Smoltz Among Four Men Voted Into Hall Of Fame

Another strong class is heading to the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. Just one year after electing three players, the baseball writers bestowed the game’s highest honor on four men on Tuesday.

Longtime Braves star John Smoltz along with fellow pitchers Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez all made it on the first try. Holdover Craig Biggio was elected in his third year on the ballot. The group will be enshrined on July 26, 2015 in Cooperstown, New York.

Players must receive the necessary 75 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to gain election to the hall. Johnson was listed on 534 of the 549 ballots, finishing with class-best 97.3 percent.

John Smoltz joins Atlanta teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as well as manager Bobby Cox, all of whom were inducted last year. The newly elected Smoltz was listed on 82.9 percent of the ballots.

Smoltz was acquired in a trade deadline deal in 1987, when Atlanta shipped veteran Doyle Alexander to Detroit in exchange for a Tigers pitcher prospect. That young right-hander would go on to spend all but one season of his 21-year career with Atlanta, building a unique hall of fame campaign by becoming the only pitcher in history to win 200 games, save 150 and strike out 3,000 batters. Smoltz and fellow hall of famer Dennis Eckersley are the only two pitchers who own both a 20 win and a 50 save season. He was an excellent starter who went to the bullpen and then returned to the rotation only to enjoy success again.

He led the league in wins in both 1996 and 2006, before and after leading the league in saves in 2002 during his time in the bullpen. Smoltz won a Cy Young Award in that 1996 season when he went 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA and 276 strikeouts. He finished his career with 3,084 career strikeouts and holds the Braves franchise record with 3,011 – that’s Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.

Smoltz was also one of the best postseason pitchers of all-time, which only bolstered his case. He was 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA and 4 saves in 41 playoff games – 27 starts. It was basically another season for him, but it was built at the most important time of the year. Smoltz logged 209 innings in October and racked up another 199 strikeouts.

Johnson, at 6’10”, becomes the tallest hall of famer in history. The lefty had just amassed just nine wins by his 26th birthday, but went on to become the 24th member of the elite 300 win club. It’s possible Johnson could be the last pitcher to reach that milestone. Second only to Nolan Ryan with 4,875 strikeouts, Johnson averaged a big league best 10.6 SO/9 over his 22-year career. He won five Cy Young Awards and finished runner-up three more times. Though his postseason record is a mixed bag at first glance (7-9, 3.50 ERA), Johnson will be remembered for teaming with fellow hall candidate Curt Schilling to propel the Arizona Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Series championship.

Pedro Martinez was a dominant pitcher in an era dominated by sluggers. The slightly built right-hander from the Dominican Republic stood just 5’11”. Originally a Dodgers prospect, Martinez was traded to the Expos and went on to star on a Boston Red Sox team that found its way back to prominence just over a decade ago. He received 91.1 percent of the vote.

During his prime years from 1997-2003 he may have been the most dominant pitcher in baseball. Martinez won three Cy Young Awards, finished second twice and third another during that seven-year span in which went 118-36 with a 2.20 ERA and 1761 K in 1408 IP. He finished with 219 wins, but his .687 winning percentage is the third highest among hall of famers. Martinez fanned over 3,000 men and ranks third in history with 10.0 SO/9.

Craig Biggio fell just two votes shy last in 2014, but got the expected push to gain election. He garnered 82.7 percent of the vote this time around. A member of the 3,000 hit club who spent three years on the ballot. The versatile Biggio played three positions and was a seven-time all-star during his 20 seasons with the Houston Astros, becoming perhaps the greatest player in franchise history. He ranks fifth with 668 doubles and is baseball’s all-time leader with 285 times hit by pitch.

Only one player approached the 75 percent threshold, only to fall short.

Mike Piazza was named on 69.9 percent of the ballot. He was a 12-time All-Star who turned in a .308/.377/.545 (143 OPS+) career slash line, belting 427 home runs to go with 1335 RBI. Piazza set a major league record with 396 home runs as a catcher. Though he never failed a drug test or was substantively linked to any scandal, suspicion of PED clouded Piazza’s case with some voters.

Grant McAuley covers baseball for 92-9 The Game. You can follow him on Twitter. All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

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