John Smoltz won a game Friday night. This was big news in Boston, where the locals were already having what-should-the-Sox-do-with-Smoltz conversations. By beating the Orioles 6-5, his record improved to 2-4. His ERA did not improve. It actually rose from 7.04 to 7.12. Which is not so hot.
Smoltz has made seven starts. He has yielded five or more earned runs in five of them. He has been touched for 50 hits (and six home runs) in 36 2/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .325 against him.
Last week Smoltz told John Tomase of the Boston Herald: “I just think I’m going to keep getting better, and the patience they’ve shown in me, the fruits will be seen down the road.” He meant in October. But if you’re the Red Sox and you have Beckett, Wakefield, Lester and Penny, do you even give Smoltz a postseason start?
Probably. That’s why they signed him, after all. But Inside Edge on ESPN.com broke down Smoltz’s pitches this season, and it found — big shock — his fastball hasn’t availed him much. The Sox, reports Inside Edge, want Smoltz to throw more inside fastballs (link requires registration), but the Braves’ philosophy was to throw down-and-away fastballs. So there’s that.
There’s also this: According to Inside Edge, opponents were hitting (prior to the win in Baltimore) .453 against Smoltz’s fastball. The result has been that Smoltz, who IE reports threw 51 percent fastballs his final four seasons as a Brave, had thrown only 32 percent fastballs before Friday’s start. The good news? His slider seems just dandy. So there’s also that.
But let’s face it: The Braves aren’t the Red Sox. The Braves couldn’t have afforded to wait until October for Smoltz to do his Smoltz thing. They needed pitching from Day 1. And right now the Braves have five starting pitchers better than John Smoltz. Frank Wren, sage!
Jeff Francoeur as a Brave in 2009: 82 games, five homers, 35 RBIs, a .250 average. Jeff Francoeur as a Met: 19 games, four homers, 19 RBIs, a .301 average.
So what happened? According to Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Francoeur has benefited from the Mets’ way of teaching. (Thanks to Diehard for the tip on the link.) Writes Lewis: “He credits hitting coach Howard Johnson — as well as [manager] Jerry Manuel, [and teammates] David Wright and Gary Sheffield — with helping his mechanics.
Lewis quotes Frenchy thusly: “It’s helped. That slider [a Jon Garland pitch off which he homered Sunday], I was able to get the foot down and put a good swing on it. Those are things I wasn’t doing a couple weeks ago.”
Now I know this will lead a few of you to jump up and down and blame Terry Pendleton for everything, but Lewis also offers this Frenchy quote: “It’s been good to get out of Atlanta, get to a new place and get going.” And that, at least to me, is the key.
Whatever good happens to Jeff Francoeur in New York — and here’s hoping much good does come his way — it wasn’t going to happen here. Too much water under the dam. Or over the bridge. Or something.
Just when you think you’ve read everything about No. 7, along comes this from The Independent, which is among the leading newspapers in England. And here’s a veddy English lead:
“If Michael Vick were to follow the example of the erstwhile England striker Michael Owen and send out a promotional brochure to prospective employers, it would read something like this:
“Star quarterback in National Football League. Six seasons’ experience, including two appearances in post-season playoffs. Multiple honours and achievements, including holder of most rushing yards for a quarterback in a single season. In prime of career, and willing to accept substantial cut in pay.
“And that is not all. Like Owen, Vick is 29 years old. But despite having played one of the most destructive sports on the planet, he is in sounder physical condition than the injury-prone Owen touted in the prospectus drawn up by his agent earlier this summer, to hasten his escape from relegated Newcastle United.”
Some notes: Michael Owen was once the wonder boy of English football/soccer but kept getting hurt. He wound up last season with Newcastle United, which finished among the bottom three in the Premier League and was therefore relegated — demoted — to a lower league. (A great idea, by the way. It’s the only way baseball could ever get rid of the Pirates.) His agent put together a resume´ and made it clear Owen would be willing to accept less money to play for a bigger team. He wound up signing with Manchester United, the reigning champion.
One difference, though: As the Independent notes, “Vick is coming off a couple of years in which he did nothing at all – but that is precisely the problem. Between November 2007 and July 2009, he was behind bars.”
Well, yeah. So maybe he’s not exactly like Michael Owen.
I’m not going to get off this hobbyhorse until the Hawks break down and sign Garret Siler, the free agent from Augusta State, to a contract, which could happen. They had him in rookie camp and apparently liked what they saw enough to invite him to training camp come the fall. And here, from Chris Gay of the Augusta Chronicle, is what Siler would bring to the Hawks:
“A hard worker, a dominant force inside, a quick learner, a great field-goal shooter and more importantly, a solid citizen. Garret is a solid role model. A gentle giant. Someone who could easily become a fan favorite. Someone with an ocean of upside.”
Me, I’m sold. Shouldn’t Rick Sund be sold, too?