Righty starter/reliever John Smoltz is a first ballot Hall of Famer in my book. Sure, he might have been the 3rd best starter on his own team (Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine) but he’s one of only two pitchers in major league history with at least 150 wins and 150 saves (Dennis Eckersley is the other). Smoltz pitched 21 years in the majors and he worked in 723 games (481 starts) in which he was 213-155 with 154 saves, a 3.33 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. He did win 1 Cy Young Award back in 1996 with the Braves. He pitched in 35 games (all starts) for the Braves in 1996 and he was 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. Smoltz whiffed a major league leading 276 batters in 253 2/3 innings in 1996. Smoltz had elbow issues starting in 2001, so he moved to the bullpen. In 2002, Smoltz became the Braves’ closer and he saved 144 games the next three years. He then made an amazing return to the rotation in 2005 for the Braves. From 2005-2007, Smoltz started 100 games and he was 44-24 for the Braves. Smoltz saved over 40 games 3 times in his major league career and he won at least 15 games in a season 7 times! He was a N.L. All-Star 8 times and he also won a Silver Slugger Award. Smoltz is #16 in major league history in strikeouts wiht 3,084 as he was a power pitcher. Smoltz was also a big game pitcher as he worked in 41 games (27 starts) in the post-season for the Braves and he was 15-4 with 4 saves, a 2.67 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.
When looking at Smoltz’ career in a Hall of Fame context, I like to compare him to Dennis Eckersley who got in on his first try. Eckersley pitched in 1,076 games (361 starts) in his major league career and he was 197-171 with 390 saves, a 3.50 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. Eckersley, like Smoltz, won 1 Cy Young Award (he also was the MVP) in 1992 with the A’s. Eckersley pitched in 69 games (0 starts) for the A’s in 1992 and he was 7-1 with 51 saves, a 1.91 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP. Eckersley made 6 All-Star teams.
While Eckersley was a very solid pitcher, I think Smoltz’ career numbers are more worthy of the Hall. Plus, I have seen them both pitch and I just think Smoltz was the better pitcher. To me, he should not only get into the Hall of Fame, but on the first ballot.