This Day in Baseball History: July 31st, 2003

Not a good start with his new ball club, but the ERA (7.04) is a bit misleading (5.60 K/BB, 8.12 K/9, 3.61 FIP, 20.2 LD%).

On July 31, 2003:

John Smoltz becomes the fastest to 40 saves in a season.

From 1992 to 1999, John Smoltz was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. Smoltz peaked from 1995 to 1999 with ERA+’s all above 134, and he won his only Cy Young award in 1996. Before the 2000 season got underway, he had to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow, and he lost all of that season. When he came back in 2001, he was ineffective in 5 starts, posting a 5.76 ERA, and for the stretch run, he became the Atlanta Braves’ closer. Smoltz dominated in that role with a 1.59 ERA and 10 saves in 11 chances.

Smoltz returned to that role in 2002 and became the fastest to 40 saves on August 8th. Smoltz did it in Atlanta’s 114th game, beating Lee Smith’s record of 117 set in 1993. He would go on to set the NL record for most saves in a season with 55, and he finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting. However, Smoltz was only more dominating in 2003. He set the record for the fastest to 40 saves on July 31st (108 games), but an injury forced him to miss most of September, limiting his chances to break the single-season record. During that 2003 season, his K/BB ratio was an astounding 9.13 and his ERA was 1.12 as he seemed to thrive in his new role. The following season, he went backwards a bit, and he wasn’t happy as the closer as his arm began feeling better. He wanted to start, and he returned to the starting role in 2005.

Francisco Rodriguez bested John Smoltz’s record last season on July 20th (98 games) on his way to smashing the single-season record for saves. The closer’s role has recently come under scrutiny, and the save is the biggest reason why. Managers choose to keep their supposed best pitcher for the ninth inning and a 3-run lead instead of bringing him in during the seventh with a 1-run lead and men on base. I believe that it does take “something more” to pitch in the ninth inning with the game on the line, but I also agree that any reliever should be able to nail down a 3-run lead with 3 outs to go. If I was a manager, I would keep a different leaderboard with other stats. The closer would now be called the relief ace, but I would grant that title to multiple relievers if they deserved it.

– Save: Come in with men on base and possible game-winning or tying runs in scoring position and don’t let them score while ending the inning.
– Hold: Come in and allow zero runs in a full inning of work.
– Tough Hold: Same thing but with a one-run lead.
– Close: Finish the game with a one-run lead or the tying and/or winning run in scoring position.

Obviously, these overlap, but I, at least, think the names are more appropriate. Additionally, I think they are worth getting. But in the end, it’s probably best to just leave it to K/BB, GB/FB, and OPS vs. LHB and RHB and screw the counting stats. But counting stats are easier for players to understand.

Trivia Time
On what day was John Smoltz traded to the Braves?

Yesterday’s Answer –> Curt Schilling with 319 in 1997 with Philadelphia and 316 in 2002 with Arizona.

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2 Responses to “This Day in Baseball History: July 31st, 2003”

  1. Bill Says:

    July 31, 1987?

    I'm giving myself a "close enough" for yesterday. 🙂

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    You definitely get yesterday. As for today, I'm sorry.

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