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How is John Smoltz pitching?

on .

We're 20% of the way through the season. Unbelievable, I know -- time really does fly. Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how John Smoltz, the putative ace on the Braves staff, is pitching this year. For those in hibernation in the past month, Smoltz has just put pen to a new three year contract with the Braves. Provided he stays healthy he'll be pitching in to his age 43 year -- that's good going. That raises a ton of questions. Will he maintain his health? Will he still be able to dominate hitters? Will he lose control? Will his hair grow back? (Okay, not that -- but as an aside, don't you find it wierd when you see a player raise his cap to expose a bald patch? Wickman's nut is shiner than my new pair of shoes.) Anyway, let's get down to some stats: ERA
  • 2005: 3.06
  • 2006: 3.49
  • 2007 (so far): 3.35
  • 2005: 1.15
  • 2006: 1.19
  • 2007 (so far):1.40
% of first pitch strikes
  • 2005: 66%
  • 2006: 68%
  • 2007 (so far):70%
Contact %
  • 2005: 78%
  • 2006: 75%
  • 2007 (so far):77%
  • 2005: 6.6
  • 2006: 8.2
  • 2007 (so far): 7.0
  • 2005: 2.1
  • 2006: 2.1
  • 2007 (so far): 2.9
  • 2005: 0.70
  • 2006: 0.89
  • 2007 (so far):0.78
Apologies for the mish-mash of stats, I just threw in a ton of stuff I thought semi-relevant. So what do these data say? Before I get snarky comments, I know we're dealing with a small sample -- this is just supposed to be a bit of fun, okay. Anyway, to the data.† Superficially Smoltz is having as good a season as he has had since he came back into the rotation in 2005. His ERA is more or less bang in line with his average and his K-rate is stronger than it was in 2005 albeit a bit off last year's rate. However, the cold start to the year means that league ERA is lower that it historically has been. That means Smoltz's ERA+ is 117 this year vs 144 in 2005. Alarmingly his WHIP has also shot up to 1.4.† As things stand that is a career high if you exclude his rookie season. Why has this happened? Two factors, the first is control. Smoltz's BB rate has climbed from 2 in 2005 & 2006 to nearly 3 so far in 2007.† That accounts for half the rise, the rest is down to BABIP -- expect that to moderate as the year wears on. In a nutshell, Smoltz is the same pitcher he has been for the past couple of years. He seems to have sacrificed a touch of control for power, and he has gotten a touch lucky with base runners this year. However, his peripherals have held up well so expect his ERA to remain in the 3-3.5 zone for the rest of the year. Classic pitcher match-ups seem to be the flavor of the month at the moment. Smoltz has faced Glavine twice and his next outing is against his other Atlantan comrade, Greg Maddux. Let's hope John comes out on top once more.

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