‘The 40/40 Club’ – 1980’s – Card #14
John Smoltz – 1988 Fleer
The stats don’t line up to the amazingly talented John Smoltz. Part of this is due to the fact that as a starting pitcher, Smoltz missed up to 120 starts during his career due to being shifted to the closer role to secure victories for his Atlanta Braves team.
Right out of the gate, John Smoltz began racking up starts and innings for the Braves. In his first full season in 1989, Smoltz started 29 games and pitched 208 innings. In that year, he went 12-11 with 168 strikeouts and an ERA of just 2.94. This year-long effort was enough to secure Smoltz a roster spot on the All-star team which would be his first of 8 appearances.
The hard work continued as Smoltz became an important cog in the Brave’s starting rotation. Averaging 30 starts a season along with 220+ innings of work became the standard for Smoltz and soon his individual stats began to flourish. In 20 big league seasons, Smoltz has double-digit victories in wins in 13 seasons and when you consider that 4 years were spent in the bullpen, his numbers shine even brighter. And the innings added up as he tallied 200+ innings of work in 10 of his 16 years as a starting pitcher.
During his most successful individual season in 1996, John Smoltz was the best pitcher in baseball. In 35 games, he won 24 while just losing 8. Smoltz struck out 276 batters and walked just 55 which is good for a 5.02:1 K:walk ratio. Smoltz’s tremendous season earned him the Cy Young award of which he placed in the Top 7 for the award 5 times throughout his career.
In 2001, John Smoltz was shifted to the bullpen to take over as the closer for the Braves. This resulted in one of the greatest 3-season careers that baseball has ever seen by a closer. Dominant as ever, Smoltz was closing games at a record pace and when done he saved 144 games in just 210 appearances.
After the 2004 season, Smoltz was moved back to the starting rotation and picked up right where he left off. In his first season back as a starter, Smoltz threw 230 innings while posting 14 wins and a 3.06 ERA. His success continued over the next 2 seasons as he captured 16 and 14 more wins en route to 210 career wins.
John Smoltz has pitched in 5 World Series match-ups, but has won just 1 championship. In 1995 his Braves finally won the title giving John his only championship ring.