The fortunes of two of the better pitchers in baseball the past decade are going in two totally different directions. One, a former ace reliever, appears to be at the end of his career, while another “ace” appears on the cusp of returning from injury with plans for pitching on into the future.
Jason Isringhausen has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and as a result he will require Tommy John surgery if he intends to keep on pitching. Given that he is already 36 years old and coming off an injury filled couple of seasons, this might be the end of the road for the man affectionately called “Izzy.” If it is, he will retire with 293 saves in his career leaving him just seven saves short of becoming the 22nd reliever in big league history to record 300-career saves. During his heyday of 2002-07, Jason averaged 34 saves a season and his total of 205 in that time was fourth in baseball only behind Mariano Rivera (228), Billy Wagner (212) and Trevor Hoffman (210). I know he doesn’t seem like an all-time great, but really, it’s pretty easy to make an argument that Isringhausen was one of the 20 best closers of all-time, though that certainly will not be enough for him to have his name enshrined in Cooperstown one day.
John Smoltz, on the other hand, figures to have his plaque on the wall of the Hall of Fame once he decides to hang up the spikes. However, that time may not be as close as some people have guessed as Smoltz came out and said that he doesn’t want to just pitch in 2009, he wants to continue his career in 2010 as well. “The reason I had surgery was not to just come back for one year,” Smoltz said. “I figured if I was going to have surgery and I can pitch one year, what prevents me from pitching two years.” Makes perfect sense to me. Smoltz will obviously still have to prove that he has “it” on the field, but after having shoulder surgery the Bo Sox were really patient with his recovery and it appears that their patience is about ready to be rewarded. Just how good has Smoltz been? The data is pretty overwhelming.
(1) Smoltz has won 210 games in his career. That’s one more than Don Drysdale.
(2) Smoltz saved 154 games in his career. When combined with his win total, he is the only man in baseball history with 200-wins and 150-saves in his career.
(3) Smoltz has 3,011 strikeouts in his career. That’s the 16th best mark in baseball history and 208 more than Cy Young himself.
(4) Smoltz has allowed 7.90 hits per nine inning pitched in his career. Amongst men with at least 3,000 IP, Smoltz has 3,395, that number is 12th all time and better than the 7.94 mark of Christy Mathewson.
(5) Smoltz has allowed 10.67 base runners per nine inning in his career. Amongst men with at least 3,000 IP Smoltz is 18th all-time, just ahead of Jim Palmer.
(6) Smoltz has produced an ERA of less than 3.50 in every season since 1995, a run of 13 consecutive seasons. During that time his ERA has been 3.04.
(7) Smoltz has produced a WHIP of less than 1.25 in every season since 1995, a run of 13 consecutive seasons. During that time his WHIP has been 1.12.
Do you know how many seasons in his career that Brandon Webb has produced an ERA below 3.04 with a WHIP below 1.12? Try zero.
How about Roy Halladay? Two.
Johan Santana? Three.
CC Sabathia? One.
Jake Peavy? Two
Dan Haren? Zero.
Think about that for a moment. Smoltz averaged those numbers over the past 13 seasons, and those six stud hurlers have combined for a total of eight such seasons. Pretty amazing eh?
Oh, and don’t forget that Smoltz is one of the best “big game” pitchers in history, just look at his post-season career numbers: 15-4, 2.65 ERA, 1.14 WHIP with 194 Ks over 207 innings covering 40 appearances. The term “money” was invented to describe this guy.
By Ray Flowers