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smoltz-to-the-pen | April | 2008 Articles

2008 Archives

Smoltz to the Pen?

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(Update from Alex: put this into the TAGUW file.) Things Alex Got Utterly Wrong John Smoltz started the 2008 season in dominant fashion. Through his first four starts, Smoltz was 3-1 with a 0.78 ERA in 23 innings while striking out 31 and walking only six. That may have come crashing back to earth this past Sunday against the Mets. The veteran right-hander gave up four runs in just four innings, but more importantly, it became obvious that Smoltz’s bothersome shoulder had become more than he could handle and he was placed on the disabled list. We’ve seen that right shoulder send Smoltz to the DL before, however this time it seems like he may not come back to the rotation. In fact, according to Mark Bowman of Braves.com, Smoltz has said that when he returns, it will be out of the bullpen and then he’ll see where he is after that. If that sounds familiar, it should. Smoltz spent part of 2001 as far as three full seasons between 2002 and 2004 as the Braves’ full-time closer and owns 154 career saves with a 1.95 career ERA in save opportunities. If Smoltz does return to closing for Atlanta, it certainly changes things around for the entire makeup of this pitching staff. No timetable has been set for Smoltz’s return but chances are, we’re going to see Smoltz, Rafael Soriano (elbow), and Mike Gonzalez (elbow) all return from the DL within about a month of each other. That is three dominant relievers returning to a team that is now 0-9 in one-run games, a stat generally used when talking about bullpen stability. Right now we have Blaine Boyer and Manny Acosta handling the eighth and ninth inning duties. Fast-forward to when those three are back and our bullpen could consist of Smoltz in the ninth, Soriano and Gonzalez handling the seventh and eighth, Boyer and Acosta in middle relief roles, and Ring and Ohman as the team LOOGY’s (love them or hate them, they both have done their jobs this season). The other issue is, of course, his vacated spot in the rotation. Without Smoltz, the rotation undoubtedly loses a lot. Tim Hudson, Tom Glavine, and Jair Jurrjens would take the first three spots in the rotation with some combination of Jeff Bennett, Jo-Jo Reyes, Chuck James, and Charlie Morton handling the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Talent-wise, it’s an impressive group, however the biggest issue would be the innings such a young rotation could handle. Assuming Smoltz were to stay in the bullpen for the rest of the season, it seems that an acquisition of an inning-eating starter would be necessary in this scenario. I commented before that a Smoltz-less rotation would not make this a playoff-caliber team, but breaking this down tells a different story. A lot of it relies on what that back-end of the rotation can do and whether or not Jurrjens can keep pitching at a high level. It won’t yet be a dominant rotation, but could a solid rotation and great bullpen keep this team in the playoff hunt throughout the season? I guess we’ll find out.

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