#5: Tom Glavine

See the 44 Greatest Atlanta Braves here.

Lefthanded Pitcher
Seasons With Braves: 1987-2002
Stats With Braves: 242-143, 3.37 ERA

Tom was the second of the heroes of 1991 to join the major league team, following Blauser by about a month. While Blauser bounced up and down and in and out of the lineup, Glavine was in the rotation to stay practically from his August of 1987 debut until he left as a free agent. Someone in comments said that Glavine was the more accomplished of the pair he made with Smoltz, and that’s not true; Smoltz had been an All-Star and had good ERAs. Glavine’s ERAs in pre-1991 are below average. He did go 14-8 in 1989, but even then his ERA+ was 99 and he was held out of some starts.

Tom Glavine suddenly became Tom Glavine in April and May of 1991. In the first month, he went 2-2 with a 2.39 ERA, and you started to think there was something there. And in May he had just about as good of a month as you can, going 6-0 with a 1.71 ERA as he and Avery lifted the Braves into the pennant race. I have always given a lot of credit for this sudden awakening to the addition of Terry Pendleton and the other defensive specialists brought in as free agents, but Tom really did become a better pitcher. At the end of 1991 he stood with a 20-11 record and a 2.55 ERA and an inevitable Cy Young Award. He was clearly worn out by the end of the season (he was second in the league in innings pitched, and since Maddux was first Glavine probably led the league in pitches thrown) especially when the Braves went to a four-man rotation, and didn’t pitch as well in the playoffs and World Series as Smoltz and Avery.

1992 wound up the only year Glavine was the unquestioned ace of the staff from beginning to end, and a fine year it was, 20-8 with a 2.76 ERA. After a rough NLCS he pitched excellently in the World Series, but wound up 1-1 thanks to the usual poor run support. He finished second in the Cy Young voting, but the Age of Maddux had begun, and then the Braves signed Maddux, making Glavine a ridiculously overqualified #2 starter and spoiling Braves fans for the next 15 years or so.

Tom had a career high in wins in 1993, going 22-6, but his ERA rose to 3.20. He won his only NLCS start, and would have started Game 7; I have to wonder what would have happened if he’d been available to pitch the opener, allowing him to come back in Game 5 or 6. In 1994, Tom’s ERA went up again, to 3.97 (seven percent better than the league) though he still went 13-9; he had a really bad stretch in June and July but seemed to have righted himself when the strike hit.

In 1995, Glavine was the second-best pitcher in the league, though he finished third in the Cy Young voting, going 16-7 with a 3.08 ERA and combining with Maddux for one of the greatest single-season 1-2 punches ever. He capped it off with eight shutout innings to win Game 6 of the World Series and being named the MVP.

Tom’s ERAs in the next two years were actually (in context) his best since 1991, but he didn’t get the run or bullpen support he had earlier in his career, going 15-10 (it was like he and Smoltz switched records in 1996) and 14-9. He erupted in 1998, winning the Cy Young for the second time with a 20-6 record and a 2.47 ERA. I’ve written before and will write again that Maddux should have won instead, but it’s not like he didn’t already have four.

Tom slumped in 1999 with his worst year since 1990, going 14-11 with a 4.12 ERA, but that was flukish and he was right back on track in 2000, going 21-9 and finishing second in the Cy Young voting. In 2001 and 2002 he wasn’t quite dominant, but was very good, and then left as a free agent.

Glavine never really did seem dominant, but he was very very good and had two monster seasons in which he won Cy Young awards, and several other Cy Young-type seasons. He’s fourth on the franchise list, second on the Atlanta list, in wins, and if by some chance he came back would probably pass Niekro in two years. He doesn’t have the number of league-leading seasons that Smoltz has (29 on the Black Ink Test) but had lots of seasons in the top ten (187 on the Grey Ink Test). There’s a bit of the Raines Effect here because he’s standing next to Maddux, who was winning the ERA and IP titles Glavine was finishing in the top ten of.

Eight of Glavine’s top ten comparable pitchers through Age 40 are in the Hall, but that’s a bit misleading since only top pitchers make it to 40. Still, anyone who doesn’t vote for Glavine for the Hall of Fame is an idiot.

Tom Glavine Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com

67 thoughts on “#5: Tom Glavine”

  1. I think the only question about Glavine’s induction into the HoF would be if he goes in first ballot..
    Maddux and Glaviine retiring the same year would be..appropriate.

    IMO Glavine cost us the 2002 NLCS, and with that probably one of our best shot in recent memory at the WS. Still makes me sore..

  2. “then the Braves signed Maddux, making Glavine a ridiculously overqualified #2 starter and spoiling Braves fans for the next 15 years or so.”

    Thanks Mac. I used to remember I would (I was little I admit) be mad when our big 3 allowed more than one run…those were the days….

  3. A major favorite and a guy I still root for when he isn’t pitching against the Braves. I sure wish that he could finish up in a Braves uniform but alas the sucky market for pitching is going to make him a zillion more dollars over the next couple of years. Great stuff about an all time great Atlanta Brave.

  4. I started following the Braves in the 90s, and for the longest time, I thought an ERA over 3.00 was kinda bad.

  5. I doubt we will see a rotation like that again for a long, long time.When John Smoltz is the number 3, wow!

  6. 1992 wound up the only year Glavine was the unquestioned ace of the staff from beginning to end

    Minor quibble here. He was the ace on the year, but he wasn’t an ace from beginning to end. 1992 was the year he got injured – I think a cracked rib or something – in August. Tried to pitch through it, and pitched poorly. Finally took himself out of the rotation after the Braves clinched, taking two weeks off before coming back for some tune-up outings.

    He had been cruising to his second Cy Young up until the injury – he was 19-3, 2.48 after his August 19 start. At the same time Maddux had a better ERA (2.16) but a less impressive 15-9 W/L record. Maddux went 5-2 the rest of the way while Glavine went 1-5 and raised his ERA to 2.76. Maddux snagged the Cy Young.

    It was sad at the time, but heck, that stretch probably got us Maddux for the next decade or so.

    Also, I generally agree with your sentiment re: 1998. But FWIW, I agree mostly because of innings pitched. Glavine had the worst ERA of himself, maddux and Kevin Brown, but had the best RA. However, Maddux pitched 10% more innings.

  7. About a mile off-topic here, but from everything I’ve heard from Padres fans, they’d love a Linebrink-for-Marcus deal. And it’s worth noting that Linebrink wasn’t nearly as good last year as he was in the two years prior (.250 BAA vs. .200, ERA around 3.50 vs. 2.something). I still think I’d like the deal, but maybe we should hope for something in addition to Giles (or, if we get REALLY lucky, Cla Meredith? :-D)

  8. I was never a huge fan of Glavine. His games were often ugly to watch. Seemingly every batter went ball 1, ball 2, strike 1, strike 2, ball 3. I suspect he benefited as much as anybody from the very liberal strike zones in the ’90s which forced batters with 2 strikes to swing at pitches 2-3 inches out of the zone and put them in play for easy groudball outs, and the recent changes to have umpires call a more vertical zone has been a major reason for his decline. His game 6 in the ’95 series, however, has to be one of the best games a Brave has ever pitched.

  9. I actually enjoyed those mind games that Glavine worked on the hitter (and perhaps the ump.)

    My favorite Glavine moment would always come when he’d face a guy who hadn’t seen him much. He’d go away-away, perhaps with a foul ball during the AB. As soon as he got 2 strikes, he’d bust the guy inside & usually it was a called third strike. I remember seeing him do that to Bernie Williams at Yankee Stadium in ’97. Carved him up good.

    I have nothing but warm fuzzies for Glavine & his time in ATL. A real pro & I always thought it was lame that the ATL fans turned on him after the ’94 lockout.

    Speaking of warm fuzzies—the latest from Mr. Sheffield:

  10. One incident that comes to mind is when Glavine started screaming at the home plate ump after a pitch, I think his name was Wally Bell, and then TBS turned up the mike, and then Bobby comes out to argue and he got tossed. That was pretty entertaining stuff. lol

  11. Glavine will go down as my favorite Brave. He starts could be really painful to watch when he didn’t have good stuff, but when he was on I enjoyed it more than Smoltz or Maddux.

  12. June 19, 1991: The Braves and Phillies are in a beanball war. Roger McDowell — whatever happened to that guy, anyway? — had beaned Otis Nixon in the top of the ninth, with the Braves leading 6-2; the Braves scored three more runs in the inning to make it a laugher.

    Glavine is still in the game — this was not unusual even then — and he is going to protect his teammates by retaliating against the first Phillie hitter of the ninth.

    Who is Dale Murphy.

    So Tom throws four pitches that are progressively more and more inside — the last two were legitimately in the righthanded batters’ box — and progressively more and more slow. Murph is practically in the on-deck circle on Ball 4. Finally, the umpire ejects Glavine for throwing at the hitter. Tom calmly — but with stormclouds in his eyes — walks off the field.

  13. Mac, I can’t believe it, I actually remember that incident…I remember Don and Skip were discussing whether Tommy should pick someone else to retaliate.

  14. I do not want Linebrink for Giles. i hate trading everyday players for middle relief, they are so inconsistent from year to year and he gave up a career high 9 homers in 70 something innings, not a good ratio.

    I would rather have a young starter(s), but we will see what he can fetch i guess.

  15. I remember that Tommy’s struggles in the first inning used to be one of the big talking points for Skip & Co. during his starts. It was only later that I began to wonder whether that was overblown. Has anyone taken a look at this using retrosheet or anything similar?

    I bear no ill will to Mr. Glavine for his time with Atlanta. A pro’s pro, and a clutch performer. I can’t wait till he’s inducted.

  16. Glavine is a competitor and a pro. I’m with you ububba, nothing but the good memories and wishes for continued success (except when pitching against us) for him. I too cannot for the life of me undertand the vitriol that some here spew about his decision to leave. (I know forbidden topic, sorry)

    I don’t want Linebrink either. His strikeouts are declining, he has been worked hard the last 4 seasons, and he is going to turn 30. All mixed together it spells Chris Reitsma.
    Dave Roberts? give me a break.
    career avgs .270 .344 .371 Last season’s line of .293 .360 .393 are career highs (outlier) in BA, OBP and SLG. He hit a paltry 51 xbh last season, only 2 HR and he turns 35. He can steal but speed at the top of the order is OVERRATED.

  17. I remember when Tommy threw at Murph. As I recall, after the first pitch went inside the announcers said something to the effect of “I assure you, there is no way Tom Glavine is intentionally throwing at Dale Murphy”. Of course he was, and the way he lobbed the ball made the experience even more surreal.

    Another thing about that game that was a big deal at the time was that Tommy entered the 9th with 12 strikeouts, giving him the chance to tie the franshise single game strikeout record and break the Atlanta record if he struck out the side. Instead, he got ejected. He never struck out that many batters in a game again.

  18. Okay, if Linebrink isn’t a good idea, then what is? Get nothing for Giles? I’d rather get a guy who COULD solve at least one minor problem right now instead of draft picks who won’t come later until… 2010 or so.

  19. Talk about a non sequitor.

    If Tom Glavine is overrated, then why in the world didn’t the Devil Rays succeed?

  20. Haw haw haw.

    Okay, that was a stupid argument. I’m man enough to admit that.

    I believe the cheapest option would be putting Willy Aybar up in the leadoff spot or something.

  21. That’d be cheap, sure, but how about an equally cheap option of using Kelly Johnson instead? That’s the route I support.

  22. Before he left, Glavine was my favorite.

    Then it got rocky between us, but I finally gave up my bitterness early this season. I, too, can’t wait to see him inducted.

    (Smoltz is now easily my favorite Brave. I’m 99.99% sure that no player will ever be able to pass him.)

  23. I keep reading all these rumors and stories about Marcus Giles for Scott Linebrink. If this is true, I’ll admit John Schuerholz is a better general manager then I give him credit for being.

  24. I think Linebrink would be a real risk. If you remember, when the Braves acquired Reitsma in 2005, everyone thought that was a real coup because he had just come off a very good year. The point is, trading for middle relievers is very risky and trading a solid second baseman for a middle reliever is especially risky. Frankly, I can’t see the point of just giving Giles away just to say we got something. If you can make a good deal, then fine, but otherwise, I say keep him and, if we are out of contention at the deadline, try to deal him then. I just think Linebrink is too much of a risk.

  25. The Braves aren’t bringing Giles back though. They don’t want his salary. So it’s either trade him or non-tender him. I’ll take Linebrink over a draft pick.

  26. What was our biggest problem last year? Pitching, especially relief pitching.

    As I said at the end of ’05, more relief pitching, please. What we got ain’t good enough.

  27. If speed at the top is overrated, then why in the world didn’t Marcus succeed?

    He hurt his hand sometime in April, as I recall. And he never was comfortable with the role. It was nothing to do with speed at all.

    Okay, if Linebrink isn’t a good idea, then what is? Get nothing for Giles? I’d rather get a guy who COULD solve at least one minor problem right now instead of draft picks who won’t come later until… 2010 or so.

    Why not hold on to him, see if he’s hitting next season, and then decide? Why tradehim at the bottom of his value?

  28. @36 Colin, couldn’t have put it better. Thats the old Braves way, deal a guy at the bottom of his value. With the market this off season poised to make a lot of mediocre to average players rich beyond their wildest dreams, I would pay Marcus his 5.2, love him for what he is on offense and not hate him becuase he aint his 1993 stats, love his above average defense and be glad that we don’t HAVE to start Willy Aybar at second. That gives Campbell and Prado time to develop, Aybar becomes Betemit for us and we give Kelly Johnson every chance in the world to play left field instead of trying to make a middle infielder out of him.

    @23 I ain’t even gonna comment.

  29. Giles is still considered to be a top 5 NL 2nd baseman and his trade value is not going to get any higher. Especially, if he has another declining year and lets not forget he’ll be a FA in 08. Why would we bring him and his salary back?

    I dont understand why people would rather have him and a 6 million dollay salary, than a solid set up guy and an extra 4 to 4.5 million to help in other areas. Trading Giles does so many things for our team.

    1. Allows one of our other 3 to 4 2nd baseman, minimum salary guys, to come in and take over… (KJ, Orr, Aybar, Prado)
    2. Gives us another arm or two that we have to get for next year.
    3. Gives us an extra 4 million to help try and find a leadoff hitter or another bullpen arm.

    If he stays, he eats up our budget. Blocks other potential players and doesnt solve any of our pitching problems. Its a no-brainer for me!

  30. See #37 for a counter argument.

    I guess its that a top 5 2b should get more than a 30 year old middle reliever and a 5th outfielder. Like I’ve said before middle infielders with Gile’s career lines don’t grow on trees. Middle relief is a fungible commodity. Sometimes you get lucky, see the 2002 Braves, sometimes you don’t, last year for instance. While I’m not completely convinced that the closer myth is indeed a myth the signing of Wickman does provide the foundation for the rebuilding of the bullpen. Replacing Gile’s career average offense cannot be done with our inhouse solutions at 2b. It becomes more of a point if we have to play Diaz, whom I seriously doubt re creates last season’s production or Langerhans in left again.

  31. I’m a little intimidated. I commented on Smoltz being a great guy out of baseball, based on what I knew. A later poster showed John’s intolerant side. So I’m embarassed by my ignorance.
    What I can say for Tom is that I’ve attended Braves games in Chicago, Cinncinati (5 or more), and St. Louis. The team always sends a player to sign autographs for the fans. Every game I saw, Glavine stood right beside him, signing for 15 minutes or so.
    When we discuss HOF, we might disagree about we’d want to ahve the ball for one game. But if Tom had it, I’d sure believe the Braves had an excellent chance.

  32. Giles should never have been considered for leadoff……most of us knew it wasn’t going to work, and if it did, I would’ve had to eat crow. He was and is a #2 hitter, and he’s great at it.

    As for speed being overrated, I’m not so sure about that. Speed is a great asset to have and I don’t believe its overrated, sometimes overvalued, but not overrated. Speed can help you on many different fronts as we all know……but you can’t steal first as they say. I’d love to have more speed on an otherwise slow team, but I’d rather not overpay for it, IMO.

  33. give Kelly Johnson every chance in the world to play left field instead of trying to make a middle infielder out of him.

    KJ IS a middle infielder – drafted as a SS and then moved to the outfield a few years later.

  34. Stu, I’m really glad to hear that you’ve buried the hatchet with Tom Glavine. I remember discussion got pretty heated between you, me, and Alex R. way back in the day… back in the Atlanta Braves’ golden age, when we were still the reigning NL East champions.

    As I’ve said before, Glavine was always my favorite Brave. I loved the iceman demeanor, the unwillingness ever to give in even though it seemed like all he had was tenacity and a change-up, and the decade and a half of brilliance. I’m looking forward to showing my kids his plaque, and Atlanta cap, in the Hall of Fame.

  35. I guess I can’t understand the longing for Marcus Giles. Yes, on even money, he is the best option we have for second base. However, the money is not even. The performance reasonably projectable is a whole lot closer than some of you may think.

    Player Career OPS Career AB’s Age when 2007 starts
    Giles, Marcus .809 2514 29
    Aybar, Willie .803 330 24
    Johnson, Kelly .735 300 +/- 25
    Prado, Martin .745 40 23

    Prado’s and Johnson’s AB’s are approx. I forgot to pull that. Reference is ESPN player stats.

    By age, Giles should be unlikely to significantly exceed his career average. He is likely to exceed his season OPS (which was lower last year than Francoeur and the lowest of any Braves player with a “qualifying” number of at bats).

    Aybar and Johnson have enough at bats to eliminate extemely fluky numbers (Prado, could be worse than Neifi Perez) All three of these should (based on age) reasonably be expected to improve f0r 2 to 4 more seasons (age 27 season). Each of these three costs $330,000 or so. If second base as a position loses .100 OPS points next year (unlikely) that would not be enough impact to add more than one loss.

    SLIGHT increases in performance are not worth 5 million. Use moderate money to get moderate performance increases. Use big money to get big performance increases.

    I will send again on the other elephant in the room.

  36. @43 WAS a middle infielder, then a third baseman. He is an outfielder for a reason. His value to the organization is his bat. I can’t see trying him at 2b, the 3rd most difficult defensive position and expect him to succeed. We need his patience at the plate and power potential. With his ability to see a lot of pitches, willingness to take a walk and his bat he would make a pretty good lead off hitter.

    Speed is a valuable commodity. But it shouldn’t be the determining factor for leadoff. The ability to get on base and see pitches should be the determining factors. Giles was a logical choice for leadoff. He had above average OBPs in his career, provided doubles pop so that he could get into scoring position on his own power and had good batting averages. I don’t know why Giles had an off year but I’m pretty sure that he has an off year no matter where he batted in the batting order.

  37. The other elephant in the room on ALL TRADES, FREE AGENT ACQUISITIONS, AND RELEASES, is the Performance Enhancing Drugs (at least the detectable ones).

    JS is no fool. Every player they look at (and everybody else will be doing it too) will be checked to see if they had a performance drop in 2005 and 2006. The testing in 2004 didn’t count, because there were no penalties or names being called. Any player in the minors in 2004 and before, would have been tested. Therefore, the likelihood of Prado, KJ, and Aybar gaining from detectable PED’s is much lower than ANY major league player. EVERY ISSUE that can affect a projection of a player’s ability must be analyzyed.

    Before all of you start saying I am accusing Giles, I am not. Everybody in MLB is suspect (for purposes of this kind of analysis). Somehow, the GM has to come to a probability number based on all sorts of things (who did he hang around, what gyms did he go to, did he have any classic symptoms like new back acne)and estimate the probability that performance may have been enhanced improperly and that either (1) the enhancement will disappear or has disappeared from non use or (2) the player will be caught and thus lost to the use of the team (without even adding that the GM might on health or moral grounds actually care to avoid a player).

    This same analysis is needed for whoever you want to add and whoever you want to subtract (Linebrink, Roberts, Eaton, Peavy, A. Jones, whoever). If it doesn’t fit in a round hole, it might be a square peg.

  38. SLIGHT increases in performance are not worth 5 million. Use moderate money to get moderate performance increases. Use big money to get big performance increases.

    This is also my view. Look at a list of starting NL 2Bs and tell me you can’t just toss any of those not named Utley or possibly Uggla into a hat. There’s just not as much difference between good and mediocre 2Bs as exists at any other position. I hear all the time about relief pitchers being fungible, and yet we’ve seen what happens to a staff that doesn’t have good ones. Funge me a 2B any day.

  39. The third elephant is if Marcus has Brent Gates’ Disease, the tendency of a good second baseman to completely lose his hitting ability due to the wear and tear of the position.

  40. Fungible, schmungible. Our relief SUCKED ASS last year and that’s why WE SUCKED ASS last year.

    We can win without Marcus. We cannot win without better pitching. I’d rather die trying to improve than die doing nothing and throwing around three-dollar words like fungible.

  41. @46
    Yeah, I know he doesn’t play MI anymore. I was just saying that he’s played up there before, which would help if he were to transition back to the infield. I don’t know if he would succeed at 2nd or not, but IIRC from his half-season in Atlanta, his OF defense was only Chipper-like. So I do agree that his value comes from his bat, and I just want to get him in the lineup somewhere (2nd or LF) if he can be the kind of player I thought he was going to be back in ’05, which, I agree, would be a pretty good leadoff hitter.

    Saying all this, LF does seem like the best fit for him, all things considered. BTW, what is KJ’s outlook for next season, after everything that happened this past year? I’m sure Mac will get to it when he does player previews, but does anybody have any thoughts?

    amen, ububba

  42. Tom Glavine filed for free agency today. It is on ESPN.com
    Does this mean he might come back or is it a bargaining ploy?

  43. Justin – i’d say a bargaining ploy. Odds are he re-signs with the mets for one year, maybe even two.

    JD Drew just opted out of his contract with the Dodgers. Wow. I’d love to see him here again, but i’m sure he wants another exorbitant contract we can’t afford to give him.

  44. Glavine has that mutual option still. My guess is that they’re currently negotiating and that the sticking point is two or three years, but I’m pretty sure neither side has had to make a decision on the option.

  45. Holy cow! Drew just took a dump on 33 million guarenteed dollars?????? Man Boras must have a Svengali effect on ole JD
    @50 Ask the Cubs how all the money they threw at their bull pen worked out. Look y’all we really agree. Pitching should be the emphasis, Marcus is our most tradeable player and we should be dangling him. Our differences are that y’all want Scott I’m about to become Chris Reitsma Linebrink and yet another 4th outfielder for him or that you’d settle for something like that. I also repectfully disagree that he is so easily replaceable, or at least the good Marcus is. But if someone were to come and offer us a couple of excellent young arms, a veteran arm and a minor leaguer shoot the Braves would be dumb not to make the trade. I think that despite all of my protests that the Braves ARE going to trade Giles for an about to be lousy middle reliever in a salary dump. The team still hasn’t learned the lesson of Dan Kolb.

  46. I dont understand why people would rather have him and a 6 million dollay salary, than a solid set up guy and an extra 4 to 4.5 million to help in other areas.

    My skepticism is tied to the idea that Linebrink is a “solid setup guy”. He’s going to be 30, I think, and had a crappy second half this year.

    I’m not necessarily opposed to trading Giles – Aybar won’t be terribly worse this year than Giles was last year. I just object to giving him up for someone who’s not demonstrably good.

  47. Linebrink has a 2.74 ERA since 2003, and has been durable. How many other NL relievers can say that? I’m sure he’ll get a physical prior to any agreement.

  48. Trading Giles makes sense. He may not be at the top of his value–but what players that can traded are? Even if Giles stays and has a great year, he will almost certainly leave after next year. With Aybar and Prado, the Braves have depth at the position and if they could obtain a quality set-up man, they would probably be better off. In fact, the Braves’ bullpen might even become an asset in 2007. The real problem remains starting pitching…

  49. I always loved Glavine. As a lefty pitcher, I emulated both his mental and physical poise on the mound.

  50. Been good, Rob. Just been busy!

    And waiting on pins and needles to find out what JS is doing this offseason.

  51. Well this story goes along on why I personally can’t stand Glavine and Maddux (although i admit they’re HOF) in the late 90’s I took my family to see the Braves in nearby Denver. Surprisingly, the Braves were staying at our downtown hotel. My daughter at that time was 11, my son 7, we camped out in the lobby in the morning. Glavine and Maddux came by, Meg and Chris immediately came up to them, with cards, they didn’t even stop, just kept going, no response at all. A few minutes later, Smoltz and Chipper both came by, they stopped and not only signed cards but talked to the kids for a while. Class acts. I realize that these guys are constantly bombarded with requests, but Maddux and Glavine looked like world class sprinters going thru the lobby.

  52. Randy, Maddux and Glavine were probably just dead-set on their workouts. Give them a break.

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