01 October 2002

Ex-Lax Go-Go-Go Man of the Year

A while ago, I whined about the Rolaids Relief Man Award, and I won't go into those details again, because you could look it up. However, I will comment on it a little, if you'll suffer me. Maybe sometime soon I'll compile data for the late-inning stolen bases award that I think Ex-Lax should sponsor, but not right now.

Not surprisingly, John Smoltz and Billy Koch won the Rolaids Awards for their respective leagues. Much was made of Koch's winning 11 games in addition to saving 44 games for the AL West leading Oakland Athletics, the most wins ever by a pitcher with 40+ saves. But is this really an accomplishment? I mean, isn't the fact that the closer won 11 games more an indication of the fact that the bullpen and some of the starters couldn't last and/or hold a lead long enough to get it to Koch? Or that the hitters didn't hit enough earlier in games to give a lead to Koch in the ninth? Or that Koch himself blew leads (that should have been saves) but then held on for the win, which he did 5 times this year? We need to start distinguishing between an accomplishment and a coincidence.

Also, as far as Smoltzy is concerned, even more was made of his 55 saves, which set a new NL record. Big deal. His 3.25 ERA qualifies him for the... (are you ready?) ...42nd best ERA in the NL, (min 40 relief IP). Woo-hoo! Heck, he only had the 6th best ERA on his own team! I know, I know. "But most of those runs came in two or three bad appearances!" So what? They still happened. Am I supposed to praise a guy who, over the course of the year, prevented runs about as well as Giovanni Cararra because he "only" got his ass handed to him a few times? I think not.

And how ridiculous is the talk that he should be considered for the NL Cy Young Award? Smoltz gave up four home runs this year. Not too bad. The last reliever to win the CYA was Dennis Eckersly, who did it in 1992. But The Eck's more impressive performance came in 1990, when he gave up 5 RUNS all year. He walked four batters in over 73 innings. Four, or in today's terms: twenty fewer than Smoltz did this year, or half as many as Smoltz walked in May alone. That was an accomplishment. This is mostly another coincidence.

John Smoltz taking credit for getting 55 saves is like a rooster taking credit for 55 sunrises. Well, almost.

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