‘Hall Of Fame Debate’ – John Smoltz VS Tom Glavine

‘Hall Of Fame Debate’ – John Smoltz VS Tom Glavine

This is going to be a tough one.  And it is also going to end my ‘Head-to-Head’ battles for a little while as next week I will switch back to some of the ‘Cast Your Vote’ debates.

This week, we’ll debate the careers of John Smoltz and Tom Glavine – teammates for most of their major league careers, and legendary Atlanta Braves pitchers.

The battle may not be the ideal match-up, as Smoltz spent four seasons as a closer while Glavine remained a starting pitcher for the duration of his playing days, but it will still be fun.

First, let’s look at their career numbers:

Smoltz Glavine
Seasons 21 22
Innings Pitched 3,473 4,413
Wins 213 305
20-Win Seasons 1 5
15-19 Win Seasons 5 5
Win % 57.9% 60.0%
Complete Games 53 56
Shutouts 16 25
Saves 154 0
30-Save Seasons 0 0
40-Save Seasons 2 0
50-Save Seasons 1 0
ERA 3.33 3.54
WHIP 1.176 1.314
Strikeouts 3,084 2,607
Walks 1010 1,500
K:Walk 3.05 1.74
K:9 Innings 8 5.3
All-Star 8 10
Silver Slugger 1 3
Gold Glove 0 0
Cy Young 1 2
ROY 0 0
MVP 0 0
Postseasons 14 12
WS Titles 1 1

Two extremely solid performers.  And two players that will both land in Cooperstown when first eligible (at least, in my opinion).

But, if you had to choose one player that had the better career, who would you pick:  John Smoltz OR Tom Glavine??

The career tally of wins is very hard to ignore.  With almost more than 100 wins that Smoltz, Glavine’s career number is very high and super respectable.  But, had Smoltz never left the starting rotation for the bullpen, he may have been able to get closer to 280-300 wins evening out the difference between the two of them substantially.

Had Smoltz never gone to the bullpen then we may not have learned about what kind of character he has as a competitor.  Seriously, how many players with the tag of ‘Ace’ would leave the rotation to be a closer and do it willingly and with a smile?  Not many.  And not only did Smoltz do it, but he became the best closer in the National League during that stretch.

Wins and saves aside, I do think that the more dominant pitcher is obvious – and that is how my vote will go.  John Smoltz simply had ‘the stuff’ while Tom Glavine was more of a refined and deliberate pitcher.  In 1,000 less innings of work, John Smoltz struck out 320 more batters that Tom Glavine while walking 500 less.  He has a lower career ERA and WHIP while also averaging almost 3.0 more strikeouts per contest.

Tom Glavine and John Smoltz each won one World Series.  Tom Glavine has two Cy Young Awards and John Smoltz has just one.  Glavine also has a lot more ‘Top 5’ finishes for the award than Smoltz, with some coming while Smoltz was the closer.

Still, for me, Smoltz was the more complete pitcher.  He gets my vote!!!


So, who gets your vote of this epic battle of elite pitchers and teammates???

14 responses to “‘Hall Of Fame Debate’ – John Smoltz VS Tom Glavine

  1. Smoltz went to the bullpen after missing a year to injury. If he stays in the rotation those years, he ends up in the 250 win range and his HOF support is much less. Spending those four years as a closer are what will eventually get him enshrinement.

  2. Both Smoltz and Glavine will be inducted in Cooperstown, but for this debate I’m picking Smoltz. A great team player who was very successful at being both a starter and a closer. It really sucks that he couldn’t finish his career as a Brave.

  3. Glavine, simply because i collect him…makes sense right 🙂

  4. Smoltzy….when I think of a HOF pitcher, I don’t think of a WHIP over 1.3, that is ultimately what does in Glavine for me.

    I think Glavine help turn the Braves pitching around in the early 90s, but Maddux and Smoltz elevated it to another level.

    • Charley- Glavine was just a different kind of dominant, I guess. He has a lot of high ranking Cy Young years so he must have been regarded highly around the league. For me, like you, Smoltz just showed his dominance more in the way that we like to see it – high K’s, low walks, low WHIP, low ERA..

  5. As I scrolled the list I was surprised to see Glavine dominate in so many areas, but I think you put it perfectly. Both great player, but Smoltz had more of the stuff.

  6. I don’t even want to comment on this debate. Both pitchers were the best of the best. I must say that it was interesting to see Smoltz pitch here in St Louis wearing a Cardinals uniform. He pitched some great innings, but never seemed to get any run support from his teammates. I cannot wait to see these two guys along with Maddux enter the HOF. What a great moment it will be for them and the Atlanta Braves.

  7. Good artice and excellent question!!

    Tom Glavine was a better pitcher than John Smoltz while Smoltz was a more dominant pitcher than Glavine. In other words, being dominant doesn’t always mean being better. To me, dominant means that the pitcher was able to perform well above the average-pitcher with the factors within his control. Some people use a pitcher’s K/9IP, BB/9IP and H/9IP ratios to evaluate how dominant a pitcher. In a nutshell, take away the variables that are beyond a pitcher’s control and then see how well he performs with the variables that are within his control. Smoltz clearly wins in this case – more strikeouts (8.0 to 5.3 K/9IP), less walks (2.6 to 3.1 BB/9IP) and less hits allowed (8.0 to 8.8 H/9IP). Without doubt, Smoltz was a more dominant pitcher than Glavine.

    That’s great for fantasy baseball. However, in real baseball, the win is what counts. Even though the win shouldn’t be solely attributed to the starting pitcher on the mound, the starting pitcher is a major contributor to the win or the loss even if he gets a no-decision. From that perspective, Glavine was the better pitcher. Glavine’s 60% (305W-203L) winning percentage was better than Smoltz’s 57.9% (213W-155L) winning percentage, despite starting more games than Smoltz (Glavine’s 682 GS to Smoltz’s 481 GS). Winning percentage incorporates losses and therefore include the games where the game is lost while the starter is on the mound or when a reliever allows the base runners inherited from the starting pitcher to score. Clearly, Glavine produced a better winning percentage and did that for a longer duration of time. Obviously not everything in baseball can be measured with stats – easily fielded ground balls and fly outs were hallmarks of Tom Glavine. The bottom line is that, when Glavine took the mound, he won a greater percentage of games than Smoltz while playing with generally the same defense behind him in the same Eastern Division in the National League with the same season schedule, bullpen members and ballpark. In other words, percentage-wise Glavine put his team in position to win the game more than Smoltz did. To get a better perspective on this, Glavine pitched an average of 6.47 innings per game. Smoltz pitched an average of 6.63 innings per game (not counting the relief innings). Normally the starting pitcher who can pitch deeper into games will accumulate more wins over time, however not so with Smoltz. Even though on average Smoltz stayed in the game longer than Glavine, the Braves were losing the game in those games as he left the mound. Sure, more strikeouts, less walks, less hits allowed in the game but no win.

    There have been many dominant pitchers with great K/9IP and K/BB ratios throughout the last 20 years – Chris Carpenter, Johan Santana, Josh Beckett, Roy Oswalt, Brandon Webb, Tim Lincecum, Ben Sheets, Kevin Brown, David Cone and John Smoltz – and none of them have a better chance of making it into the Hall of Fame than Tom Glavine. Why? Because Glavine had the durability and the ability to adjust. Glavine was never placed on the disabled list until his final season – at age 42!!! Also, Glavine’s ability to adjust is the most underrated aspect of his career. I’ve been fortunate to watch his entire career and I’m surprised when people say that Tom Glavine wasn’t ever dominant. During his early years, Glavine consistently held an ERA under 3.00 (2.55 ERA in 1991, 2.76 ERA in 1992, 2.98 ERA in 1996, 2.96 in 1997 and 2.47 in 1998). As Glavine’s velocity declined over the course of his career, Glavine was forced to reinvent himself. Glavine once said, “I had to take that scouting report that existed on me for so many years, erase it and write another one. It wasn’t an easy thing to do.” That ability to reinvent himself allowed him to surpass 300 career wins.

  8. Pingback: H2H 33: Tom Glavine vs. John Smoltz - Sports H2H

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