta – Maddux won in 1992 with the Chicago Cubs). All three are strong possibilities for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Smoltz' best personal year came in 1996, when he went 24–8 with a 2.94 ERA and 276 strikeouts. He won the National League Cy Young with 26 of the 28 first-place votes.

Adjustments to convert Smoltz from a starter to a closer began in 2001 after several seasons of increased fatigue and fewer innings pitched, culminating in Tommy John surgery after the 1999 season. In his first full season as a closer, in 2002, Smoltz broke the National League saves record with 55 saves (the previous record was 53; Eric Gagne would equal Smoltz' new record the next year). While he posted fewer saves in a season abbreviated by injury in 2003 with 45, Smoltz posted a minuscule 1.12 ERA – 8 ERs in 64.3 innings pitched.

Smoltz will be used as a starting pitcher again for the 2005 season. The change in roles came as a result of the Atlanta Braves losing starting pitchers Paul Byrd to the Anaheim Angels, Russ Ortiz to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Jaret Wright to the New York Yankees, and the acquisition of reliever Danny Kolb, who was the closer for the Milwaukee Brewers from 2003 to 2004. Smoltz had also lobbied for a return to the rotation since his conversion to closer, citing evidence by his doctors that starting games would be less stressful on his pitching arm.

Accomplishments

  • National League Cy Young Award winner (1996)
  • National League Championship Series MVP (1992)
  • National League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award winner (2002)
  • Finished 8th in National League MVP voting (2002)
  • Finished 3rd in National League Cy Young Award voting (2002)
  • Finished 4th in National League Cy Young Award voting (1998)
  • Led the National League in wins (1996, with 24)
  • Led the National League in saves (2002, with 55)

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