Why The San Francisco Giants Should Pick Up John Smoltz

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IAugust 17, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 22:  John Smoltz #29 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the New York Mets during their game at Shea Stadium April 22, 2007 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

After a comeback attempt with the Boston Red Sox failed miserably, future Hall of Famer John Smoltz ought to come back one more time, and he should do it where he has spent 20 of his 21 seasons, in the National League.

Let's face it, when a 42-year-old pitcher attempts to rehab what should be a career ending injury and come back to the Major Leagues, the American League East is not the place to do it.

Trying to make his comeback as a member of the Red Sox, Smoltz had to face lethal AL East hitters such as Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Luke Scott, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Matt Weiters. 

Four of his eight starts came against the aforementioned hitters, as Smoltz faced the Orioles three times and the Yankees once, in his final start before being released.

But that's not all, two of his other starts came against quality hitting teams as well.

Don't look at the Washington Nationals and assume they can't hit. They're a terrible team because they can't pitch. And in Smoltz's first start back he had to face Adam Dunn, Nick Johnson, Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham, and Christian Guzman, all extremely talented hitters. Plus, Smoltz also had to face the Texas Rangers in one of his starts. Consequently he faced guys like Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Hank Blalock, and Michael Young.

Therefore, in six of eight starts, Smoltz faced some of the top lineups in baseball. Granted he did lay a dud in one of the remaining two starts against a weak-hitting Oakland club, but regardless, the 42-year-old has been put in a tough position. He started his comeback with a major market club who had playoff expectations and was in dire need of pitching help.

After spending his entire career with the Atlanta Braves, making a comeback in a brand new league was not the best fit. However, despite his inflated ERA and WHIP of 8.33 and 1.70 respectively, there is still a spot left for Smoltz in the National League.

And wouldn't you know it, the San Francisco Giants are in the market for starting pitching. With Randy Johnson presumed to be done for his career by some and projected (at-best) to possibly return to the rotation in September by others, the Giants could use another veteran starter.

Currently, the combination of Ryan Sadowksi and Joe Martinez in the fifth spot of the rotation is absolutely killing the playoff hopes of the orange and black. In the last 19 2/3 innings thrown from the No. 5 spot in the Giants rotation, 18 earned runs have been given up. I probably don't need to do the math for you but those numbers come out to an 8.24 ERA.

The fact that Smoltz's ERA this season is even higher than the aforementioned mark of the Giants' fifth starters is a moot point. Returning the National League would be a safe haven for Smoltz who is more familiar with the league's hitters and ball parks. If he is still a fraction of what he once was, pitching in the NL should bring his ERA down and his victories up.

Now perhaps the Giants sign Smoltz and he continues to show signs of being a washed up 42-year-old pitcher. But what if he doesn't? What if he turns his season around and gives the Giants quality start after quality start? It may just make or break the Giants season. If Smoltz performs, his presence on the mound might be enough to put the orange and black in the playoffs.

The signs that Smoltz still has the capability to pitch are still there. In his eight starts, Smoltz has a greater than 3/1 K/BB ratio with 33 strikeouts to just nine walks. Obviously the stuff is still there and his nine walks in 40 innings comes to an average of just 2.02 per nine innings which is an excellent mark. If Smoltz doesn't walk opposing hitters, the Giants defense will bring down his ERA because the team has been excellent at catching the ball this season.

Granted the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies have quality lineups just like the teams Smoltz faced in the American League. However, instead of having to face designated hitters in the American League, Smoltz will face opposing starting pitchers in the nine hole and much less talented hitters in the seventh and eighth spots of most NL lineups.

There is no denying that the NL is still inferior to the AL in terms of offense, and until the DH is no longer, that will always be the case. Therefore, not only is Smoltz years and years more familiar with the NL, the league is naturally easier to pitch in then the AL.

To be fair, Smoltz may not fair any better back in the National League, but with the Giants in a playoff race and in need of a veteran pitcher at the back end of the rotation, bringing in Smoltz is something they ought to at least consider.


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