See the 44 Greatest Atlanta Braves here.
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.