Sunday, February 20, 2011

John Smoltz

Johnathan Andrew "John" Smoltz (born May 15, 1967) is a former Major League Baseball pitcher. He is best known for his prolific career of more than two decades with the Atlanta Braves, in which he garnered eight All-Star selections and received the Cy Young Award in 1996. Though predominantly known as a starting pitcher, Smoltz was converted to a reliever in 2001, following his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and spent four years as the team's closer before returning to a starting role. In 2002 he became only the second pitcher in history to have had both a 20-win season and a 50-save season (the other being Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley). He is the only pitcher in major league history to top both 200 wins and 150 saves. He became the 16th member of the 3,000 strikeout club on April 22, 2008 when he fanned Felipe Lopez of the Washington Nationals in the third inning in Atlanta. Smoltz throws a four-seam fastball that has been clocked as high as 98 miles per hour, a strong, effective slider, and an 88–91 mph split-finger fastball that he uses as a strikeout pitch. He also mixes in a curveball and change-up on occasion, and in 1999, he began experimenting with both a knuckleball and a screwball, though he rarely used either in game situations. John Smoltz was an All-State baseball and basketball player at Waverly High School in Lansing, Michigan and in college at Michigan State University before the Detroit Tigers drafted him in the 22nd round of the 1985 amateur draft. He was the 574th selection of the draft. Smoltz played first for the Lakeland Tigers minor league team and then moved on to the Glens Falls Tigers in 1987. On August 12, 1987, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. The 1987 Tigers were in a three-team race, chasing the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL East division lead. In need of pitching help, Detroit sent their 20-year-old prospect to the Braves for the 36-year-old veteran Doyle Alexander.

Smoltz made his Major League debut on June 23, 1988. He posted poor statistics in a dozen starts, but in 1989, Smoltz blossomed. In 29 starts, he recorded a 12–11 record and 2.94 ERA while pitching 208 innings and making the All-Star team. Teammate Tom Glavine also had his first good year in 1989, raising optimism about the future of Atlanta's pitching staff. Smoltz began the 1991 season with a 2–11 record. He began seeing a sports psychologist, after which he closed out the season on a 12–2 pace, helping the Braves win a tight NL West race. His winning ways continued into the 1991 National League Championship Series. Smoltz won both his starts against the Pittsburgh Pirates, capped by a complete game shutout in the seventh game, propelling the Braves to their first World Series since moving to Atlanta in 1966. Smoltz had two no-decisions against the Minnesota Twins, with a 1.26 ERA. In the seventh and deciding game, he faced his former Detroit Tiger hero, Jack Morris. Both starters pitched shutout ball for seven innings, before Smoltz was removed from the 0–0 game during a Twins threat in the eighth. Atlanta reliever Mike Stanton pitched out of the jam, getting Smoltz off the hook, but Morris would eventually pitch a 10-inning complete game victory. The next year, Smoltz won fifteen regular season games and was the MVP of the 1992 National League Championship Series, winning two games. He left the seventh game trailing, but ended up with a no-decision as the Braves mounted a dramatic ninth-inning comeback win. In the World Series that year, Smoltz started two of the six games in the series, with a no-decision in Game Two and a win with the Braves facing elimination in Game 5. 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. Smoltz again won fifteen games, but suffered his first postseason loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS despite a 0.00 ERA. Smoltz had a 6-10 record in the strike-shortened 1994 season, and during the break, had bone chips removed from his elbow. Returning as the Braves' #3 starter, he posted a 12–7 record in 1995. Smoltz had shaky postseason numbers, avoiding a decision despite a 6.60 ERA. But Smoltz and the Braves won the franchise's only World Series in Atlanta, thanks in great part to Maddux and Glavine, who had begun to overshadow Smoltz. The following season, 1996, was the best of Smoltz's career. He went 24–8 with a 2.94 ERA and 276 strikeouts, including winning a franchise record fourteen straight decisions. He won the National League Cy Young with 26 of the 28 first-place votes. Smoltz's effectiveness in 1997 was only slightly less than his Cy Young season, but frugal run support limited him to a 15–12 record. Smoltz was also awarded a Silver Slugger Award for his batting.

Smoltz continued to post excellent statistics in 1998 and 1999, but he was spending significant time on the disabled list and missed about a fourth of his starts. In 1999, Smoltz began experimenting with both a knuckleball and a three-quarters delivery, though he rarely used either in game situations. He underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the 2000 season, missing the entire year. When he was unable to perform effectively as a starter in 2001, Smoltz made a transition to the bullpen, filling a void as Atlanta's new closer down the stretch, replacing John Rocker. In 2002, his first full season as a closer, Smoltz broke the National League saves record with 55 saves (the previous record was 53; Éric Gagné would equal Smoltz's new record a year later). Smoltz finished third in the Cy Young Award voting. Injuries limited Smoltz slightly in 2003, but he still recorded 45 saves with a 1.12 ERA in 64.3 innings pitched. In 2004, Smoltz finished with 44 saves, but was frustrated with his inability to make an impact as a closer during another Braves' postseason loss. By this point, Smoltz was all that remained of the once-dominant Atlanta Braves' rotation of the 1990s. Tom Glavine had moved on to play for the New York Mets, a divisional rival, while Greg Maddux returned to his old team, the Chicago Cubs. After three years as one of baseball's most dominating closers, the team's management agreed to return Smoltz to the starting rotation prior to the 2005 season. Smoltz's renewed career as a starter began inauspiciously. He allowed six earned runs in only 1 2/3 innings—matching the shortest starts of his career—as the Braves were blown out on Opening Day by the Florida Marlins. Poor run support contributed to an 0–3 start despite stronger pitching performances by Smoltz. After these initial difficulties, though, things fell into place. At the All-Star break, Smoltz was 9–5 with an ERA of 2.68 and was chosen for the 2005 NL All-Star team. Smoltz gave up a solo home run to Miguel Tejada in the second inning of the American League's 7–5 victory and received the loss. For his career, he is 1–2 in All-Star games, putting him in a tie for the most losses.

In December 2008, several members of the Boston Red Sox organization including pitching coach John Farrell, Vice President of Player Personnel Ben Cherington, and assistant trainer Mike Reinold, flew to Atlanta, Georgia to participate in a 90-minute workout with Smoltz. Throwing for only the second time since having surgery on a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder, Smoltz threw a 50-pitch side session and showcased not only his tremendous progress since the surgery, but an arsenal of well-developed pitches which has made him so successful throughout his career. Smoltz impressed the Red Sox members enough during the workout that less than a month later, a one-year contract was offered by the organization. On January 13, 2009, Smoltz signed a one-year contract with the Boston Red Sox for a reported base salary of $5.5 million with roster time incentives and miscellaneous award incentives which could net as much as $10 million. He made his first start in the Boston Red Sox rotation June 25, 2009, allowing seven hits and five runs through five innings. Smoltz struggled his entire time with the Red Sox posting a 2-5 record over eight games with an 8.32 ERA and no quality starts. He was designated for assignment on August 7, 2009, after a 13-6 loss to the Yankees, giving the Red Sox 10 days to release, trade, or send him to the minors. The Red Sox offered Smoltz a minor league stint in order to prepare him to be placed in the bullpen, but he rejected the offer, leaving the Red Sox the options of either releasing or trading him. On August 17, 2009 the Red Sox released Smoltz. On August 19, 2009, Smoltz signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Smoltz made his debut against the San Diego Padres on August 23, 2009. In his first game for the Cardinals, Smoltz went five innings, striking out nine and walking none, while setting a Cardinals franchise record by striking out seven batters in a row. That win against the Padres with the Cardinals was his only win with them that season. Smoltz finished 1-3 with an ERA of 4.26 with the Cardinals. He was 3-8 with an ERA of 6.35 overall with the Red Sox and Cardinals. In Game 3 of the 2009 NLDS, Smoltz finished with a 4.50 ERA after pitching 2 full innings, giving up 4 hits. Smoltz made his debut as a baseball commentator on August 16, 2008. He was the color-commentator alongside Joe Simpson. On March 16, 2010 it was announced that Smoltz would serve as a color analyst alongside Joe Simpson for the 45 Braves games on Peachtree TV. Smoltz also tells a joke once a game on Peachtree. John is an analyst for MLB Network and he would also serve as a guest analyst, from time to time, on TBS Sunday Afternoon Baseball. Smoltz is also part of the TBS post-season coverage.

John Smoltz performance at field

John Smoltz great smile

John Smoltz expression when he got a score

John Smoltz smile

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