Let's face it: John Smoltz wasn't a very good pitcher with the Boston Red Sox.
In 40 innings pitched this season, Smoltz has posted a 2-5 season record with an 8.32 ERA and 1.70 WHIP. Opponents have posted an on-base percentage against of .340.
So why is there an immense amount of upside with Smoltz on his way to St. Louis, a contender in the National League?
Believe it or not, the skills are still there.
Much more than the surface statistics, it appears that Smoltz still has some skills left in the tank.
The one thing to consider is his strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is a solid 33 strikeouts to nine walks.
In fact, five-eighths of his starts were starts where he posted a 3-1 ratio or even better. This fact alone shows he still has the base skills to succeed.
His move to the National League Central will only help, with regard to opposing bats.
The American League East is the toughest to pitch in—considering all opposing bats and lineups involved. The Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, and Orioles all feature solid lineups that would give any pitcher fits.
Since Smoltz will be pitching for the Cardinals (and in the NL Central now), he can avoid facing Albert Pujols and take his chances against fairly softer lineups. Let's not forget the pitcher batting spot in the National League, where Smoltz will get a bit of a break at the end of lineups.
All in all, the decreased batting talent in the division should greatly benefit Smoltz and allow him to prove his worthiness at the major league level.
Dave Duncan, St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach, should be able to help Smoltz recapture his dominance.
Duncan is one of the best in the game, and Smoltz is not a bad pitcher. A few simple changes to his mechanics could pay big dividends for the Cards in the long run.
Think about the pitchers that Duncan has been able to work with and improve immensely. Just this season, Ryan Franklin and Joel Pineiro are two of the names that have pitched big-time innings for the team.
Many people didn't expect Pineiro to pitch as well as he has this year, but it's encouraging to see that pitchers on the Cardinals are actively improving.
All in all, the signing of John Smoltz is a big one for the St. Louis Cardinals. If he can improve on his season numbers—more "when" than if—the Cardinals will be big-time competitors in October. They have an excellent chance to win it all in 2009.