Smoltz DFA’d

Here is what John Smoltz has done so far this year:

40 IP
9 BB
33 K
8 HR
4.92 FIP
4.32 xFIP

While he certainly hasn’t been pitching like he did in his prime, it’s clear that John Smoltz has had a pretty solid year. His K:BB ratio is actually above his career marks, and only an elevated HR/FB ratio is keeping his FIP high. As most people who read this site know, HR/FB is, for the most part, out of a pitchers control. Especially when that pitcher pitches half of his games in front of the Green Monster. If you are a believer in xFIP, which adjusts for that HR/FB luck, then he has been pitching like a league average starter, which is quite a feat while pitching in a hitters ballpark and in the toughest division in baseball.

That makes this, all the more surprising:

Of course, Smoltz’s ERA is 8.33; however, the Red Sox are supposedly one of the more sabermetric friendly organizations out there. Anyway, Smoltz is now free to all teams and could be a good pickup for a contending team with a hole in the starting rotation or bullpen (hint, hint… Cardinals). ZIPS projects a 3.60 FIP the rest of the season, although that seems a little bullish given his advanced age. Still, even adding a half a run per 9 to that projection would still make him a valuable pitcher, and his postseason experience could only be a positive.

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Colin Wyers
13 years ago

In 40 IP, the RMSE on xFIP is going to be something like 1.28; in other words, an xFIP of 4.32 means a true talent of somewhere between 3.04 and 5.60. (Assuming that a 3.04 ERA is just as likely as a 5.60 ERA, which is simply not true at all.) His xFIP really isn’t a reliable indicator of true talent at all in that sample size.

Dan Novick
13 years ago

Colin, but wouldn’t the last few years also have to be included in our evaluation of his true talent? It’s not like this year is some isolated event where you don’t look at previous years. His true talent xFIP is probably lower than 5.60, and we can say that because of his previous experience. His xFIP the last four years:


Differing amount of innings, of course, but do you really think his true talent is above 5.00? You didn’t say it was, but I’d bet a lot of money that it is lower than 5, if we could ever find out what it is for sure (which we can’t).

Nick Steiner
13 years ago


What makes you think that Smoltz is one of those rare pitchers who is worse than his FIP/xFIP?  He has never displayed that trait in his career before; and his batted ball profile this year doesn’t scream “hittable” either.


Thanks for pointing that out.  I had just assumed that Fenway inflates homers; however, that was a stupid assumption and I am glad you pointed it out.  Still, you don’t deny that his HR/FB ratio is elevated, right? 


Basically, what Dan said.

Wooden U. Lykteneau
13 years ago

Nick – Perhaps, but I’m more familiar with what my eyes tell me (you can roll yours now) – that Smoltz isn’t pitcher he once was and wasn’t fooling LHBs whatsoever. Maybe he’ll do better with a better defense behind him in an N.L. park, but my sincere hope is that he’ll retire so he won’t join the long list of pitchers that hung on too long.

Nick Steiner
13 years ago

Of course he isn’t as good as he once was!  I even said that in the original post.  It’s obvious that his stuff has declined, and probably his command too (although his numbers don’t reflect that). 

My position is that he was pitching like an average starter, in a difficult environment, and would be a solid 4 ERA pitcher in the NL.

13 years ago

I’m getting more and more skeptical of FIP. I feel like it’s the kind of thing that works pretty well for 90-95% of players, but it just ignores outliers altogether and groups them in with everybody else.

Smoltz was pretty awful, and I don’t think his FIP really represents how bad he was. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if he still had a little left in the tank for a team with a bigger park and poorer opposition.

Wooden U. Lykteneau
13 years ago

“Especially when that pitcher pitches half of his games in front of the Green Monster. If you are a believer in xFIP, which adjusts for that HR/FB luck, then he has been pitching like a league average starter, which is quite a feat while pitching in a hitters ballpark”

Except the facts don’t fit your delusion: Smoltz gave up 7 of his 8 HRs on the road, and Fenway park *depresses* HRs and has now for more than 20 years.

Tom Dunne
13 years ago

With all due respect to his peripheral stats, I have a tough time accepting the notion that Smoltz is having “a pretty solid year,” even with the caveat that he’s in the toughest division.  Smoltz has been clobbered by the Nationals, the A’s and twice by the Orioles, all lower-tier offenses.  The Cardinals’ upcoming series against Milwaukee, Florida and Colorado aren’t going to be softer lineups than the teams he’s already lost to.

I don’t think Smoltz is as bad as his record suggests, but simply moving to the NL isn’t going to knock four runs off his ERA.

Nick Steiner
13 years ago

Tom, you should really look beyond ERA.  Fenway is a bitch to pitchers, and the Red Sox defense isn’t very good.  Also, his strand rate is insanely low, and that is certainly unsustainable. His peripherals are still very solid, and as Harry Pavlidis showed here…

His pitches are still above average in terms of what hitters are doing off them (defense independent of course).  Having seen him pitch a couple of times, it’s clear that he isn’t the Smotlz of old; however, that Smoltz was a 3.00 ERA pitcher!!  As a Cards fan, I may be a little biased, but all the evidence points towards Smoltz still being a very solid pitcher, and one who is certainly an upgrade over most 5th starters in the game.