Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On John Smoltz

We've seen many of the starting pitching options for the Mariners evaporate over the last month. I've littered twitter with posts about how concerned I am about a team starting not one but two pitchers among Fister, Snell, Vargas, Olson, French, Petit, and/or Spring invitee surprises. Pennant winning teams don't start two league average or below pitchers. They just don't.

In my mind, this team needs another high quality arm as a #3 to move Rowland Smith back to the #4 slot and rotate in whoever you want to in that 5 hole. Barring some kind of trade, there's only a few interesting names left.

John Smoltz is one of them.

Many people bristle at the mention of Smoltz - his age (42), his injury history, his miserable experience in Boston. If you surveyed your average fan I'm sure most people would say that John Smoltz was a bad pitcher last year and he's washed up. And you know, maybe he is washed up.

But he wasn't a bad pitcher last year.

Let's break down his "two seasons" - the one with Boston and the one with St. Louis:

Boston: 2-5, 8.33 ERA. 4.95 FIP, 7.43 K/9, 1.8 HR/9 .343 BAA, .390 BABIP, 56.9 LOB%, 4.19 xFIP.

St. Louis: 1-3, 4.26 ERA. 2.73 FIP, 9.47 K/9, .71 HR/9, .329 BABIP, 66.2% LOB, 3.46 xFIP

Obviously, I bolded for effect - but in Boston, he was exceedingly unlucky. A near .400 BABIP is just stupid and the that he only stranded a tad better than half the runners who reached base (career rate is 73.6) seems like the Gods were just being mean. Maybe he came back too soon? His strikeout rate was down and he was giving up gopher balls like he was... I don't know, the gopher ball fairy. With that in mind, his xFIP was just 4.19 (which normalizes a home run rate - that being 1.8 HR/9 is likely not sustainable) suggesting that pitch after pitch, things just didn't roll, fly, zing, what have you - John's way.

For the Cards, he didn't win, but boy was he good. More than a strikeout per inning, more than cut his HR rate in half, 2.73 FIP was tops on a team that featured two CY Young candidates (yeah, yeah, I know sample size and all that - but still...).

Smoltz can still pitch. I don't know how many innings are in that arm, but if his price slips into the ridiculously low area, which it very well may, he's the kind of risk you take when you're trying to win a pennant. We all know how friendly pitching in Safeco can be - and that might be attractive to him.

Marcel, Chone, and "fans" over at Fangraphs all think he'll throw 100-120 innings, which is probably good for 16-20 starts. If he can even perform as the average between Boston and St. Louis, that's good for about 2-2.5 WAR.

$3 mil plus incentives makes a lot of sense to me.  This team, with the payroll that's left and the need for another bat needs lighting in a bottle and a little luck.  At his price, it's a good gamble that Smoltz can provide it.

1 comment:

Chase said...

Wait, is Smoltz getting Abreu'd too?