Smoltz wants back in the rotation

ESPN.com – MLB – Smoltz would retire before more surgery

It’s easy to say that if he can’t pitch 80 innings out of the pen that he couldn’t survive in the starting rotation. But it’s a different role and requires different skills and work habits. It’s possible that with proper treatment the scar tissue might not recur if he’s in the rotation. John thinks so, anyway. It’s something to keep in mind. I am assuming that by “no more surgery” he wouldn’t include minor arthroscopy, which practically everyone seems to do nowadays.

22 thoughts on “Smoltz wants back in the rotation”

  1. Has there been a similar situation any other time in baseball history? I’m curious to see how others might have handled the transition, both health-wise and mentally. Do any doctors back up Smoltz’s pronouncement? I’d love to see him back as a starter, if it were possible.

    (Btw, I just recently came across your site, and it’s amazing. I’ll be back ten times a day for years!)

  2. Thanks, Zachary… Pitchers have moved from the bullpen to the rotation in late-career before. Most of the time, it hasn’t worked very well. But it’s a little different if you spend three years in the pen in the middle of a long career as a starter; that’s happened a lot, but mostly with guys who lost their way, not ones who had major injuries.

  3. I posted on this in another thread, but just ot expand: we can expect that Cox will use Smoltz less aggressively next year following surgery. So whereas this year he was projecting to 75 innings before his injury, next yearwe’d maybe be looking at 60, with fewer long outings, fewer back-to-back-to-back games.

    In short, Smoltz will likely have less value to the team as a closer next year, even before you factor in his ERA probably going back up.

    So I say start him. The upside is by playoff time you have a good starter, the downside is that you lose a 60 inning reliver to a final injury. I take the risk.

  4. check out this article in ESPN about the Giants. It looks like the team is going to cut payroll (their target is 70 million). The article also mentions Sheff and Vlad.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1633528

    Just like NFL teams trying to stay w/in the salary cap, sooner or later most MLB teams (with the exception of the Yankees) will begin to shy away from veterans.

  5. I’m with Ed. It seems that Smoltz is too fragile, and is getting up in years as well. Who knows though, maybe the up and down in the bullpen is worse for him than starting every 5th day. If we don’t go after a frontline starter in the offseason, he may very well go back into the rotation.

    If that is the case, Smoltz is due more money for each start (I believe 100,000 per, but don’t quote me on that), so I don’t know what the front office would think.

  6. I’m asking Mac but anyone who wants to give me their opinion is very welcomed to. (I need it) Do you think we will get a front of the line starter in the off-season and if so, who do you think it might be?

  7. Putting Smoltz back in the rotation after his recent injury is just your garden variety bad idea. My prediction is that he wouldn’t make it out of spring training without hurting something much less an entire 180 inning season. Plus you would have to pay him more if he did manage to make some regular season starts? That doesn’t sound too great considering he’s already dramatically overpaid. Hopefully the Braves will rustle up some starting pitching this offseason so they can fight off the urge to finish Smoltz’s elbow off.

  8. Too much risk! Don’t you think he’s incredibly fragile?

    Whereas out of the bullpen he’s been particulary durable? Hardly

    He’s an injury risk either way. If he’s an injury risk, we’ll be lucky to get 60 reliever innings from him next year, many of them with 2 or 3 run leads – in other words, he’ll be replaceable.

    So why not start him? At worst you lose a 60 inning relief pitcher. At best you get a starter. The team is not going to get $10m worth of pitching from him as a gingerly-used closer

  9. Yeah, the idea of starting him would be that hopefully he WOULD be more durable. Think about the workload. As a starter, he pitches more overall innings, yes. But he does so with four-day breaks in between. I haven’t looked at the stats, but i dont think he had an incredible amount of four-day breaks between work this year, before the injury.

    And there were a number of times when he was used two or three days in a row. Even when he wasn’t, there are things like getting him warmed up in the eighth inning, only to use a different pitcher once the Braves didn’t mount a comeback. That puts strain on the arm itself. If he was starting, he’d be able to take it easy and know exactly when he needed to pitch. In other words, not to have to be “ready to go” every night. He seems to think that would help, and that’s good enough for me.

    And as i pointed out in another post, if we do happen to make the postseason next year, wouldn’t you rather have Smoltz as a potential game 1 (or whichever game) starter, rather than just a guy who might come in for an inning or two if we happen to get the lead?

    Aaron, if we’re gonna get another starter, it would/should be Javier Vasquez. He is awesome, and would be a great fit for the Braves. But i don’t see it happening. We’ve got Ortiz, Hampton and Ramirez for sure. If we get Maddux back, that’s four, and if we don’t, Smoltz might be clamoring for that fourth spot. Then you have to remember Byrd may come back from injury, and as others have pointed out we have other youngsters like Wainwright who could take that fifth spot. There’s just not much room there. I think this postseason will be more about dropping payroll and consolidating talent than going out and getting established quality players.

  10. –> I think this postseason will be more about dropping payroll and consolidating talent than going out and getting established quality players.

    I agree. I think most teams are going to be trimming payroll. See the article from ESPN I posted above about the Giants.

  11. Yeah, the idea of starting him would be that hopefully he WOULD be more durable. Think about the workload. As a starter, he pitches more overall innings, yes. But he does so with four-day breaks in between. I haven’t looked at the stats, but i dont think he had an incredible amount of four-day breaks between work this year, before the injury.

    Well that’s a nice idea Troy but if you look at injury rates, starting pitchers get hurt a lot more than relief pitchers. The bullpen is for guys whose arms can’t handle the stress of starting, not the other way around (See Affeldt, Jeremy and Rodriguez, Francisco). What kills you as a starter is not only the high pitch counts but the fact that your arm has to go through multiple warmup-cooldown periods (between innings). If you can’t get your arm loose 3 or 4 times a week, you’re really going to have trouble doing it 6 or 7 times every five days.

    Colin notes that you might only get 60 relief innings out of him and he’s replaceable. That’s sounds pretty silly considering he pitched just 64.3 innings this season and was the ranked the eighth best reliever in the majors (by BP). That’s not real easy to replace.

    The absolute best that this starting experiment might go would be if Smoltz could throw 80-85 pitches a start, limping his way through 5+ innings. That is a replaceable performance. No matter which role they stick him in, it’s very unlikely they will get $10 million worth of pitching.

  12. Colin notes that you might only get 60 relief innings out of him and he’s replaceable. That’s sounds pretty silly considering he pitched just 64.3 innings this season and was the ranked the eighth best reliever in the majors (by BP). That’s not real easy to replace.

    But then the question is what exactly are you replacing, and with whom are you replacing him? I think if we keep Smoltz as a reliever we’re more likely to see the 2002 version than the 2003 version – very useful, but not as irreplaceable as the ERA of 1 we got this year. Plus you’ll see fewer outings in which he comes in in the 8th to strand runners. Combine those two and I think his value will drop next year even if he pitches well, to a level where a slightly lesser reliever (say, Kerry Ligtenberg) wouldn’t be a substantial downgrade.

  13. I agree that his value as a reliever will likely drop off next year. An ERA of 1 is pretty flukey anyway, but even if he gives you 60 innings at a 2.50 ERA, if you make them high leverage innings, he still pretty valuable (not $10 million of value of course). I think he would be unlikely to exceed that value as a five innings starting pitcher and the risk of serious injury goes up. But I certainly can see the other side of the argument.

    Going to Smoltz’s value as a reliever, looking at the BP stats I found it interesting that Smoltz led the Braves pitchers in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP).

    Smoltz 31.1 VORP
    Ortiz 29.5 VORP
    Hampton 25.8 VORP
    Maddux 22.0 VORP
    Ramirez 20.9 VORP

    I’m suprised Smoltz was that high considering he didn’t break 65 innings. And what a bargain Ramirez was! Nearly the value of Maddux for $14 million less! Horacio for team MVP!

  14. An ERA of 1 is pretty flukey anyway, but even if he gives you 60 innings at a 2.50 ERA, if you make them high leverage innings, he still pretty valuable

    But of course, that presumes they’ll be high leverage innings, which is likely not the case. Ads I noted above, cox will likely not use him with, say, inherited runners in the 8th. We’ll likely see a straightforward traditional 1-inning closer usage pattern. In which role that $10m will be wasted.

  15. Has anybody seen that stupid poll at the AJC about John Smoltz? They ask the question “John Smoltz should be a….” and the options are:

    Starter
    Closer
    Met

    Naturally, our culture is such that Met is winning by a large margin.

    Here’s my question: What is up with the AJC? What did John Smoltz do to deserve this irreverent editorial treatment? I’m pretty upset about this, because John Smoltz doesn’t deserve in the least to be subjected to this kind of ridicule.

  16. I agree. Nobody has been saying we should trade Smoltz, that just came out of nowhere, and is pretty mean-spirited.

  17. Wow, that’s pretty strange. I can’t fathom the motivation. I could almost understand if the poll was about Andruw Jones and his repeatedly putrid postseasons. But Smoltz? Ugh.

  18. On a totally unrelated subject…

    I think the club is doomed until it’s sold by Time Warner/AOL or whatver it’s called these days. The budget this season is prob. 35-45 million.

  19. I don’t agree, Ed. I think for this team to be sold for its best value, it needs to continue to be successful. So if AOL was to drop payroll and this team was to plummet in the standings, its value would drop considerably. AOL will prop it up.

  20. Just for the record, AOL no longer has anything to do with the Braves. The Braves belong to Time Warner again.

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