Atlanta Braves: John Smoltz Will Not Be a First-Ballot Hall of Famer in 2015

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COMMENTARY | How apropos would it have been for the Atlanta Braves to have Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox and John Smoltz all enter the Hall of Fame in the same year?

Maddux, Glavine and Cox will be enshrined in Cooperstown this summer, but the third ace of their legendary staff will only be making the trip as an audience member.

Unfortunately, Smoltzie had that one misguided 2009 season at the end of his career in which he left Atlanta to pitch for the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. His penance for not retiring as a lifelong member of the Braves is that he will have to wait one extra year to hear his name called -- assuming the Baseball Writers of America name him on the requisite 75 percent of the ballots.

Glavine and Maddux had to be first-ballot Hall of Famers simply from the fact that they each posted over 300 wins for their career -- a mark that is quietly fading into obscurity, unlikely to be seen again -- however, Smoltz may find himself needing an extra year before he gets his bronze bust.

Had it been this year, the writers would have undoubtedly voted him in just for the symmetry of inducting the full battalion of great Atlanta arms. Smoltz surely deserves to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but, with other notable names ready to make their appearance on next year's ballot, could Smoltz have actually hurt his first-year chances by playing that extra season?

2015 Candidates

The writers have 10 players they can nominate for entry into Cooperstown each year, but very rarely are all 10 nominations used. In 2014, only Maddux, Glavine and Frank Thomas will be elected as players.

Three names may not seem like a lot, but this was actually a very prolific year for Hall of Fame inductees. No players were enshrined in 2013, and you'd have to go all the way back to 1963 to find a year in which four players were given admission in the same year.

Since 2004, Cooperstown has opened its doors to an average of less than two new members each session. If those trends continue, Smoltz may have trouble squeezing his way into the top of the 2015 class.

Randy Johnson: The only question for "The Big Unit" is whether or not he will become the first-ever unanimous selection. It was a travesty that it didn't happen for Maddux this year, but Johnson's resume may be even more impressive than Mad Dog's.

Like Maddux, Johnson is the only other player in MLB history to win four consecutive Cy Young Awards (five in total). He also has a World Series title (2001) and a Word Series MVP to his credit. Although Maddux has him beat in career wins (355 to 303) and ERA (3.16 to 3.29), Johnson is second to only Nolan Ryan in career strikeouts and has one of the 21 perfect games ever thrown.

To make a long story short: Johnson is in. One spot down, only two left for Smoltzie to nab.

Pedro Martinez: There are players who earn entry based solely on their stats, and there are those players who get more consideration based on the impact they had on the game. Pedro only has 219 career victories, but, from 1997 to 2003, there may have been no more dominating pitcher in the game.

Over those seven seasons, Martinez went 118-36 with a 2.20 ERA and three Cy Young Awards. Tack on his 2004 World Series title with the Boston Red Sox and his career 2.93 ERA with 3,154 strikeouts and it becomes fairly apparent that Pedro should expect a call to Cooperstown in 2015.

Craig Biggio: On paper, Smoltz is clearly more deserving of a Hall of Fame selection than Biggio, but, after missing out on admission by just two single votes in 2014, Biggio would seem like a shoo in for induction in his third year on the ballot. With 2,850 games played over a 20-year career, Biggio will earn entry the same why he earned every one of his 3,060 career hits: by grinding it out.

Other Notable Names on the Ballot: Mike Pizza, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Lee Smith and Curt Shilling.

Smoltz's Resume

There is no hard and fast rule that says Cooperstown couldn't elect four players in 2015; it is just the last 51 years of voting that suggests they won't.

Why He Should Get In: The immediate stat that jumps out at you is the fact Smoltz dominated hitters both as a starting pitcher and as a closer. Smoltz is the only pitcher in the history of the game to amass 200 career wins and 150 career saves. He has a World Series title, and a Cy Young Award to his credit, but the real reason Smoltz should be in on the very first ballot is due to his postseason performance.

Only Andy Pettitte has more career playoff wins than does Smoltz. His career mark of 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in October just shows the type of big-game pitcher Smoltzie was his entire career, and the 199 strikeouts Smoltz posted in postseason play still remains the all-time record.

Why They Could Leave Him Out: How many players do they want to induct?

Pedro and Randy both had careers that were arguably as good or better than Smoltz. So just from the standpoint of a last-pitcher-in, first-player-out mentality, Smoltz could be the guy left home.

Smoltz's numbers are great, but, with 21 years of MLB service, some could look at his numbers as being stats of attrition. He did only have one 20-win season, and ended his career averaging just over 10 wins per year. With 69.5 career wins above replacement, Smoltz did have a fantastic career, but Pedro and Randy's WAR was significantly higher (84.0 and 102.1).

Sabermetrics guru Bill James has an indicator he calls his "Hall of Fame Career Standards," which measure a candidate's stats against those of the players already enshrined. On a scale of 0-100, with 50 being the career of the average Hall of Famer, Smoltz was only ranked at 44.

He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my book, but that one extra season at the end of his career could leave him waiting a little while longer before his ticket is inevitably punched. But just how sweet would it have been for him to be standing up there with Maddux, Glavine and Cox this year?

Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter who has been following the Atlanta Braves for over 20 years. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.

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