Smoltz’s first start

John Smoltz’s line from last Thursday’s start against the Washington Nationals: 5 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. A lot of fans were disappointed by the numbers, but I should point out that the Nationals are not the horrible offense they used to be. They average 4.35 runs/game this season, which puts them 10th in the NL, and not WAY behind the league average of 4.47 runs/game. Okay, that disclaimer in mind, let’s take a closer look at Smoltz’ start and see what there is to see.

Smoltz threw his fastball consistently around 92 mph (he topped out at 93.5 mph), and mixed plenty of sliders and changeups, though they weren’t his most consistent pitches that night. It looks like he might have started to fatigue just a bit after about 50 pitches, and didn’t break 92 mph after that point. He worked through his whole repertoire, which shows you that he was probably in more of a try-and-see mode than really bearing down for the win in this one. Ancient veterans like him don’t get bothered by a bad start.

There are a couple of silver linings to take away from this game. Considering it was his first start back, the fact that he went 92 pitches (62 strikes) and only walked one man is good news. He did hit a batter, but landed 75% first pitch strikes, so I’ll take what I saw from him in terms of command. Even though he was hit rather handily, Smoltz got more than 50% ground balls and no Nationals managed to take him yard. Also, striking out five hitters in five innings is always a good sign. Smoltz got the same number of called strikes and swinging strikes he always does, and hitters weren’t fouling him off any easier than the last few years, so he’s still John Smoltz. And that’s very good for the Red Sox.


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